Originally posted at SFCritc
Reviewing the Handsome Furs, Suuns and Talkdemonic show at Slims I knew the outcome was a toss up. Montreal-based headliners Handsome Furs are comprised of an adorable, well-dressed young married couple, and the music I had heard prior to seeing them live walked the line between angsty hipster love riff and 80s synth electronica.
One needs robot ears. Robot ears allow you to really understand or enjoy electronic music, which is after all, music of the future.
Back when I lived with gay bodybuilders in the Sunset District, I would often catch a ride with them downtown to work on their way to the gym. I would grab a cup off coffee, they Sparks alcoholic energy drinks, and we would tear through the city blasting nonstop electronic music out the windows.
The combination of drugs and technology will help you grow a pair of Robot ears, essential to the enjoyment of electronica. The more you listen to the pickier you get. For example, I will listen to and enjoy 96% of the gay dance club, Macbook geek and 80s synth electronica yet shy away from bouncy hipster-love riffs and candy-wearing dayglo thizz electronica.
Live shows are where electronic artists either thrive or falter. The artist can either craft synthetic sounds organically or adapt the computer for the stage.
By the time Handsome Furs finally took the stage, their energy and delivery provided a clarity to the music not found on the recorded tracks. Husband and wife Dan Boeckner (Wolf Parade) and Alexei Perry, are in tune with each other on stage and convey energy to the audience only complemented by electronic beats and guitar.
“We treat San Francisco like it is the most romantic fucking place on earth. We love this fucking city,” Perry stated after the opening track, “This is where I proposed to him.”
“We were in the Tenderloin,” Boecker commented sheepishly.
“We fucking love you San Francisco!” she yelled before kicking off her pinup pumps and bouncing around on stage and synthing out the next track.
The husband-wife kitsch doesn’t denigrate the fun, nostalgic quality of these f-bomb happy Canucks, but in the case of co-opener the Suuns, another f-bomb happy Montreal-based electronic group, the annoyingly double-vowelled hipster electronica was just pretentious and plain awful. “We’re fucking stoked to be in San Francisco, it’s a cool fucking city,” they opened.
Perhaps the drums and guitars—and even the synthesizer—could sound better had the music not buried in a cacophony of terrible noise: crying cats, car alarms, sirens, murderous screams, nails on chalkboard, Tetris, cicadas, and your local suburban youth group haunted house.
The set started 20 minutes late and their obsessive gesturing to the sound guy to do whatever he can to make their noise sound any sort of good was probably more exhausting to watch than to experience.
Toward the end of the set they opted for a slow jam, which included the drummer cough-syrup slurring “choo-choo” into the mic like a homicidal conductor.
Not only were they painful to listen too, but they were entirely too into themselves. And I hope they had fun because I will never get my left eardrum back.
Where the Suuns failed, Portland, OR based Talkdemonic soothed, blending drums, violin, and Macbook into zen-filled bliss fests of music. True to the Pacific Northwestern grungy-edge yet progressive and lucid, violinist Lisa Molinaro thrashes about the stage with enthusiasm unmatched by many performers.
This is what the Handsome Furs and Talkdemonic do well, translate catharsis for the digital age and manipulate noise to enhance organic music. Reason enough to keep those robot ears primed for use.