Tame Impala is a dish best-served with a side of hallucinogens. Dreamy and groovy, this Aussie four-piece picks up where Sgt. Pepper left us (lead vocalist, Kevin Parker, sounds exactly like John Lennon). The band has been featured on Pitchfork, talked about in countless indie blogs, and reside on most hipsters’ playlists; yet, I ask, is Tame Impala unique enough or are they simply a reheated left-over of Beatles psychedelia and 70s jaminess?

On Sunday night, May 1, Tame Impala will be at the Phoenix Concert Theatre in Toronto with supporting acts get ready for this Yuck and YAWN (what a marquee!) If these bands live up to their names, Tame Impala will have their work cut out for them.

Yuck is an indie quartet from London, England who play in the same vein as nineties acts like Dinosaur Jr. and Sonic Youth. YAWN is a group from Chicago that describe themselves as “neo-soul” (think Yeasayer or Animal Collective). Despite the above quip, both sound worthy of arriving early for.

I will gladly go on record as saying I thoroughly enjoy Tame Impala’s debut LP, Innerspeaker (2010). Each track is a multi-layered, Inception-esque daydream with trippy guitar and bass dialogue, highly-effected vocal hooks (seemingly sung light years away), and hypnotic, extended instrumental grooves.

Innerspeaker‘s greatest triumph is that it transports you. After the record needle scratches the final groove, you ask yourself, “Where the hell have I been for the last hour?” Surely, this is Tame Impala’s intent. While the EP is best listened to as a cohesive whole, there are tracks that stand out to me. The opener, It’s Not Meant to Be, contains guitar sounds that simulate waves lapping over you as Parker pines for an unrequited love (“She doesn’t like the life that I lead/ Doesn’t like sand stuck on her feet/ Or sitting around smoking weed“). Right away we can draw a picture of Tame Impala as long-haired, pot-smoking, bonfire-going surfer hippies. I love it.

Yet, I think The Bold Arrow of Time is the most interesting track on the record as it is a bit of a departure from everything else. Sure, it’s got the dreamy bits and obligatory jam section, but it also boasts an absolutely Satanic guitar motif that makes you want to break stuff almost.

The Beatles eventually stopped playing live as it became less and less possible (and desirable) to recreate their recordings. I feel Tame Impala will be able to take a worthy stab at their record given all kinds of “trippiness” and “psychedelia” can now be bought in a single foot pedal. If you’re in the neighbourhood, I really urge you to check these guys out. And if you do go, be sure to steer clear of the brown acid.

Sunday, May 1, @ the Phoenix Concert Theatre, 410 Sherbourne St., Toronto
Doors open at 8pm, Show at 9pm
Tickets are $27.75

Photo: watchoutfor.com.au

Maybe I should have taken the freezy-rainy-snowy blizzard as an omen?

This past Sunday night my two friends and I were white-knuckling-it back to Toronto, driving double the speed limit, in order to catch The Greenhornes at the Horseshoe.

Having seen the show and now digested it, I wouldn’t even brave walking three city blocks on a clear, temperate day to watch this band!

Unfortunately, due to the weather, I missed the opener Hacienda. I was looking forward to seeing these guys their tunes are crunchy, fun and boast some solid vocal harmonies. Check out She’s Got a Hold on Me, a fuzzy, upbeat number with a sweet, early-Beatles flavour and hilariously cheeky video.

She’s got a hold on you

When we finally arrived at the Horseshoe, The Greenhornes had just started and were in the middle of   Too Much Sorrow from 2002’s Dual Mono. The room was pretty packed. People seemed warmed up and ready to go. Bottles were clinking in drunken cheer, friends were reuniting and catching up on the weekend’s events, some guy in plaid was practicing his charming bar-lean in hopes to catch the eye of a young hipster gal. All were having a jolly time it seemed.

Then I locked my gaze on leadman, Craig Fox, and diverted it for no more than thirty seconds for the remainder of the night. A total car-wreck situation! Either too drugged-up or not nearly enough, Fox dumbly stared at spots on the ceiling for extended periods, struggled to choke back yawns, while playing long games of “who-can-stay-stiller” with his mic stand.

He grinned at one point for a few seconds, but was likely just thinking of something funny he saw on television earlier that day. I imagine behind his buggy, glazed-over eyes he was just listing all the places in the world he’d rather be. Is it still cool to be a mopey, apathetic musician? If not, Craig Fox is by far the most uninteresting performer I’ve ever seen.

The band slogged through their catalogue, which all seemed to blend together, given that no one on stage (especially Fox) really cared about playing. I snapped out of my fascination with Fox when bassist Jack Lawrence took over the singing on Go Tell Henry from their latest, Four Stars. Lawrence’s boyish, wavering voice was a much needed change of focus, but every once in a while I felt responsible to check back on Fox to make sure he hadn’t fallen asleep or died on his feet.

Go Tell Henry

Despite their lack-luster performance, Horseshoers brought The Greenhornes back out for an encore with cheers I don’t think the band deserved in the slightest. Before their encore, Jack Lawrence said sarcastically, “Quiet down, don’t you know this is a rock show,” suggesting that the audience was not loud enough. Does Craig Fox know this is a rock show? Does Craig Fox know where he is or how he got here?

Also, crowd volume is usually a good indication as to how well a band has performed. So, perhaps the onus is not purely on us, Jack. After all, you have to give us something to clap about first. What a disrespectful and snobby comment to have to accept after being conned out of fifteen bucks to watch paint dry at this alleged “rock show.”

It’s a real shame. Drummer, Patrick Keeler was actually quite high-energy and fun to watch. He was given a few spots to really shine during instrumental breaks and did finales standing up, crashing down hard on his cymbals. He also genuinely thanked the audience for their applause. Maybe The Greenhornes should put him up front: the audience won’t miss Craig Fox and it will give Fox the chance to be alone in a corner with his thoughts like he wants. Lame!

Photo Courtesy of Exclaim magazine

Let’s just try to get this out of the way: Jack White, Jack White, Jack White, Jack White. It is impossible to discuss Cincinnati rock-revivalists, the Greenhornes, without mentioning the man in red, white and black.

So, yes, the Greenhornes’ Patrick Keeler (drums) and Jack Lawrence (bass) are better known as Jack White’s go-to rhythm section. They are found on Loretta Lynn’s Van Lear Rose (2004), comprise one half of super group, the Raconteurs, and Lawrence plays bass for black-leather-clad rockers, the Dead Weather.

With leadman Craig Fox, however, Patrick Keeler and “Little” Jack Lawrence are the Greenhornes and have been, according to their myspace, “churning out the highest quality rock n’ roll for well over a decade.” On Sunday, April 3, the trio will be at Toronto’s legendary Horseshoe Tavern accompanied by San Antonio’s own, Hacienda.

The Greenhornes are touted as Brit-rock mimicry with no revisions, according to their myspace biographer. We are urged to draw up bands like the Yardbirds, the Kinks, the Animals, et al. In fact, Fox’s vocals are pure Eric Burdon of the Animals whenever he abandons his Iggy Pop croon for a more explosive, rock n’ roll yelp.

Their latest release, ★★★★ (2010), is their first full-length since 2002 and was produced by (surprise, surprise) Jack White and released under his Third Man Records. Albeit more inventive than their earlier releases, ★★★★ leaves me with nothing to grab on to. The songwriting and instrumentation have matured, the production is slick but it seems to lack something. Something important.

At a 2001 show in Houston, the Greenhornes shared a bill with the White Stripes. During the Stripes’ set, Jack stops to berate the audience thusly: “Now, all you people who were sitting down when the Greenhornes were playing have committed a moral sin and may god have mercy on your souls. Especially all you hipsters standing still, who haven’t been to no rock n’ roll show and don’t know how to move your head even.”

Forgive me, Father Jack, for I too have sinned. I caught the latter half of a Greenhornes set a couple years ago in Toronto and remember it as nothing too ground-breaking, just loud (I sound like a lame parent, I know). I recognized their Brit-rock bent and heard a punky, garage rock flavour but again, was somehow left hanging.

Despite all this, the Greenhornes are worth seeing. They are an entertaining live rock show and if you’re in the downtown Toronto area Sunday night, I urge you to check them out for yourself. I truly want to love this band: I want to be blown away, be proven wrong and have to eat these words for Monday breakfast.

Also, if you plan on going, be sure to catch opening band Hacienda. These rocking Texans are gaining serious momentum under the tutelage of Black Keys frontman, Dan Auerbach, and will join the ‘Hornes as they head to Montreal‘s La Sala Rossa two nights later.

Sunday, April 3, @ the Horseshoe Tavern, 370 Queen St. West, Toronto
Hacienda @ 9:15, Greenhornes @ 10:30
Tickets are $14.50 in advance, $17 at the door


Photo soundsinwaves.blogspot.com

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