The New Pornographers, The Dodos, The Dutchess and the Duke @ House of Blues, Boston (Friday, June 18, 2010)
Though it may not be totally accurate, I think it's fair to draw comparisons between The New Pornographers and Fleetwood Mac. Three distinct voices and songwriters, with a male lead tipping the balance of power over the rest. In this case, Carl Newman plays Lindsey Buckingham. Dig much deeper and the analogy quickly falls apart, but the Canadian group is pure pop confection, a Partridge Family for the oughties. It's also a family that's spread out. The other contributing songwriters (Neko Case and Dan Bejar) have significant responsibilities with their other day jobs (Case and Bejar both have flourishing solo careers, the latter recording as Destroyer), and it's a blue-moon occasion when everything aligns just so and the full band hits the road. In this case, much like the last time in 2007, the galvanizing factor here is their fifth, recently released record, Together.
Vocal harmonies are the warp to Newman's songcraft weft, and the two mesh together so well. Songs like "Mass Romantic" and "The Laws Have Changed" that virtually demand an instant karaoke session, where you can belt out the big vocal hooks at the maximum volume you can muster. What other band can you think of that can take a topic like future cirrhosis and turn it into a bright-eyed ditty that Up With People could sing ("The Slow Descent Into Alcoholism")? Of the new songs, Case's tender "My Shepard" fit right into what she was doing with Middle Cyclone, and Bejar's "Silver Jenny Dollar" had the gloriously unkempt singer leading the way with his distinct voice, but it was "Your Hands (Together)" that really hit the mark, with one of their very best choruses.
The show took a weird turn about 20 minutes in, when some idiot tossed a CD to the stage, hitting Newman's guitar. Case took strong objection and wasn't shy about expressing her desire to "pummel" the thrower's "fucking face in." They were able to put the incident behind them and let the music do the rest of the talking.
The Dodos are one of the only bands I know that have percussionists in a 2:1 ratio to guitarists and no bass players in sight. Their sound is a dense, rhythmic rush, with Meric Long's frantic strumming attempting to keep up with Logan Kroeber's continual tom tom work. At times I wanted Kroeber to slow down and give the songs some space, but the closer was strongly reminiscent of early Verlaines, a sadly overlooked New Zealand band. The Dutchess and the Duke started the evening off with what appeared to be an earnest attempt at becoming today's indie version of Peter, Paul and Mary. They also exhibited a strange fear of stage lighting, continually asking for the lights to be dimmed. They played their last few songs in relative darkness.