Last time Steamboat popped up in these pages, I was lamenting that I didn't catch enough of their set to properly process what they do. After taking in their entire performance last Thursday at Carabar, they still have me scratching my head in a pleasant stupor.

Last time Steamboat popped up in these pages, I was lamenting that I didn't catch enough of their set to properly process what they do. After taking in their entire performance last Thursday at Carabar, they still have me scratching my head in a pleasant stupor.

This crew doesn't do anything particularly novel, yet I find their brand of indie rock all but impossible to pin down. Carabar owner Ron Barker offered up Thin Lizzy as a reference point, and while I definitely hear some similarities, particularly in the winding guitar lines, the comparison doesn't quite hit the spot for me.

For one thing, Thin Lizzy is a '70s artifact, and Steamboat's five members are clearly children of the '90s. Shambling shreds of Pavement's melancholy side, traces of jazzy Chicago post-rock and the melodic post-hardcore intensity of Party of Helicopters are simmering in the cauldron.

Yet Charlie Smith's passionate croons and the occasional doo-wop background vocals show this is a different animal than most nostalgia beasts. And when they congeal into a chorus of awesomeness for one of their anthems (see: "Interiors"), it's one of the most contagious musical experiences in Columbus.

The music is raw and organic and loose - fully human at a time when it's easier than ever to integrate digital elements as a crutch. They rumble and sway with abandon, sometimes finding several grooves within the course of a song.

Steamboat's not a perfect band, of course. They have a tendency to overstuff their music with chords and melodies until it's too dense to latch on to anything. And some of those endearing vocal tricks can sound obnoxious in the wrong context, kind of like the woman on "Seinfeld" whose attractiveness varies depending on the light.

These flaws are a bit more glaring in Steamboat's recordings, which always capture the band's bizarre character but not necessarily the infectious energy that exudes from their performances. They simply must be seen live, where they conjure up a near invincible punk rock aura that they've yet to replicate in the studio.

If they ever manage that? Toot toot.