Mr. Elevator & the Brain Hotel, Freezing Hands, Young and Heartless, TLMS, Thursday, July 25

At this point, the most striking aspect of watching Freezing Hands play is that a mere six months since their first album was released, all the songs sound like standards. "Good Morning Takeout," "Oh, Bird," "Numbers for Sale," et al. are already classics, however they're performed. And on this occasion, Freezing Hands was shambolic and gloriously unrehearsed — a drumstick flying this way, a microphone stand falling that way. Matt Rendon was clearly furious at his drum kit, and he won the brawl.

Singer/guitarist Travis Spillers swayed around and hit the microphone too late a few times, but when he did, as in the amphetamine-blur rendition of Curtis Mayfield's "You Must Believe Me," the casual chaos of his head bashing the mic juxtaposed with that voice, one of immense soul and intensity, the musical returns were beauty and timelessness. Freezing Hands closed with a stunning new song, "The Only Television I Know," a complete stylistic left turn that traced Stereolab back to the motorik rhythms of Neu!, only to end up as a distant cousin of the Velvet Underground's "European Son," had Jaki Liebezeit from Can played the drums on it.

Young and Heartless, on tour from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, are more contemporary but just as immediate as Freezing Hands. Spreading the gospel of their first EP, Death in Color, the quartet was emotionally charged, and each song was performed as though the band members were being electrocuted: a good thing. The angular guitar lines and extreme dynamics were reminiscent of Fugazi or a more muscular Modest Mouse. Although Young and Heartless worked their flair for the dramatic in terms of screaming vocals and pounding drums, it was quite clear that the anger and despair were genuine, and that's what matters most.

Los Angeles' Mr. Elevator & the Brain Hotel were a completely different story. This Burger Records act didn't articulate mental derangement - they personified it. Their flamboyant dandy image served as a clue, but not the key, to what this band is about. If Pink Floyd had replaced Syd Barrett with a synthesizer, if ? & The Mysterians were completely insane, they still wouldn't have approached Mr. Elevator's guitar-less psychotic reactions, ghostly shrieks, and the absolutely gorgeous, luminescent finale. This is music that makes drugs obsolete.

More by Joshua Levine


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