THE FIGURINES with MAPS OF THE NIGHT SKY and BORN RUFFIANS at the Horseshoe, June 26. Tickets: $8. Attendance: 165. Rating: NNN Rating: NNNNN
If you consider denmark's last notable music export was bubblegum Euro-dance sensations Aqua, then figure the Figurines ' arrival as long overdue. Besides, why should the Swedes get all the glory, pumping out hot bands by the week, while their mild-mannered southern neighbours get attention because of a cartoon controversy? The world needs a reason to feel good about the Danish again; the Figurines might be that beacon of hope. Hopefully, that's not putting too much pressure on the young lads, but, hell, even their government invested tax dollars in the group as a cultural export, so there are a few expectations. Fortunately, Monday night at the Horseshoe , these Danes did their country proud.
It wasn't exactly the Beatles landing at Kennedy, but the Figurines got a warm welcome when they took the stage. Launching into the Neil Young-sounding Back In The Day from their Pitchfork-approved album Skeleton (Control Group/TCG), singer/guitarist Christian Hjelm , taking hair tips from Steve Bays of Hot Hot Heat, earnestly strummed his cream Strat and bobbed to Kristian Volden 's jittery beats. The band swerved between Pavement-type numbers like Rivalry and infectious uptempo pop such as crowd-revving fave The Wonder, a number-one on Danish National Radio.
Although Hjelm sings in perfect English, few words were spoken other than "We're the Figurines, here's a song." Still, the modest crowd cheered fervently throughout, especially on Hjelm's solo encore moment for the song Race You, Skeleton's deceptively slow opening track. After that, it was one more jingle-jangle pop gem and the Danes disappeared. Nevertheless, in terms of rock the mission was a diplomatic success.
Openers Born Ruffians , filling in at the last minute for Les Six, played a spirited set despite their dismal pre-10 pm time slot. You could count the attendees on two hands, but that didn't faze the young trio, who exuberantly jammed Joel Plaskett-style pub rock, but with more prepubescent pep.
Filling the middle slot, Maps of the Night Sky are the band whose music you throw on during the late-night drive to get some thinking done. They're soft, melodic and easy on the nerves, with clean electric guitar strums and barely audible organ. It's a smooth ride, but if you don't open the window for a blast of cold air you're going to fall asleep.