Loud Flying Owls and old and boring

Low Flying Owls

Low Flying Owls

There are loud shows and then there are loud shows. There are shows at which you have to yell into your companion’s ear in order to have a conversation, and there are shows so loud that the sound actually distorts inside your head. That’s how loud the Low Flying Owls were on Saturday night at the Blue Lamp.

Perhaps it was only surprising because this writer had not seen the band perform in two years. In that time, the band has grown heavier, more intense and much better. The bubblegum 1966 vocal melodies the band relied on during its early songwriting appear to be fading away slowly. In their place, vocalist Jared Southard is developing a more direct, punky delivery that brings to mind Jello Biafra’s work with the Dead Kennedys. It’s a welcome change, as it comes coupled with a more guitar-driven, heavier sound, and Southard proved that he can scream with the best of them. The lyrics still rely too heavily on the David Bowie word bag, and there are moments where the band seems to be forcing the psychedelic London angle, but it’s clear some musical, lyrical and intellectual progress is being made.

The departure of bassist Mike Bruce a few months ago has seated Matt Guyton with the low register, which he handles strictly on keys. Unfortunately, this issue, and the band’s sheer volume on Saturday night, effectively removed much of Guyton’s brilliant noise work from the ears of the audience. The ticking clocks, hooting owls and nocturnal cricket sounds that Guyton brought to previous LFO shows were all but absent (or at least drowned out) from the Blue Lamp stage.

Reaching a balance between the quieter, more moody material and the loud Sturm und Drang will be central to LFO’s continued vibrance. Their new instrumental track, “Babies Made,” provided a nice glimpse of how this balance could be reached: a long soundscape that brought audience member and Daisy Spot guitarist Mike Farrell to tears at the edge of the stage.

Also of note, opening act Army of Trees played an indie rock-inspired set, noteworthy mostly because of the closing song, an extremely heavy, Black Sabbath-flavored piece titled “Heavy Eyes.” Brad Teichman‘s vocals were particularly memorable. This is a band to watch. Look to www.armyoftrees.com for more information.

Less impressive was the New Strange, a group that seemed neither new nor strange but rather old and boring, relying too heavily on the Stooges (minus Iggy Pop’s manic stage antics). Competent playing, to be sure, but in the end, the whole performance seemed hollow.

Kevin Seconds has released a split CD with Matt Skiba of Berkeley-based punk/pop outfit Alkaline Trio. The CD is a full-length collection of hook-infused radio-friendly pop tracks, featuring five tracks by each artist (including Skiba’s cover version of 7Seconds’ “Soul to Keep"). The standout is the album closer, a Seconds original called “Motherfuckers” that leaves the listener smiling uncomfortably.

The CD pre-sold an amazing 13,000 copies. Seconds typically downplays his own relative fame in the punk community and credits these sales to the popularity of Skiba and his band, the heartthrobs of the indie punk/pop scene. The CD is for sale at True Love Coffeehouse.