In the snakepit of a song “Laughing at Sex, Not Her,” from the Strange Boys' new album Be Brave (In the Red), singer Ryan Sambol begins the narrative while lying on a couch, where he's drifting off to sleep. In the other room, though, two of his friends are having sex, and unsuccessfully trying to be quiet. As the music below, a whispering guitar-and-drum moan that suggests a spooky Cramps or Link Wray track, supports him, the singer wonders on the pair's relationship: “I don't know if they love each other for sure/It sure sounds like they do.” We learn all this in the first minute of the song, and you start to wonder, could Sambol, with his penchant for economy and wry humor, be the rocking reincarnation of Raymond Carver? Back on the couch, he smiles and compares sex to laughter: “You do it differently with different people/And sometimes you feel sick after.” Sambol is only 20 years old, has a cocky Dylanesque creak in his voice, and already he's one of my favorite songwriters. By the end of the story, we've learned, in an internal dialogue to the guy, that “I used to be you/And I've slept with her too” — and it sounded very different. There's a dissertation in these three minutes, so rich is the material, and it's a mere one of a dozen nearly perfect songs on Be Brave, a loose, raw, classically designed garage rock album with the swagger of the Rolling Stones circa 1966 and the fuck-you confidence of a band who, just two albums into their “career,” look like kids but act like superstars. Strange Boys recently added a girl to their line-up, former Mika Miko and Silver Daggers saxophonist Jenna Thornhill, who blows wildly and adds a different kind of cockiness. Don't miss this show, because next year they'll be at a bigger venue, and the year after that you'll start lying and saying you saw them at the Echo even if you didn't.
Fri., Feb. 26, 8:30 p.m., 2010
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