NEW TOWN ANIMALS with Royal City, Stars, the Constantines, Buck 65 and the Chickens at the Horseshoe, March 2. Tickets: $8-$12. Attendance: 450. Rating: NN Rating: NN
after the always-glamorous Robin Black stumbled onstage to proclaim the New Town Animals his new favourite band early Saturday night, I had high hopes for the West Coast punks.Unfortunately, hype only goes so far.
The Animals have the look. Frontman Nick Newtown was downright dapper in wacky Jackie-O white plastic-rimmed shades, too tight jeans avec wallet chain, studded cuff, blue sport jacket and tie and old-skool red Converse All-Stars. His bandmates looked like they'd walked off the pages of a skate-punk mag, with punk buttons and messy hair galore.
They've got the energy, too. After Royal City's subdued opening set, the Animals seemed like a Saturday-morning-cartoons-and-sugary-cereal whirlwind, ricocheting off one another, slam-dancing across the stage and exchanging high-fives with the kids down front. And they mugged like crazy.
But after a while I had the sneaking suspicion that the over-the-top act was a way to distract us from the fact that all the Animals' songs are the same. Upbeat major-key three-chord anthems can be exhilarating, but Nick's Brit-inflected sneer made the lyrics all but indecipherable, and after half an hour with no melodic variation whatsoever, the Animals started to sound like a second-rate Ramones/Clash cover band.
Even more annoying were the extended inter-song lulls. You can be the tightest band in the world, but nothing kills momentum like stopping for over a minute to sort out your shit between tunes.
It wasn't till last year's CMW darlings, the Constantines, took the stage much later in the night that everyone in the crowd was held in total thrall.
The Cons don't have quirky outfits, and they don't make goofy faces while playing. They just deliver brilliantly pure thrash-rock power. Note to the New Town Animals: substance triumphs over style every time.