Down the street from my house there is a breakfast place called Mama's. Everyday I pass the restaurant and the line out front stretching down the block. And everyday, as I pass the line comprised mostly of guidebook-clutching tourists and yuppies (who love waiting in line for things more than anything else in the world), I ask myself the same question, "It's just eggs right?"
What does this have to do with Darker My Love and their record release party at the Independent Tuesday night? Over the last few months there has been a big push by both their label, Dangerbird Records (home to 2006's surprise breakout Silversun Pickups) and local promoting behemoth Another Planet Entertainment, in the run up to their sophomore release "2". After completing a month long "West Coast Residency" of free shows at hipster clubs (the Echo, Popscene, etc.) in both Los Angeles and San Francisco, Darker My Love emerged onto a stage lined with photographers. As I listened to the feedback slowly giving way to a pounding psychedelic riff, I found myself asking, "It's just a rock and roll band, right?"
DML’s sound has always drawn heavily from late sixties psychedelia and early nineties shoegaze. They, along with Wooden Shjips, The Black Angels, the Warlocks, and Brian Jonestown Massacre, are part of decade long revival to bring back that retro drone. DML were formed in 2004 and its members hail from both LA and SF. They have built up strong local followings in both cities, signing with LA based Dangerbird Records in 2006. Tuesday night’s material drew heavily from the new album “2” and their self-titled debut.
In an interesting marketing ploy, a copy of “2” was given out free to those that purchased a ticket to the record release. I see this as an attempt to energize the hardcore base of the band. By giving local scenesters and tastemakers “free” music, the hope is that they in turn will go forth and evangelize on behalf of Darker My Love. The 2/3rds capacity crowd gathered at the Independent were primed.
Darker My Love seems to suffer from a split personality. On one side they are confident purveyors of wah inspired, freak out jams, however; they seem less comfortable negotiating the tighter structure of the pop leanings on the new record “2”. Live, you can get away with less polish on the longer, jam-oriented pieces. Grooves emerge out of the rubble of constructing and deconstructing the three chord patterns laid down by Tim Presley (Guitar/Vocals), Jared Everett (Guitar), and Rob Barbato (Bass/Vocals). But the more tightly written and hooky compositions require a tightness that was not quite there.
That’s not to say there wasn’t moments of trancendence. The band, anchored by Barbato’s rich, round bass parts, hit you in the hips. I’m sure this is one reason why there were so many women in attendence. DML’s songs contain a sexual undercurrent that leaks out of the fuzz. Songs build, then release. On the popier songs, like the single Two Ways Out, airy vocals take over. Presley and Barbato sing very well together, hitting a nice, easy harmony. Two Ways Out has the potential to be a huge hit. It’s simple, infectious, and you can dance to it. It’s the kind of song that will undoubtedly surface in a commercial.
One pet peeve I have with DML in the live setting is how under utilized Will Canzoneri: (organ, clavinet) is, his playing buried in the mix. I’ve seen too many bands that have organ players relegated to atmospheric filler, rather providing another layer of texture to the music. If you’re going to lug a vintage organ onto the stage and mic it, let me hear it!
Visually, the band employed a huge backdrop with images projected onto it. They were severly reminscent of the late sixties. The ink blotter designs replaced by digital images achieving the same effect. The band members themselves, in appearance, embody the split-personality character inherent in their music. Half the band look like they were cast in a mid-sixties mod tribute. The other half sport the bearded visage du jour, the latest trend in indie rock. Which in itself is a wink and nod to the seventies. All these elements work to produce a simulacra of a band out of time.
Time will tell if “2” is the record that will make Darker My Love a household name. I think the band will benefit from the intensive touring breaking an album will entail. The buzz generated by label, publicist, and promoter with the new release will subside and then the hard work of converting those that the press attracts, one town at a time, begins. Maybe one day a line will be stretching down the block outside the Independent for Darker My Love. If you find yourself in it, you might want to ask yourself, what it is your waiting in line for?