Monday, August 22, 2011

Live review: The Houstons

Posted By on Mon, Aug 22, 2011 at 10:41 AM

The Houstons
Snug Harbor
Aug. 19, 2011

houstons_aug19_snug.jpg

The Deal: Charlotte’s The Houstons play second show as new five-piece at Snug Harbor.

The Good: The dog days of summer, cussin’ the dew point, trying not to even bat lashes for fear of sweating buckets. Stillness and energy-preservation (a.k.a. being a blob on the couch in the a.c.) are the order for the night — right? The Houstons apparently didn’t get that memo. Good. Fueled by the infusion of new musical blood, the group — now a quintet — is alive tonight, maybe more so than ever. Guitarist-vocalist Matt Faircloth is standing, conjuring Thurston Moore-Neil Young le noise guitar skronk, while keyboardist-vocalist bro Justin jabs his keys like a giddy surgeon with a scalpel, dropping mini-primal screams here and there. These guys are sure jazzed with the new arrangement. And who wouldn’t be? The newcomers are a splendid addition. Molly Jay and her trombone (yes!) bring an unexpected but thoroughly refreshing element to the band. Her trombone parts come across even better than expected, giving the Houstons the flash of a shout band or a New Orleans street flavor at times. The new rhythm section of scene stalwart David “DK” Kim on drums and Chris London on bass, meanwhile, swing or drive as necessary, always just-right tight. Yet it’s not a radical departure. This is, after all, the band where studied pop tunecraft and gorgeous melodies rule the roost, thoughtful and personal, sometimes melancholy tales slowly unfolding at their own languid pace thank you very much. Things are simply hitting next-level.

The ever-beautiful “Promise of Gold” immediately offers a taste of delights to come; the band stretches a bit, teasing parts out, flirting with a possible pysch-jam only to ease us back down, hey, it’s early, timing is everything. The new songs really shine tonight (the new CD is ready, it’s a stunner, but not out until at least fall). “Trash-Talking Ghost” is downright sunny, a head-bobbing nod of lyrical hooks (“That damn ghost/So very close/Yet it sits up impossibly high”), hum-along choruses and tasty blues-y guitar lines. “Montana” features Matt on lead vocals for a sweet rumination on a visit to Big Sky country. “Ruby Beach” is another winner. And go ahead and add “When We Were Children” (getting a Lennon vibe from this one) to the canon of great wistful remembrances of youth right now.

The Bad: Didn’t seem to be anyone filming it.

The Verdict: The Houstons v2.0 big band is going to work out quite nicely.

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