SONIC REDUCER Wanna know the surest way to mortify me or send me skulking into the shadows? Bludgeon me with praise. Single me out with love. It just makes the misanthrope in me squirm like a worm at the end of hook. That was the sweet but unintentionally sinister sensation at the "Girls Just Wanna Have Chun" show at the Stork Club on Aug. 5 with Pillows, Liz Albee, and other all-girl bands, inspired by, I'm told, my recent cover story ["Where Did All the Girl Bands Go," 7/19/06]. I feared some sort of roasting and de-ribbing until one of the organizers, Suki O'Kane, reassured me her intentions were honorable. "I hear you cluckin', big chicken," she helpfully e-mailed. Yup, fightin' words got me to the club on time, but that didn't stop an acute sense of self-consciousness from washing over my sorry PBR-swilling self.
You realize then that on some off-days you were just never psychologically prepared to leave home. Even indie rock pros like Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie and Postal Service know what I'm blathering on about. I spoke to the DCC guitarist-vocalist while he lounged in a bus outside the big ole barn he was scheduled to play at Penn State that night, and he fessed up to the struggle to deliver when he wasn't feeling it. "I'll be perfectly honest — there have been times when I can be a little bitch on stage," he said. "I'm trying to always harness my inner Wayne Coyne. Y'know, WWWCD — what would Wayne Coyne do?"
The spunky Death Cabbies I first caught at the Bottom of Hill have truly made the leap from "shows" to "concerts," as Gibbard put it, something he jokes about with his bandmates. "We started touring in ’98, playing to nobody and eating mustard sandwiches," he explained. "You go out a year later, and there's maybe 50 people there, and then the next time there's 150 people there.... It's been such a gradual kind of build that it doesn't feel outlandish to me. I can't imagine what a band like the Arctic Monkeys must feel like, and I'm glad this is happening to us five records in rather than one or two records in. I think we were one of the last generation of bands to develop pre-Pitchfork, pre–blog culture, and that's fortunate."
Chatty, thoughtful, and up for analyzing this crazy little thing called the music biz, Gibbard has obviously given quality thought time to blogatistas' impact on his musical genre. "It'll be interesting to see what happens, because I have this horrible premonition that blog culture will turn the United States into the UK," he added. "You know how the NME is this awful, horrific publication that before a band even has a single out lauds them as the greatest thing since sliced bread and then as soon as their full-length comes out says they're past their prime?
“I'm just so kind of over fashion rock and all its different forms. Coming out of the last three or four years of dance punk and bands that want to be Wire, it's kind of exciting to see a band that's just really rocking out in earnest ways."
But what about Postal Service (which Gibbard said he plans to revisit sometime next year, before DCC begin work on their next album) — aren't they dance punk? "I don't think if I'm involved in it in any way that it can be in any way ... punk, at all," he said with a laugh.
FASHION LASHIN' CSS (of Sao Paulo, Brazil), a.k.a. Cansei de Ser Sexy or Tired of Being Sexy, would know a wee bit about fashion, blog jams, ad nauseated. Gibbard's Postal Service labelmates on Sub Pop have managed something nigh impossible to our Electroclash-crashed consciousnesses: they manage to reference Paris Hilton on their new self-titled album and not sound like shopping-damaged sluts whom you want to slap.
It helps that the mostly femme ensemble kicks off its new album with the self-explanatory chant "CSS Suxxx" and goes on to charm with überdanceable joints like "Artbitch" (“Lick lick lick my art-tit ... suck suck suck my art-hole").