Used Kids' fledgling Vinyl Monday Matinee seems like a promising institution: On the second Monday of the month, instead of paying too much for a drink at a bar, spend happy hour drinking BYOB suds, eating free pizza and perusing discounted records while bands play.
Used Kids’ fledgling Vinyl Monday Matinee seems like a promising institution: On the second Monday of the month, instead of paying too much for a drink at a bar, spend happy hour drinking BYOB suds, eating free pizza and perusing discounted records while bands play.
I decided to venture there this week to see Witches of Kelso, the new punk band featuring Jeff Kleinman from Exwhites, Mickey Mocnik from New Creases and Nick Schuld from Obviouslies. The sequence got flipped, so I ended up missing the Witches and was instead introduced to a band for which I had no prior context.
That band was Smart Girls, which turned out to be a mishmash indie rock trio that intrigued me almost as much as they frustrated me.
The best way I could describe this crew’s music would be “dreamy groove jangle.” Their songs are rumpled birthday presents, shards of different styles wrapped up haphazardly. Elements of Britpop, Midwest post-punk, psychedelic ’60s sounds and ’90s Evan Dando alt-rock were in the mix, with moments of gleaming brilliance emerging intermittently only to be smeared out of clarity by an unsure (or indifferent?) songwriter’s hand and meek vocal takes that came off limp more often than not.
All three players brought something satisfying to the table, and when those aspects aligned, it yielded sounds better than the sum of their parts. In particular, the intersection of ramshackle rolling drums, flowing bass cycles and gorgeous, shimmering guitar chords translated to fleeting moments of bliss.
They interrupted this positive vibe in a number of ways, some defensible and some not. Gnarled riffs and unusual chord changes functioned as a series of curveballs; even if I would prefer to disappear into all-encompassing sonic splendor, there’s something to be said for keeping me on my toes.
Less reasonable were the repetitive passages without Dennis Ingle’s drums, which felt less like peaceful floating and more like torturous meandering. I want to feel like a song is going somewhere, even if that means unhurriedly riding a hot air balloon into the sunset.
There are some amazing songs waiting to be assembled from these parts, but I haven’t heard them yet.