Sunday, June 15, 2014
BOYS REMAIN BOYS BUT ALSO BECOME MORE COMPLEX AND EXHILARATING BOYS
After their first couple of songs, Missoula's BOYS--not to be confused with these Boys or these Boys--took a moment out of their set to ask the crowd if the vocal effects were too much and if they should turn them off. As it was my first time seeing them, I didn't know how intense the effects were supposed to be, so like any good show-goer, I responded the only way I knew how: turn them effects up, dudes. To my recollection, no such accommodation was made.
This was a few years back, when Boys was a three piece. They had a lean, semi-muscular San-Fran-garage-rennaissance thing going, and I could glean that their band name was not attempting to be a particularly clever play on their physicality. Boys indeed, but ones that already had an idea of where they wanted to go with their song-writing and sonic personality. If the vocal effects indicated anything, it was that they wanted to carve out a niche for themselves amongst the bands they admired and had inspired them: their fraternal name twins, Girls, or the astonishingly prolific Ty Segal. Big, bright, hooky guitars, melodic bass playing and the kind of drumming perfect for pogo-ing or bobbing your head (actions you chose depending on your own proximity to boyhood--as a non gender specific temporal designation).
But in particular, what stood apart from the music were the actual vocals. Buried under chorus and delay, the singing displayed a real knack for tonal nuance and distinctive phrasing that most bands in their early stages rarely achieve. It was almost as if Boys' singer, Kale, had entrenched his voice firmly under the influence of 80s brit-pop crooners (paging Adam Ant). With no bloozey howling or overtly masculine showboating present, the vocal effects didn't seem like an attempt to "weird" up the sound so much as a very conscious, aesthetic call back to the foggy sensuality of the New Romantics. There was, after all, a beating heart calling out from under that billowing sheet.
Years have come and gone, and though Boys have remained suitably boy-like--despite growing older themselves and adding a fourth member (bringing their collective age to somewhere around 90 as opposed to the more boy-ish range of 65)--their ability to craft and communicate compelling music has only matured. Best of all, it's a collective showing, in which the band has caught up with its early aspirations. With each release, those Boys venture further and further away from the starting point of rehashing a very specific regional movement by incorporating more non-rock elements and allowing their melodic and rhythmic idiosyncrasies guide the sound rather than tugging against it.
Nowhere is this more obvious than on the song, "Breaking Sad," whose title only slightly distracts from its brilliantly cluttered opening arrangement. Sure, there are still aspects of their early material--which arrive promptly at the 1:27 mark--but also, a more pronounced, 80s, paisley underground thing happening. Like a heavily caffeinated Genesis P-Orrdidge brattily barking over an early Psychic TV that only wrote songs like "Godstar" with faux-calypso cadences and a deep need for speed--chemical or otherwise. You're probably not going to encounter any esoteric Euro-mysticism in the music of Boys, nor will you find that they've embraced acid house from seemingly out of nowhere on their next release, nor will you read about their lead singer suing Rick Rubin after nearly dying in a fire at the famed producer's mansion. Well, maybe. I try to make a point not to predict the future.
One future I can predict with a fair amount of certainty is that Boys will be playing this year's Total Fest, and you will have the chance to confirm or deny whether the ecstasy-soaked specter of acid-house has begun to creep into their music.