With a name like Tastes Kinda Like Sad, I fully expected the youthful trio to shrug its way through a handful of moody emo tunes (think a musically adept Eeyore) before giving way to the next band when it played in front of a sparse crowd at Ace of Cups one recent Thursday.
Instead the crew blasted through seven garage-punk burners in just a tick over 15 minutes, coming across like the Black Lips with a severe case of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. The three musicians — primary singer/bassist Winston Hightower, guitarist (and sometimes singer) Alex Mussawir and drummer Robin Murray — completely eschewed stage banter, barely letting the buzz from the previous tune die down before plowing into the next. This restless pace frequently carried over into the songs themselves, which were driven by Murray’s slapdash drums, Hightower’s snaking bass lines and Mussawir’s assorted guitar riffs, which veered from cranky to something damned near melodic.
While the trio had little issue making sure their instruments were heard, the same couldn’t be said of the two vocalists themselves. Hightower in particular had a tendency to mutter his words, making large swaths of dialogue virtually unintelligible. Of course, this could have been completely purposeful, considering a handful of words that did find their way to the surface suggested most of the songs were born largely of disaffection (“I’m so bored”) or indifference (“It’s not my fault”). Indeed, even when Mussawir sneered “We’re so happy all the time” on one tune, his snotty tone suggested something quite the opposite. This mindset occasionally bled over into the group’s barely-there stage presence, and there were times I might have doubted anyone was onstage were it not for the relentless stream of noise forcing its way through the speakers.
The best moments offered some variation on TKLS’ go-go-go approach. One tune opened with a slow, sludgy riff, gradually picking up momentum until the drums rumbled in and sent the whole thing spiraling into madness. A second briefly downshifted to second gear before ramping back up into a pogoing punk throwdown complete with Mussawir and Hightower shouting (I think) “go back!” in unison. If the crew’s music keeps progressing, though, not even these words of warning will keep people away.
Photo by Andy Downing