Said the Whale CD Release Party

Said the Whale CD Release Party
With Special Guests Maurice and Lotus Child
Biltmore Cabaret – Thursday, June 5th, 2008

First up on the bill was my old nemesis Jean-Paul Maurice and his new band, simply called Maurice. I guess I shouldn’t use words like ‘nemesis’ unless I’m talking about idiot bands like Prox, but it would behoove this review to say that I saw our kid open for Sarah Slean in oh-five and to quote the notes I took at the show, his solo performance was the “epicenter of emo-horror”. Regardless, JP and the kids served up a MASSIVE IMPROVEMENT last night on the second-last stop of their mini Spring tour.

First off, the band was surprisingly amazing. Bassist Mark Lavoie – fresh from the Paul Simonon school of kicking ass and having fun – was an absolute live-wire from the start to the finish line and really helped set the tone for the whole evening. Likewise, Simon Margetts on the keys really brought a fresh vibe to the band’s sound and made us wonder what in the hell ever happened to those kids in Hanson anyway? The only thing that could have used a bit more improvement were the vocals of Jean-Paul Maurice himself, who could stand to man-up a bit and shake off the last vestiges of his former emo aspirations. Don’t get me wrong, I really like that style of music, it’s just that in the couple of times that I’ve seen Maurice he hasn’t really been able to pull it off that well. His soft vocals don’t really come off as heartfelt, they just come off as soft. Plus, now he’s gone and proved to everyone that he can kick ass with an amazing cover of The Constantines song “Young Offenders”. Hey JP, remember when you jacked that song and made it your own and for some four-odd minutes you blew our friggin’ minds out? Maybe keep doing THAT instead!

Lotus Child

Band photographed by Venus.
Lotus Child

Before I saw this show, all I could say about Lotus Child was that Ronatron had seen them before and told me they were the cat’s ass. I’d heard little snippets of their songs in my whirlwind tour of local MySpace pages and kept it in the back of my mind that I should really check ‘em out. Well let me tell you brothers and sisters, this band is one to watch in this rainy old city. Although they have only been around since 2003, the four-piece Lotus Child conduct themselves like pop-rock veterans, with a real sense of showmanship and a confidence that explodes out and is reflected back to them the form of love from their sizeable legion of fans. If you check out their website, one thing you’ll notice immediately is that they don’t really sound like other Canadian bands playing right now. They have a unique keyboard and percussion style that is much more common to European bands of the same genre. And while comparisons can be made to other bands (Conor Oberst, Hawksley Workman & Mr. Lonely, Wintersleep) their sound is still very much their own. Plus, how can you not love a band who covers “Let’s Talk About Sex” by Salt N Peppa right in the middle of their own song “Archaeologists”? I think Ronatron guest photographer Venus Nakahara summed it up best when she shouted over the mayhem “This band has it’s shit TOGETHER!

Check them out at their next gig when they play the Car-Free Vancouver Festival on Denman Street (June 15th).

Said the Whale

Band photographed by Venus.
Said the Whale

Once I got over the initial confusion of who in the hell I was seeing on Thursday night (Fun Fact #1: Vancouver’s Said the Whale sound absolutely NOTHING like Denmark wonder-weirdos Said the Shark.) I was off and running. So what do I say? Where’s the opening to this review? Who knew writing was so hard…oh! I know! If you want to have the best experience when reviewing a band who you know absolutely beans-all about, you should probably sit beside the lead singer’s folks at the show. It’s impossible to not get all hyped up when you’re beside someone’s proud parents. So that’s my advice to you, aspiring rock-writers.

There are some new bands who sound great on their albums, but just haven’t found the secret recipe of how to pull it all together at the show. And there are some new bands who rule the stage with an iron fist, but come off very lackluster once you get that record home and put it on the turntable. And then there are those rare newcomers who are so mind-blowingly amazing both onstage and in the headphones that you just have to wonder how long it will be before they rise up and collectively trash the current buffet of musical bullshit we’ve been fed daily for YEARS and reclaim rock for the righteous. Vancouver’s Said the Whale, I believe, is going to be one of the bands at the forefront of this long-overdue revolution. Hands-down the best singers that I saw all night (and, indeed, in quite some time) Ben Worcester and Tyler Bancroft not only write some of the most clever songs in Vancouver, but they sing them with the conviction they deserve. For an example of what I’m blathering on about, check out ”This City is a Mess” which has pretty much been on constant rotation at my place since I first heard it. And while Jeff LaForge and Colin Dodds hold court on bass and keyboards respectively, I was most surprised by the performance served up by drummer Spencer Schoening. I have no idea what Shoening’s background is, but I can say that it’s been a long time since I last heard a drummer capable of playing some songs with the technical precision of a watch, and then switch right over and play with such a barely-controlled, Keith-Moon-inspired, rambling recklessness that you just have to be impressed that the whole train doesn’t just come off the rails. This is called “fun” and more bands should HAVE IT because the fans LIKE IT as do THE BAND’S PARENTS.

CBC Radio 3 recently described Said the Whale as being similar to The Shins and The Decemberists, although I don’t feel that’s an accurate assessment at all. Neither band sings as well as Said the Whale, and neither band seems capable of having as much fun. So save the big bucks that you’d otherwise spend on the big American indie bands and go see local bands who rock with all the heart and none of the pretension. Maurice, Lotus Child and Said the Whale, all of whom play this city frequently, would be a great place to start. Join the vanguard, loyal readers of ronatron.net! Join the honest-and-true indie rock revolution!