Monday, April 02, 2007

The Long Winters, Mercury Lounge, 4.1.07

By Charlotte Deaver

The Long Winters can come across as deceptively generic. They don't jar you with gimmick or image, or ignite with raw youth. But they do balance their best attributes and integrate musical influences with such fine-tuned equilibrium that you might pass them over for something with a little more flash, more surprise.

For John Roderick, the banter-happy and charmingly well-educated frontsman, it's clear that songs matter. Melodies matter. Lyrics matter. Arrangements, textures, attitude, rhythm, energy, range, emotions, and performance all matter. And so does humor. He loves audience-play, enjoys his own and others' verbal wit and/or silliness, and yet remains focused on the primary aim: entertaining rock and roll.

Being ever the song girl, of course it was one particular tune that got me out this late on a Sunday night; "Medicine Cabinet Pirate" mixes strangeness with convention, an alluring combination. Perfectly distorted guitar riffs, a melody that you want to sing along with but don't readily understand why, odd minor to major key changes, slightly dissonant harmonies, and lyrics that suggest a lot of meaning but conclude nothing. The deal was clinched with the next song of theirs I fell in love with, the slightly wistful "The Commander Thinks Aloud."

Most of the other songs they played were new to me, though, and the set list seemed to be largely determined by the audience. I picked up their 2003 release, When I Pretend to Fall, and haven't stopped playing it yet, so next time around I'll be ready to make my requests.


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