The Numbers with Les Georges Leningrad , Sick Lipstick , Trin Tran , Ninja High School and DJ Mikey Apples at the Gladstone Hotel (1214 Queen West), Tuesday (February 17). $12, advance $10. 416-531-4635. Rating: NNNNN
New wave or no wave? that's the question at the centre of the ongoing debate concerning the origins of the jerky-quirky Numbers sound. In fact, it's actually a body-moving combination of both, as can be heard on their boisterous new In My Mind All The Time (Tigerbeat6) disc.
While howling drummer Indra Dunis, who pounds out the San Francisco trio's off-kilter rhythms, honed her bashing skills as a member of Devo-esque attack unit Tractorman, Numbers guitarist Dave Broekema and and Moog manipulator Eric Landmark were slowly deprogrammed of their normal human groove tendencies while members of Xerobot.
Together, they've spent years in the process of devolving to come up with the Numbers' signature unrock sound.
"We've all listened to that no wave stuff for the past 10 years," allows Broekema over breakfast in San Francisco, "so it's embedded deep down in our sound. But so is the music of Black Sabbath, the Buzzcocks and all kinds of different Krautrock bands.
"For me, each of those groups represents a different way of how not to make typical blues-based rock music. The whole idea that you don't have to work from a standard blues template was more of an influence on the way we play than any one group."
The intriguing thing about the Numbers is that the irregular rhythms, spastic guitar stabs and confrontational shouting haven't stopped anyone from dancing at their shows.
On the contrary, coming up with zany new dance steps to Numbers tunes has become something of a competitive sport for their quickly expanding audience. Spontaneous fits of high-stepping kicks, butt-wiggling and arm-flapping that can erupt during Numbers performances are now considered part of the show.
"We encourage people to make up their own dances - that's what we hope for," chuckles Broekema. "It's fun for us and usually hilarious for everyone else.
"To my knowledge, none of the bizarre dances we've seen have been given names like the Swim or the Frug, but I think it would be totally cool if one our songs touched off a new dance craze."
It seems like the track Hot Fire from the Numbers' new disc has the best chance of catching on. They could be just a DFA remix away from an international club smash.
"We've actually started doing a geeky little dance ourselves at the end of Hot Fire, so you never know - that may be the one."