On Friday night I went to the inaugural release party for the new Tower Groove Records singles club. By paying up front for a year of once-monthly releases, you get twelve new vinyl 7" records, each a split single between two local bands, for a bargain basement $5 per record.
I'm taking the trouble to post this hoping I can drum up some subscriptions for these guys. You can do that over on the Tower Groove website. I operate my hobbies on a cash economy basis, so I had lunch at Mangia and handed Jason Hutto $60 in cold cash for my subscription. Tower Groove printed up some carbons, so I even walked with a receipt which I have kept as a sort of badge or ersatz membership card.
At the record release party on Friday at Off Broadway, they had my name at the table, sure enough, so I collected on my first Tower Groove 7". This one pairs Old Lights, a personal local favorite, with Demonlover, a feisty, unpredictable trio.
The Old Lights song, "Blocking out the Sun," was written by bassist and co-frontman Kit Hamon, who sings like a power pop angel. It's hook-laden rock & roll in the legacy of Revolver, with that tuneful two-electric-guitar sound that never gets old. Beth Bombara's keyboards add an additional melody line and tasteful punctuation. The song itself is of that enviable sort where every part of it would work as a hook ... and it has four or five parts, four or five legitimate hooks, with dynamic, surging changes between them. The closest equivalent from my era of the St. Louis scene (the late '80s, early '90s) would be The Lettuceheads led by Carl Pandolfi.
Demonlover's song, "MC5 U in My Dreams," reminds me of my favorite Butthole Surfers records, like Locust Abortion Technician or Cream Corn. It opens with this abrasive but catchy punk song that turns into a meandering noise improvisation. I don't mean noise like hideous loud, I mean noise like Sad Lewis or Eric Hall, where the character of the sounds is what is being played. I liked these guys enough to look them up and read on the KDHX blog where they fretted that the instruments they are writing on will be audible at a live gig. I can see why, listening to the noise part of this song -- chimes, keys, sousaphone, glockenspiel, and vocals sung as from a warbling victrola.
The live show on Friday was full of surprises. I had never seen Old Lights, though I have one LP, Every Night Begins the Same, and their contribution to the Tower Groove double record, "We Laid Down." I was interested to see that both of their Tower Groove songs thus far are written and fronted by Kit Hamon, because the other front man, David Beeman, has such absorbing frontman charisma. He was dressed like a grunge rocker, flannel and jeans, but had his jeans cuffed like a rockabilly dude and wore the indoors ski cap of the 21st century hipster. Then an instrumental break hits, and suddenly he's is pogoing and swishing his guitar around the stage like a Mod -- or like a man who is very secure in his masculinity. This guy is a true new hybrid of the rock band frontman. Best of all, he is unpretentious and likeable in doing so. "Come in," he said to the people standing half-way back on the dance floor. "Come in." And we came in closer to the stage.
Demonlover also has a peculiar and fascinating frontman in Andy, as he is credited on the 7", though I gather from Dana Smith his last name is Lashier. When Andy isn't plunking around and making noise, he is a left-handed bass player who sings in two mics, one of them wildly inflected and distorted. He is one of those guys who has a very personal relationship with his instrument and the process of performing -- he's so possessed, it's hard to take your eyes off him. He is also flat-out goofy. He sort of jogs in place in these battered black workboots when he is stuck there in front of one of his mics for any stretch of time. I only regret to report that Andy seemed to have forgotten his belt or prefers not to be thus restrained, and as the gig wore on he took on a new southside rocker variant of saggin', which is not the sort of unique frontmen hybrid we want to promote here at Confluence City. Andy is backed by Rage, as per the 7", who seemed to be the short-haired incarnation of JJ Hamon, who can do no wrong on any instrument, ever.
Image is of my new Old Lights / Demon lover 7" on the portable record player my buddy Jocko gave me. No excuses for not listening to vinyl when you can still buy these guys for $20, though Tower Groove records also come up digital download codes.