live: the sundelles, browns, the muslims; union pool, 10.26.08

Sunday night — a couple of hours ago, actually — I stopped by Union Pool for a 1928 Recordings showcase. I’d heard solid things from a few friends about The Muslims, who were headlining and figured, hey, seemed like a fine idea. Spoiler alert — it was. Sunday nights post-CMJ are always interesting — though crowds may be tired, I’ve seen some fine shows on the day after the festival proper, but this may have been the first to actually get my fist pumping. (Literally.)

The Sundelles took the stage first: a trio, looking unabashedly like three dudes who make pop music. My first take on their fuzzed-out sound was to invoke the likes of Henry’s Dress; after a few songs, though, some dissonance crept in, some subtle stops and starts, and my points of reference shifted. I’m kind of thinking that The Sundelles make music that sounds like Unrest‘s Imperial F.F.R.R. if Mark Robinson had come of age in the East Bay punk rock scene.

Playing second were Browns, another power trio, whose opener sounded a bit like one of The Pixies’ more sprawling numbers run through a rockabilly filter. The pace quickened from there, though their set sounded to me like the briefest of the night. I caught something of a Rick Froberg (i.e. Drive Like Jehu, Hot Snakes) element to their sound — barreling, intense, noisy. I did find myself enjoying the more expansive side that they showed at their start of their set, though — I haven’t yet heard their album, but I’ll be curious to hear whether those elements of their sound are more prominent there.

The Muslims closed out the night. A few months ago, I talked about seeing Ponytail, and how their live show involved elements of both ecstasy and danger. That sort of tension was definitely present all throughout The Muslims’ set: while on paper, some aspects of their sound might seem similar to, say, caUSE co-MOTION!, the ends to which they put those sounds are radically different. Their set began strong, with a taut, fairly traditional rock setup played well; occasional guitar leads offered up assorted potential influences: some surf here, some rockabilly there. As the songs progressed towards their conclusions, though, those influences seemed to burn away, revealing something much more raw beneath. Three or four songs into their set, they played a song that sounded like a dirtied-up, garage-rock rewrite of — I swear — Catherine Wheel’s “Show Me Mary”; a few songs after that, the song where they “took it down a notch” proved to be full of menace, an ominous slow-burn. The first of the two songs that closed out their set prompted most of the crowd to sing along; the second found the guitar and rhythms becoming more and more frenzied before an abrupt ending. Eventually the band was coaxed back onto the stage, where they covered Spiritualized’s “Walking With Jesus” — it seemed as good a way to end the night as anything.

And it seemed indicative of something that the live highlights of the past few days for me took place in smaller rooms, eardrums askew, jarred by rhythms and inspired to motion.