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Monday, July 22, 2013

The Ex-Bombers w/ Chris Head @ Stonefly

July 20, 2013

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With their debut full length The Tightwire, out late last year on Cavetone Records, Charleston, Illinois boy/girl bass/drums duo The Ex-Bombers made a rather bold statement by offering the album as a vinyl-only release, eschewing digital downloads or even the now-in-vogue cassette. It’s a rather complicated gambit, part marketing ploy and part Luddite manifesto, embracing a certain willful obscurity while at the same time using it to attract attention. The disc is strong, 10 cuts of seedy jazz basslines, noisy punk spirit and winking lyrics, but without the help of the Internet, you’ve got to do things the old-fashioned way and take your music directly to the people, which can be challenging when no one shows up.

At the outset there seemed to be a fairly decent turnout, maybe 15 or 20 people, but it quickly became apparent that many of them were in the bands, working there or one of their respective significant others, and the attendance only dropped as time went by. There were a number of possible causes for that, but it wasn’t the music, which began with Soulfoot Mombits, a local band with a folky take on modern indie rock, augmenting the classic trio with a trumpet player for some Beirut-style brassiness. Sound-wise, they were ramped up a little big for the space and how many people were in it, but overall proved bright and catchy in an inoffensive, palatable sort of way.

Despite ostensibly being the headliners, The Ex-Bombers were up next, running through pretty much the entirety of The Tightwire, frequently reminding the meager audience that if they liked what they heard, they better buy a record if they’d like to do so again. Having been recorded on analogue equipment using no effects, the songs, including highlights like the speedy title track or the laid back disenchantment of “Happening Thing,” sounded much the same as they do on wax. Between the dynamic jazz-meets-garage rock tunes and the lyrics, which filter pseudo spy story intrigue through an absurdist Stephen Malkmus-esque lens, they made a convincing pitch for picking up the album, regardless of how many people were there to be persuaded.

Lastly there was a Cedarburg group, Chris Head and the Honchos, who meld sunny Americana with solid power pop sensibilities, which probably came through the clearest on a convincing, country fried rendition of Big Star’s “In the Street,” better known as the “That 70’s Show” theme song. Most of their set was originals, though, built on hooky songcraft and delivered with professional polish, which, again, were played to a mostly empty house. It was kind of puzzling: None of the bands were bad, but were perhaps mismatched with each other and the venue; Soulfoot Mombits or Chris Head could find an audience at Linneman’s and had they played Quarters or Cactus Club, The Ex-Bombers would likely have moved a lot more vinyl.

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