Sunday, January 4, 2009

Simplicity; Pleasurable

The Simple Pleasure are one of the best bands in New Haven right now, and they released what's probably my favorite "local disc" of the year (and one of the best CDs I heard all year, period), Alive with Pleasure, in 2008. They play amped-up electro-pop with a heavy glam rock influence, sexy and seemingly with two shots of espresso, and their songs are excellent. Singer/guitarist/songwriter Chad Raines actually studied music composition while in college -- it's evident in his craft; their songs are incredibly catchy and full of melodies and chord progressions that go exactly where the thinking listener wants. It's music that scratches all kinds of itches for the active popfan.

I've seen awesome sets by The Simple Pleasure and simply okay sets. Tonight, at Cafe Nine in New Haven, was one of the awesome sets -- no equipment failures, all three members of the core band present, loads of energy. They were firing on all cylinders, tight and delivering killer jams left and right. There were newer songs in addition to older faves like "The Tunnels" and "Douchebag" (herein you see Raines' sense of humor -- a coming-of-age tale like the former and a dirty joke like the latter, in which he proclaims, "I ain't your douchebag, baby -- you got no L-O-V-E"); Raines seemed hesitant, gauging audience reception (very strong among a small cadre of fans who were paying attention) after playing a song in which he chanted, "LGBT! LGBT! W for W, M for M!" -- a terribly funny sentiment bolstered by a memorable synth lick (I saw a Simple Pleasure show a few months ago, wherein Raines and synth player Tamara Chiba, who was playing an electronic drumkit at that show, played a version of this song -- it's great to hear it evolve from a simple schoolyard sing-along into a full-sounding, well-orchestrated Killer Jam) -- and while the audience didn't get down as readily as they had on other nights when I've seen The Simple Pleasure, it wasn't for the band's lack of trying (and delivering). Yes, I danced like a deranged maniac. It was kinda silly and a butt ton of fun. I once referred to Raines as a "dance-floor prophet," and he is. As a frontman, he dicates where the party is going.

Thrill Velocity -- the synth-pop project of Nolan Voss -- closed out the night with the most focused set I've ever seen from him. He's always had this doomy, gothy kind of vocal style with Thrill Velocity, but he's written enough songs at this point for it to feel quite natural and pleasurable and not like a simple mood-setting affectation. Thrill Velocity once had a number of tunes that dragged a bit, but by this point Voss seems to have composed a set that keeps up the requisite energy, dark but energetic and fun. The vocodered-out "Colored Lines" remained a standout, but while in past sets Voss has played it as the closer, marking the moment where all the elements of his set came together in one clear moment, he slipped it somewhere in the middle of the set tonight, and the thing is, he's reached a creative point wherein whatever point he might've made by playing that song last was already evident before he got there.

Thank you for being there, if you were.
(Photos by Brian LaRue)

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