The Earlies with Capital at the El Mocambo, December 12. Tickets: $10.50. Attendance: 100. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Fans of neo-psychedelia had a tough choice Monday night: seeing Caribou for the umpteenth time this year or exploring new ground with hyped Yankee/Brit collaboration the Earlies . The sparse crowd at the El Mo made it clear the Caribou show was top choice but not necessarily the right one.
Maybe because of the lack of attendees, openers Capital had a tough time getting into the swing of things. They're a talented bunch, but their sound lacked focus and technical difficulties hampered their set, so they seemed directionless and to be working at cross-purposes.
While North America has waited a long time to hear the critically acclaimed Earlies (their 2004 debut, These Were The Earlies, was only recently released on Secretly Canadian), I wasn't especially pumped to see another trippy, psychedelic-inspired band. I don't particularly care for "jams" I don't want to be brought on an emotional journey with the music and wind up a Phish fan.
But the Earlies converted me. When they lumbered onstage, eight of the supposed 11 members looked more like a rugby team than a delicate orchestra. Don't let their looks deceive you, though. These lads and ladies (who weren't so brawny), created a seamless and beautiful sound. Their masterful combination of electro, psychedelic folk and impressive, lush vocal harmonies filled the room. They staked out a middle ground between the 60s sounds of the Byrds and the Mamas and the Papas and the dreamy shoegazing of Grandaddy and Spiritualized.
But while their multitude of instruments, from bassoons to saxophones, was impressive, at times it amounted to a heavy sound rather than a textured one. Just one of the three keyboardists would probably have sufficed. And though Brandon Carr 's dense vocals carried the sound, his style of singing drones on.
But this was a small problem. The Earlies' short, sweet set surpassed my limited expectations.