Gainesville, FL • Saturday, October 13, 2007
On behalf of all Canadians I must say if we act holier-than-thou because bands like Arcade Fire and Broken Social Scene are saving indie rock, know that we’ve earned the right. We Canadians suffered through many years of Loverboy, so don’t judge us too harshly as we relish this reversal of fortune. On this weekend, karma slapped me a high five by bringing Canada’s excellent Caribou to Gainesville, and I admit to feeling a bit vindicated and, well, holier-than-thou.
Having loosely followed Caribou’s (a.k.a. Dan Snaith) career since he was Manitoba, I was curious what form this “band” would take on stage. The music recorded as Manitoba was bedroom electronica — the delicate melodies, diced by a musical scalpel, were similar to later-era Aphex Twin or Microstoria. But as his mastery of composition grew, Snaith morphed from Manitoba into Caribou, and the ellipsism gave way to psych-pop that stuttered less, harmonized more, and featured more traditional rock sounds. Turns out that Snaith brought a full band with him to Gainesville’s Common Grounds to execute the new sound, as well as a superb opener in the Born Ruffians.
A high energy indie-rock band whose name suits them, the Born Ruffians are another bona fide Canadian gem. Still some four months away from releasing their debut full-length, they relied on their rosy-faced enthusiasm to draw in the smattering of folks on hand for the opener. Throughout their set I struggled to describe the trio’s sound: simple, propulsive, happy pirate music? When the best I could come up with was “the fevered twitch of 1970s era Talking Heads,” a true music journalism cop-out, a friend stepped in and saved me by shouting in my ear “They kind of sound like my new favorite band, Vampire Weekend. I like these guys a lot.” They do, and I liked them a lot, too.
As for Caribou, a trio of shaggy musicians (guitar, bass, drums) tucked in a circle around Dan Snaith like body guards. They quickly jumped into cuts from Caribou’s latest, the critically acclaimed Andorra. Snaith kept the knob twiddling to a minimum as he jumped back and forth between guitar, drums,samples and the microphone. Standout tracks like “Sandy” and “Melody Day” inspired singalongs and indie-bebopping. The strength of Caribou’s recent musical direction is the sweet harmonies weaving in and out of the My Bloody Valentine-esque backdrop. Sadly, the live sound-mix underwhelmed, and the intricate layers were overwhelmed by an obtuse wall of sound that marred the musicianship. Of all the components that make up Caribou’s sound, it was the rhythms -especially when Snaith joined his able drummer on percussion- that dominated the set and gave the audience a more elemental view of a cerebral band that’s becoming less so by the minute.
While the Ruffians might have got the better of Caribou on this night, with a proper sound mix Caribou’s performance could have truly entranced. If nothing else, this Canadian musical wrecking crew proves that Canada’s recent musical renaissance is no fluke, and the Great White North has more to offer than paper, bacon and Loverboy.