SS CARDIACS with the LORRIES and the BURDOCKS at Sneaky Dee's, July 28. Tickets: $7. Attendance: 100. Rating: NNN
Thursday night at Sneaky Dee's, James Taylor sang his heart out, but everyone seemed distracted.
No, not that James Taylor; this was the lead singer of Toronto-based alt-country band the Lorries , who had a hard time grabbing my - or anyone else's - attention with his muffled lyrics. Most of the crowd seemed too riveted by their own conversations to embrace the narcoleptic qualities of the Lorries' countrified twang.
Between songs, Taylor sidled up to the mic to state the obvious: "If that last one didn't put you to sleep, this one sure will."
When a mystery woman (later identified as spitfire Jessie Stein of the SS Cardiacs ) rushed the stage in a floral dress and whispered something in Taylor's ear, I thought, "Wow, they're taking requests!" Instead, Taylor slunk back to the mic to introduce his band's last song. Whew.
A song or two into next act the Burdocks ' set, someone shouted, "Turn it up!" The Halifax foursome did just that, flexing their jingle-jangle rock into a muscular onslaught that ranged from punk-like ferocity to indie rock tenderness. Folks dropped their conversations in search of the dance floor, where, inspired by the fab four's fiery passion, they did the Thursday-night shuffle.
The Burdocks impressed with their vocal harmonies, savage drumming and ability to shift between genres effortlessly. By the time bassist/singer Christian Simmons whipped out his tambourine and got it going like a rattlesnake, they'd stolen the show from the previous band.
Sometime after 12:30, SS Cardiacs stepped onstage. Frontwoman Stein immediately started professing her love for the Burdocks in clichéd but endearing terms. A lone drunk praised her banter, but her repetition of the same theme was unnecessary and annoying; we'd just seen the Burdocks perform.
The Cardiacs craft poppy songs of the incredibly introspective lo-fi love song variety, sung by a helium-afflicted Shirley Temple clone. Cute, but occasionally her shrill notes pierced my eardrums like a Q-tip without the cotton.
Nevertheless, you couldn't deny the simplicity of head-bobbing, bouncy tunes like Comme True or song introductions that began, "This song is called spending the first month of the year with your foot in my mouth."
Good stuff, but the night, as Stein might agree, belonged to the Burdocks.