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Darker My Love Live @ Echoplex, December 19

By Paul Rogers

If an Eastside indie show was portrayed in a mainstream movie it might look like Friday night at Echoplex. Bearded 'n' baseball-capped Brite Spot brunchers politely gathered in the Echo's low-slung basement to witness a psychedelic pop band deftly meld shoegazer staples Jesus and Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine, Secret Machines and early Black Rebel Motorcycle Club.

On stage Darker My Love sounded denser and deeper than their two albums to date, yet their keys-sweetened Sgt. Pepper subplots and grainy cinematic aura were somehow rendered more vivid -- perhaps by contrast. A gorgeously sparse, four-on-the-floor kick drum haunted "Northern Soul" like a summer migraine; stoned, lonesome vocals hovered above and amongst the breaker-crash cymbals and foamy guitars of "Helium Heels"; the purposeful shuffle of "Blue Day" was chewy beneath its tie-dyed hooks; and the opening phrases of crowd-pleaser "Summer is Here" were borderline menacing in their reckless grit. Though Amish-chic bassist Rob Barbato and That '70s Show-ready guitarist Tim Presley trade and overlay vocals, both offer airy timbres equally cherubic and wraith-ish, further offsetting former Distiller Andrew Granelli's irreverent beats and a thicket of twin six strings.

In keeping with their sound and crowd, Darker My Love's presentation is familiar and retro-tinted:

dimly backlit in mauves and blues for the most part, with ambiguous projections and bobbing band members that imply "we're trying, but not too hard." They never patronized or spoon-fed their audience, but instead simply put the tunes out there and left perception to us. Save for a few vocal souls down the front, the quintet were received with warm reserve, clearly appreciated but seldom showered with praise.

Darker My Love offer little that's original, but nor do they ape any one band at any one time (with the cringe-worthy exception of "Two Ways Out"s shameless Supergrass pastiche). Their musicality makes them constantly listenable; their melodies trump any instrumental self-indulgence or noise-rock flirtations and they all appear sincere. Talented tunesmiths plundering proven formulas, Darker My Love are a Foo Fighters for the thrift store-hip.


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