PREVIEW Late of the Pier is catchy while still retaining an essential core of flighty, fidgety weirdness. With its askew harmonics, squelchy synths, and wildly off-key vocals, Fantasy Black Channel (Parlophone, 2008) marks the big label debut of a band bent on peddling an oddball sound to the masses, to say nothing of a kitschy aesthetic. The album's cover presents a haphazard assortment of drums, kits, cords, and keyboards scattered atop outcroppings of granite an apt visual for the band's chaotic approach. Some tracks suggest a recorder switched to on-mode at the site of a train wreck, while others rescue some order from the mayhem. Discerning musical adherents will peg the group as contemporaries of outfits like Metronomy, Hot Chip, and Klaxons. This quartet is inventive and almost extreme in how far they're willing to take their sprawling multipart sagas, instrumental transitions and elaborate glam guitar breakdowns. Plain-jane indie rock outfits have nothing on them.
Late of the Pier hail from Castle Donington, London, where they formed in 2004. Frequent nightclub fixtures and the toast of a large teenage fanbase, the group was picked up by a few small record labels before landing a slot on one of French dance it-label Kitsune Maison's annual compilations. Fantasy Black Channel is produced by electro DJ Erol Alkan, who brings his pedigree as a remixer (Mylo, Chemical Brothers, and Digitalism) to the recording's sound. Now that its spunky electro-rock numbers have been rapturously received by the oft-smitten British music press, the band is setting its sights on the U.S. We should like what we hear: Late of the Pier's fingerpainted audio tableaus add some slapdash vitality to the musical orthodoxies of today.
LATE OF THE PIER at Popscene. Thurs/16, 9 p.m.-2 a.m, $13 (advance). 330 Ritch, 330 Ritch, SF. (415) 541-9574, www.popscene-sf.com