Sunday, 6 October 2013

Chelsea Light Moving

Chelsea Light Moving + Speedy Ortiz  |  La Sala Rosa


“A very interesting thing happens as you age. At a certain point you become older than your parents were when they died. My father died at sixty-five. I am now seventy-one. He would have lived longer – it was a mishap, a tragic accident, hit by a car. At this point, I am six years older than my father was when he passed away. I now look at my father as a younger man. It is he who is the young Mr. Glass” 

-Philip Glass, in his 2005 Esquire interview with Mike Sager

September 16, 2013 – Tens of slick hipsters, young and old, gathered in La Sala Rosa to listen to Chelsea Light Moving. For the uninitiated, it might seem strange that a band who only formed a year prior, and just released their first album, would charge twenty dollars (more for the door). But Chelsea Light Moving isn’t a group straight out of a suburban basement; their led by former Sonic Youth frontman Thurston Moore. 

The Sonic Youth need little introduction. Without them, the indie scene would be a barren wasteland of grunge. In the early 90’s, they took off from where the Velvet Underground left and redefined rock music. Being part of one of the most influential bands ever gives Moore a draw most musicians strive for their whole lives – and sometimes fail. With the Sonic Youth formally splitting two years ago after a few lackluster attempts at rekindling, Moore and co. has started Chelsea Light Moving, a name inspired by Philip Glass’ own moving company. 

Opening the evening was Speedy Ortiz, a young band from Massachusetts. Like their name, Speedy Ortiz is equally energy and confusing. They play very loud and distorted guitars while their lead singer Sadie Dupuis struggles to be coherently heard. The best moments of their set were when the rest of the group quieted down enough for her to get a word in edge-wise. Unfortunately, these moments were far and few in between. Their music didn’t sound so much like beautiful chaos as it did like a car alarm waking you up too early in the morning. 

However, songs like Ka-Prow! and (especially) No Below show how much promise these kids have. When Dupuis is allowed to sing, she shines. Her voice is sweet and sour like the best Chinese takeout. Her lyrics are often caustically funny, and catchy enough for you to sing along. As soon as these guys realize they’re much better at alternative pop than noise rock, they’ll play a great set. 

A perfect example of something they could do without: at the end of their set, guitarist Matt Robidoux grabbed a few cymbals, and proceeded to weave them in between the strings of his guitar, and flattening it all nunder his amp and mic stand, creating an ugly sculpture (?) onstage. He then started strumming on the mutilated guitar. And the worse part? His strumming sounded no different than what he was doing beforehand. 

Speedy Oritz, for me, is the perfect expression for adolescence: you don’t know how to communicate your emotions, so you shout; you try your best to be taken seriously, but end up as a pantomime; and the interesting things you have to say are few and far between. 

After the adults cleaned up their mess, it was Chelsea Light Moving’s time to get the show on the road. Thurston Moore ambled on stage to the loud cheers of fans of his other band. Then they started playing. Like Sonic Youth? Great, because Chelsea Light Moving sounds a lot like Sonic Youth, if Sonic Youth was incredibly bored of playing music. 

This entire review may sound harsh, and it is, but I’m only being harsh because of the price tag. There was no reason for this show to cost this much money. Chelsea Light Moving is nowhere near the same level of a band like Japandroids, another 20 dollar show. But because of Moore’s involvement, people follow him. If you think it’s unfair to compare Chelsea with Sonic Youth, please explain the cost of entry. 

With songs named after seminal postmodern writers like Frank O’Hara Hit (for Frank O’Hara) and Burroughs (for William S. Burroughs), you’d expect their songs to be as lively and deconstructive. Chelsea manages the latter: they take riffs you’d expect and strip them of what made them good – and that’s it. They don’t tear down a wall to let something in or build a new one in its place, they just tear it down and bore you. 

I lost count of the number of times when I looked down at my watch. The audience, from what I saw, was with me. People’s excitement drained by the fourth song, and sighed frequently. Out of all the songs, Burroughs is the best. It’s the only one that actually contains movement that makes you want to move, instead of putting you to sleep. 

Philip Glass’ quote made me think on my way home from the concert. We think of growing old in such human terms, but the world is growing old too. Our societies grow up too. The world we live in is more complicated than our fathers before us. Moore has outlived his inspirations, and I’m sure seeing fresh bands like Speedy Ortiz is a nostalgic moment. Music, like any creation, requires endless recreation to remain creative. What Chelsea Light Moving offered just felt stagnant. 

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