Quitter’s stadium grandeur

Quitter, in the throes of the moment.

Quitter, in the throes of the moment.

Out of the handful of truly influential bands of the past four or five years, there is perhaps none so pervasive, on the local scene, as Radiohead. This may be the case because Radiohead encapsulates, in a younger, perhaps hipper form, much of what U2 encapsulated in the preceding generation of rockers— namely, a sense of stadium-sized drama placed in opposition to tender, breaking emotion. This opposition—the idea that a band can support both a quiet, almost singer-songwriterly stance and huge, dramatic rock anthems—is central to the appeal of both bands and is a key to their dynamic range. Radiohead has become essential listening for any band wanting to capture large-scale orchestral stadium grandeur.

But sometimes on the local stage, it feels as if that orchestral stadium grandeur is the only lesson learned from the Radiohead school of rock. Out of everything Radiohead does musically, its sense of large-scale rock is perhaps the least important, particularly in the sense that (like it or loathe it) the band’s studio experimentation has provided a clear sense of innovation to the rock scene. These are issues that such local space-rock bands as Low Flying Owls and Call Me Ishmael have had to grapple with, and they’re issues that local act Quitter will need to address, as well.

At its recent Capitol Garage show (on a bill also featuring Model A, Strata and An Angle), Quitter displayed a clear sense of musicianship, with confidence and clarity. At times, however, it felt as if the band reached too quickly for the dramatic moment, so much so that the sense of grandeur quickly became a sense of tedium. One could almost predict the way each song would build to the next crescendo, creating a sense of the obvious, a sense that runs directly counter to the vibe that Quitter seemingly was trying to create. Even D. Scott Sault’s excellent vocals (heavily reminiscent of U2’s Bono) began to seem ordinary in the midst of the increasingly forced sense of grandeur. Make no mistake: Quitter is a good band, displaying solid musicianship and a clear sense of its own sound, but there are some hurdles to overcome. (Quitter can be found on the Web at www.quitterarmy.com.)

An influence problem, similarly cast, existed with opening act An Angle. Here, the audience was witness to what surely must be one of the largest local bands, with no fewer than 10 members and with a setup that included two guitars, bass, drums, cello, viola, oboe, xylophone, flute, trombone and two keyboards.

Perhaps the audience expected magic from such an outsized ensemble, but what it got was an out-of-tune mess. An Angle sounded like a band trying to do an incredibly bad parody of Lincoln, Neb., indie-rock darlings Bright Eyes. Not only did An Angle sound exactly like Bright Eyes (right down to the banal, juvenile lyrics), but also all of the instruments seemed out of tune with each other. The result was a series of inane lyrics tenderly mumbled over an indecipherable, tuneless hum. Were it not for guest drummer Matt McCord, the whole thing would have been unlistenable gibberish.