Sensory Overload: American Jobs’ performance sticks with you

By Columbus Alive
From the July 25, 2013 edition

I’m not fond of reviewing a concert when the band started before I walked in, but a fraction of an American Jobs performance sticks with you more than most bands’ full sets. I wouldn’t say the trio won me over when they opened for Daughn Gibson at Ace of Cups last Wednesday, but they definitely captured my imagination.

They functioned as a fine appetizer for a musician as strange and entrancing as Gibson, a Sub Pop signee who trades in a kind of noir trip-hop trucker country. American Jobs is utterly unique too, and even creepier. There was something both magnetic and unsettling about three dudes huddled closely on stage in dazed synchronicity, crowded by gear, incense and what appeared to be a naked female wooden idol with a plant tied around it, seemingly sharing the same zonked-out headspace. Consider it the paint-huffing, masculine version of a siren song.

At the eye of this psychic-damage storm was a glazed-over crooner with all the plasticized charisma of the “Trololo” guy. Shirtless with paint-flecked sweatpants and flip flops, he raised his hands upward as if beckoning us to join him in the clouds around his synapses. At one point he donned a mask of sorts that functioned like a portable version of one of those life-size cutouts at amusement parks. He wrapped himself in a blanket at one point too, as though he was preparing for a nomadic journey down High Street after the show.

He was flanked by a bassist looking like an Egyptian statue (Columbus renaissance man Aaron Klamut, whom I recognized from the impressive Joy Division dub tribute Jam Division) and a sax player looking like an offensive lineman chillin’ at home in the offseason. Both players’ lively contributions intersected with pre-taped iPod soundscapes of the hallucinogenic variety.

Some of the songs were shapeless; others formed into a kind of bizarro lounge funk. Anyhow, all the sounds faded into the background of my consciousness because the group was so visually striking, to the point that none of the music stuck with me. Can’t shake the feeling, though.