A quieter, gentler Tinfed

David Houston

David Houston

The boys in Tinfed have had a productive few years: a song on the Mission: Impossible 2 soundtrack; a drum-and-bass remix project, featuring remixes by Team Sleep, UFO and others; a new album of originals (Tried + True) on Third Rail/ Hollywood Records; a tour or two.

All of these things have served to make Tinfed one of the area’s most popular alternative-rock acts—a mixture of heavy guitars and electronic sampling supplying a sound that brings to mind, on the local level, both Low Flying Owls and Deftones.

The band’s latest CD, Tried + True, released in 2000, is effective alternative rock, but it’s also somewhat redundant and ordinary. It was therefore both refreshing and surprising to catch a quieter, gentler Tinfed at the True Love Coffeehouse last weekend. Performing at a level appropriate for the size and character of the venue, Tinfed played a set that brought out a side of the band that’s always been present in Rey Osburn’s vocal style: a quiet and emotive whispering, sometimes buried in the onslaught of Tinfed’s full alternative-rock sound.

Here, though, Osburn’s vocals were front and center, while Matt McCord’s drumming and Rick Verrett’s bass and mini-Moog synth work were able to reach a sense of quiet groove absent from much of the band’s CD (the closest model on Tried + True would be “Drop”), a groove that brought to mind the syncopated melodies of Pinback. It’s clear that Tinfed is good—and it sounds just as tight in its recorded work—but this particular show seemed well-suited to underscoring a more vibrant (and perhaps more musically relevant) side of the band: a landscape of introspection and, at times, of heartbreak. Cake’s Gabe Nelson, who spent the evening guesting on electric piano, underscored this particular sound palette.

This is not to say that Tinfed didn’t pump up the volume, at least on a few louder numbers. But even on these, the quieter overall level helped underscore the songwriting, which seemed complete and interesting—particularly in the context of Tinfed’s radio-friendly alternative-rock genre. The band’s Web site, www.tinfed.com, promises more information when back online; it’s currently down.

Imagine this: You and some friends form a rock ’n’ roll garage band, play some shows and record some songs. The songs don’t go anywhere commercially, and the project is essentially dissolved until, 34 years later, a label compiles a CD of the material—a document of a band long since gone into memory. This is the story of Public Nuisance, a band that featured a very young David Houston and a story that already has been told in this paper (“Evolver” by Jackson Griffith, SN&R Cover, March 27). The surprising new twist on the story is the phone call that Houston received from Detroit duo the White Stripes, inviting him to meet the band at their recent sold-out show in San Francisco. It seems the Stripes have been covering “Small Faces,” a Public Nuisance tune, during their U.S. tour, to enthusiastic audience response. Bravo for the White Stripes and bravo for Houston (and for the weird resiliency of Sacramento music). More on what Houston has done post-Public Nuisance is at www.davidhouston.com.