Thursday, February 2, 2012

SHOW REVIEW: Blouse w/ Cosmetics & The New Lines

nice blouse, Charlie Hilton
Looking at the line-up for Tuesday night's show at 285 Kent, I wasn't sure if I was about to see a handful of fashionable indie bands or if I was making a shopping list for things I needed to pick up from Bloomingdales. Blouse, check. Cosmetics, check. The New Lines, check. (Original openers Beige and Mosaics were replaced last minute by Beach Fossils side project Heavenly Beat, but could have easily fit into a department store otherwise).

Luckily for my bank account, it was the former. I missed Heavenly Beat although heard from a photographer I struck up a conversation with that his set was pretty befuddling. Actually, I think the term autistic might have been used, but I feel remiss to pass judgement on an act I didn't actually catch. I made my way toward the stage just as New Lines were setting up.

The three members of The New Lines had this adorably quirky indie rock band circa 1995 look, like they'd be scratching their feet in the dirt all sheepish-like if they hadn't been playing a show. Unfortunately, that's probably what they went and did after a set besieged by technical difficulties. It seems strange to say of something “It was so loud I couldn't hear it” but that's the sort of effect the mixing had – it seemed like every other thing was drowning the vocals, but I couldn't tell specifically what needed turning down. Surely one guitar, or even the keyboard, couldn't be obliterating my ear drums. Then they asked for “less iPod” followed by “less backing track” followed by some other way of saying “we don't have a bassist, so we need to play our songs over another part of the same song that we already recorded” and I suddenly understood. After a false start, the band stopped playing their last track halfway through a second attempt and left the stage. Even so, I wanted to hug them and tell them not to give up; I could tell that given a proper opportunity to listen to their poppy, psych-influenced songs I might fall madly in love with them. Luckily, they have a bandcamp and the only thing missing there is the trippy projections that swirled behind them as they performed.

Misty Mary on the keys
After the longest equipment change of all time, the Cosmetics frontwoman explained “We got caught in a snowstorm on the way here.” I was not sure if she meant from the bar to the stage or what, as it had been sixty degrees (!) in NYC just hours earlier. The songstress was lovely to behold and had a nice voice, while her equally attractive male compatriot backed her up on no less than three mini-synths. The overall effect was a semi-sluggish brand of electroclash but I think given time to develop and expand on their sound this could be a really fun band to see again. They have two seven inches out on Captured Tracks (which you can listen to at bandcamp) and it will be interesting to see if they are able to move past their sweet tooth for Glassy Candy.

Patrick tunes his bass
Blouse took the stage just after midnight. Leading lady Charlie Hilton repped the band name in a flowing garment, cuffed at midwrist and layered over tan short shorts worn with sheer tights and tall black wedge booties. I don't know if that is relevant to anything, but it seems when you've named your band after the fanciest of shirts that it might matter just a little. According to Patrick Adams' cool haircut it matters. Misty Mary (likely not her real name) tapping her toes clad in ripped pantyhose indicates that it matters. Everything about drummer Paul Roper says it matters – from the suspenders to the Elvis Costello frames, partially shaved head to the vintage tee.

What definitely matters is that Blouse lived up to the hype that's surrounded their self-titled release, out last November on Captured Tracks. The set was blissed-out and dreamy, yet retained the signature new-wave throwback sound that has garnered so much buzz for Blouse.  Ms. Hilton's emotive crooning made me feel like the only person bopping around in the cavernous, graffittied space. Her limited banter was sweet and humble. But for one song, the set was comprised entirely of material from the record, and the live renditions were flawless.  They closed with heavy-hitter “Into Black” before politely ducking offstage. You can watch my video of “They Always Fly Away” below.

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