Another New Zealand band making headway in the international scene, the Checks played a hard-hitting rock set in an old-school style, kind of like the Hives for the under-21 crowd. The music's loud and blues-rocky. Simple enough, but so fresh and honest that they might as well have invented it. Kinda reminds you of Wolfmother (one of last year's CMJ bigwigs) in how they take something so familiar and make it clean and crisp again.
Plus, young and scraggly-haired frontman Edward Knowles has got a hell of a scream, the kind of gritty yet slick throat-scream that made girls in the 80s drop their leotards. Plus he says things like “This one's for all the ladies in the audience.”
The songs are full of intentional cheesiness like “I don't find it terribly easy to dedicate my life to love.”
It's the “terribly” that sells it. Rock lyrics are usually pretty short on adverbs.
It didn't seem like Bradford Cox cared who listened to his Atlas Sound set last night, as half the Fader Sideshow lounge chattered over his effects-pedal swells and vocal delays. He's had enough practice shocking people, so making palatable but not immediately engaging ambient noise probably wasn't much of a confrontation for him. Still, why did the whole thing feel so passive aggressive? His drooping eyes, half-covered meticulously by his brushed bangs and a neon orange flat brim Yankees hat. The truth is, as the cover face for Fader's last issue and with the reputation of an indie/blog reality star, there really isn't anyone playing today with Cox's cultish cache. His sleep walking demeanor just went with the territory. That's probably why it felt like the day Bradford Cox might scream at a whole room of people to shut up. Instead it was like he was playing in a different room. That's style, we guess.
The truth is most of the musical substance went sailing like so many blasts of hot air over the heads of his audience. It's no one's fault really, except maybe the bartenders doling out an endless supply of Southern Comfort. The nature of his guitar-pedals setup begs for swells and giant “ethereal” drones. With two lines hooked up for his guitar and his voice along with mic'd drums he'd occasionally patter at with his hands, the music, while often wide and all-encompassing, receded at times to two glumly plucked guitar notes, from where it would metastasize again into long quivering trails of sound, ultimately filling the Fader atmosphere with the same sort of gooey haze filling out our SoCo punched heads.
Needless to say we loved it.
Photos by Nate Dorr