Saturday, March 31, 2007

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


Au Revoir Simone is the skinniest band I've seen since Slant 6 in 1994.* The one on the left, in high-waisted jeans and a flowy narrow blouse, was a dead ringer for Karen Carpenter. They all three have long, straight, brown hair and sing with the exact same high, sweet, airy voice. The triplicate effect disconcerts me--like the Doublemint twins, it evokes replicability, which stokes some kind of industrial-revolution fetish, sexualized and a little dehumanized. Overthinking? Whatever. David Lynch is a fan, which I think validates my point. Anyway: They all stand there in a row behind their keyboards, and one of them wanted to rock out, and swayed more vigorously and nodded her head hard; the other two kind of swiveled their shoulders and occasionally stomped their feet. Fact: It is hard to rock out behind a Roland. Their single, which sounds like all their songs, is called "Falling Snow," and their songs are kind of like snowflakes: cool, lush, delicate. The way their songs are not at all like snowflakes is that no two snowflakes are alike.

ARS ended and all the human-seatbelting hetero couples disentangled and dispersed, so when Frida Hyvonen came onstage the room was mostly empty, forty at most. Sitting at her piano in a drapey black T-shirt dress and tights, she was seven hundred times cooler and more engaging than all three waify Au Revoir Simones bobbling behind their keyboards. I like her records, but live, her voice was bolder and stronger, with a little scrapiness around the edges, more of an ache in it, and a shot of theatricality. Also she was more beautiful than I'd realized, and made funny wry little comments between songs with her sweet Swedish accent. And when she sang "Once I Was a Serene Teenaged Child," you could see people kind of start and giggle when she says "cock" right there in the second line, and then sober up; I got shivers from it. Especially the "no, no, no, no, nooooo" part, which wrenched out despair that doesn't come across on the record.

Au Revoir Simone were a performance. Frida was a performer. Another point for Sweden.

* Slant 6, Euclid Tavern, Cleveland, 1994. Me: 19, brain-drunk on riot grrrl, aquiver with anticipation, luckiest girl alive to score a ride to Cleveland for the all-ages show with the all-girl D.C. band. Then they came out in trousers so tiny and tight they could have only come from the boys' department. The kind of tight where your hipbones ache and maybe you can't sit down at a 90-degree angle without bisecting yourself. They played a great show but I couldn't stop feeling weirded out by the 2-D thinness of all three members, clashing with my mental xeroxed images of riot girls writing on their stomaches and reclaiming their own bodies in all their so-called imperfection.