Unknown Mortal Orchestra @ Lee’s Palace

. : : May 27th, 2011 : : .

Something happened at the Unknown Mortal Orchestra concert last week that has never happened to me before.

During the show, perhaps a bit impatient with the long wait to get into Lee’s Palace or the unexpected sound system renovation, I was a bit hasty to judge this, well, unknown band. The late evening show was starting even later than scheduled, I had no idea who they were, and I was amp’ed up for Telekinesis. I also was looking at my watch because I knew that a) I had to be out in time to catch a subway home, and b) had to be up in the morning for work.

It was probably that clock-watching that kept me most preoccupied during the band’s set, but whatever the cause, I felt mostly unimpressed. The rhythm section was solid, but I remember thinking the fancy super fast and often finger-tapped extended solos that was winning over most of the room seemed like mere (admittedly talented) posturing. The band was forgotten almost as soon as they left the stage, and I went on to predictably enjoy the rest of the evening (as outlined elsewhere on this blog).

When I got home, I was in no particular hurry to transfer their recording and get it up. For a set that was forgotten as quickly as it was consumed, I was outright shocked when, some time later, I started half-assing the EQ job and discovered that I was enjoying the song. Splitting the tracks requires even closer attention to be paid from top to bottom, and I found myself liking not just one or two songs, but the entire set. Was I really that deep in my own head that night?! It seems so.

Track after track had a catchy hook or delivery that stuck in my head quickly and fiercely. How was it my live experience was so different? It was clearly my fault; as the saying goes, the proof is in the pudding.

Thought Ballune sounds like a Sgt. Pepper-era LSD-influenced Lennon-McCartney song, and Nerve Damage is reminiscent of when punk was relevant and interesting (think The ClashRamones, etc.). The song that launched the band, so to speak, Ffunny Ffiends, has a similar 70’s lava lamp rock influence, but still manages to sound hip and fresh. Little Blu House is a bit more laid back and contemporary, but will have you singing along, “On the mountain side” refrain after refrain. Perhaps most oddly is How Can You Love Me, a song that sounds written for (and also, at times, performed by) The Jackson Five. And I mean that as a high compliment.

I’m not sure exactly what caused such a deep disconnect from my subjective live experience and what, very clearly, was actually happening at Lee’s Palace that night. It was a great set that shows why the blog-o-sphere’s championing of this band is well-warranted.

Their debut self-titled album drops in three weeks, and if this recording is any indication, it will be one to watch out for.

01. Thought Ballune
02. Strangers Are Strange
03. Little Blu House
04. Ffunny Ffiends
05. Nerve Damage!
06. Jello and Juggernauts
07. Boy Witch
08. [banter]
09. How Can You Luv Me

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Thought Ballune (Live In Toronto) [MP3 sample]

Thanks to Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Lee’s Palace, and well-deserved second chances.

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