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SHOW REVIEW: Preston School of Industry / The Shins / The Standard
The Black Cat - 11/11/01 (Washington D.C.)

By: Martin Royle

To Open: To begin something new, to allow for the possibility of, see also, 'Opening Bands.'

Sometimes you need hype. Fuck man, sometimes it's the only reason to get up in the morning. The last ten years of music, for example. Big names, big bands, big hype. Not the ideal time to be an opening band. If you go to see Pearl Jam, who the fuck cares about the opening band? But hype, like hard drugs, gets pretty tiring. I mean, why are we in this to begin with? The sex, the hair, the slouching rocker princesses (the Sex?)? The music man, the fucking music! Last night was a fine display of the new and original, and not so much for the established. The Queen is dead! Long live the Queen!

First, there was The Standard from Portland Oregon. Furious, carnal, wonderful, The Standard were giving absolution in the Church of Noise. Somewhere in between Sonic Youth and Arab Strap, these kids wielded sound and rhythm. The drummer was simply perfect, the keyboardist a genuine sound-smith, and the bassist walked the fine line between beats and melody that all good bassists do. The singer, Tim, was just ferocious, a little like Bright Eyes. And I fell madly and hopelessly in love with guitarist after she went from finger picking to keyboards, filling up the sound with inspiring melody and passion (seriously, call me). Intense man, a real experience.

Next up were The Shins, of Albuquerque. Unassuming showmen with some incredible material, The Shins have almost a cult appeal about them. These guys have songs, really great songs, and their slightly nervous and sloppy delivery just makes them all the cuter. I guess I would have liked to have heard the lyrics a little better (the imagery in these songs rivals Neutral Milk Hotel), but that's only in retrospect. I could see myself 'touring' with this band, you can tell it's a different show every night.

Then there's the headliners, Preston School of Industry, the new band of Pavement guitarist Spiral Stairs. They weren't bad, better than during the day's warm up performance at DC CD, the local indy record store (this was a very boring display, worthy of an empty coffee house). Their manically entertaining drummer certainly helped. But, well, this is opinion., but the songs just aren't there. Spiral Stairs is a great soloist, and when he let his guitar do the talking it was great. His mouth, however, does not help the situation. "I have an Allegory heart" is a shitty lyric, straight up, and the one about whale bones misses by days and days. And he kept saying stuff like, "Here's another pop song that I wrote." Especially after the two really inspired bands that came before, Preston School of Industry felt a little labored.

It's a vicious cycle though isn't it? If the Shins blow up, will I stop giving a shit about the opening groups? If The Standard starts making videos with snakes and shit, will we point our little fingers and cry 'derivative'? Who knows, who cares, now is now, and now is looking good. 'And I'll dance like the king of the eyesores/The rest of our lives would've faired well'.

The author would like to clarify that he is still, mainly, in it for the sex.

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