I had heard quite a bit of hype about The Dodos before I went to check them out at Neumos a couple weeks ago. After the show I went home and looked up some info on the band to get a better taste of what I had seen, and grasp of the buzz that I’d heard. And in the end I had noticed several things about the entire experience that lead me to my final conclusion about The Dodos show. First the opening band Triumph of Lethargy Skinned Alive to Death was way more intriguing. Second The Dodos are very good musicians, and third the place was packed with 99% white people for a Wednesday night in Seattle, the other 1% were asian. What does that have to do with anything?
I’m a people watcher, to me the type of crowd and their response is part of the overall experience of going to a show. I had no pre-disposition before I went, and it’s not like I went out specifically to notice cultural diversity. But all night I felt like something was off about the whole scene and halfway through The Dodos set it hit me, there were no black people… at all. That’s also when I noticed nobody was dancing, a couple of head bobbers and a few people were kind of jiving around, but no real moving and shaking. And that’s about how I can describe The Dodos music and show, ok but not moving. Mathy, acoustic, indie-prog songwriting with good musicianship but lacks soul.
I felt like the band had 100mph potential in the songs themselves but only took me to 65 all night. To me the best song was the opener Trades and Tariffs off the album Beware of the Maniacs which guitarist Meric Long played an almost Roy Clark style finger picking. I kept waiting for them to go back to that style but it never happened. Instead it switched to a kind of sappy indie feel that is just way to cliché for the scene.
The group has had really good press and reviews since the release of Visiter on the French Kiss label. And I realize there are a lot of people that really like their music, but I had a hard time getting into it. Each song moved into the next without really making me feel any emotion, and eventually they kind of all sounded the same vocally. Which was another part that I didn’t understand… literally, I had to listen to the CD to understand what the lyrics were, live I could only make out a few words here and there. It’s gonna sound harsh but I think it would have been a better experience in a smaller venue like a coffee shop where the band and the listener could focus on the feeling of the songs on a more intimate level. At Nuemos everything seemed to get lost in a mathy muddle.
Musically these guys are really good, but I feel like they inhibit their true songwriting ability by pigioning themselves into an indie schtick rather than cutting loose with some diversity and writing songs with real soul and feeling to them. In their defense Meric Long and Logan Kroeber seem to really enjoy what they are doing on stage. It’s tough to make that much noise with only two people and they definitely fill out the sound. But for me The Dodos lacked the diversity and soul in their songs to really make it a memorable experience.
Triumph of Lethargy Skinned Alive to Death on the other hand kicked ass. Former Murder City Devils front man Spencer Moody has the Midas touch when it comes to his projects and this one is no exception. In all honesty at first I hated it, and was getting ready to leave but for some reason I couldn’t. The more I listened the more I liked it. It was like listening to the perfect train wreck. Moody’s vocals are obnoxiously loud and screaming over the top of droning, heavy tom’s played with mallets and clouded guitaring in a mess of perfect catastrophe. It made me feel like a bad hangover with the shakes on the crappiest rainy Seattle day. I hated it and loved it at the same time. Triumph of Lethargy Skinned Alive to Death is brilliant, and perfect for anyone conservative because they totally won’t get it, and that’s the point.