4/12/16 – Middle East Downstairs

Porches has that new car smell.

Aaron Maine’s bleached-to-the-roots hair, his impeccably white long-sleeve shirt and dangling earrings. His novel dance moves, clasping palm in palm, gesticulating outwards like a beating heart. This is all very new. A black guitar strap inexplicably adorned with a red flame was the only vestige of a past image – of a time before Porches became so damn intentional.

But they shouldn’t look back. Pool is one of the best releases of 2016, a precise and contained album, produced but not overly so by Chris Coady. With a more electronic sound, Pool overlays pop sensibilities without verging on veneer or masking Porches’ sincerity.

And the sold out crowd at the Middle East on Tuesday – which undoubtedly included the highest concentration of septum piercings in New England – was there, as Maine sings on “Mood,” “to hear the good news.”

The night began with the gorgeous synth-brood of “Glow.” The syncopated, muted guitar picking and funky bassline courtesy of Maya Laner, sounded shockingly like Toro y Moi, or music for a post-chillwave world.

Next was “Forgive,” with a powerful chorus, kitschy synths, and a catchy melody. Maine’s manipulated voice sang, “how can I tell you ‘bout the power of forgiveness,” successfully rescuing tasteful autotune from the post-Age of Adz dustbin.

When Maine spoke, however, it was mostly incomprehensibly deep. And when he dropped off his guitar for more synth-driven tracks like “Underwater,” he posed before the crowd again gesticu-dancing in a way that, much like the music, vaguely invoked the 80s, before striking a Christ-like pose before the microphone. It was all a performance, but it felt like a performance of self.

With Pool, Porches have added presentation to the sincerity of 2013’s Slow Dance in the Cosmos. Like on “Car,” the first single from Pool, which shone with a super tight motorik beat, characteristically flawless vocals, and twinkling, clean guitar.

But the night wasn’t all new car. Before the set was over, they returned to crowd-pleasers from Slow Dance in the Cosmos. “Headsgiving,” a song with all the parts needed to be an underground millennial anthem, was received as just that – the opening line (“I give you head, before you head to therapy”) combining two favorite topics of alt-millennial openness: mental health and sex.

But good music doesn’t have to be precise or intentional, and mediocrity has never sounded as good as it does from Alex G. Shaking off all auspices of performance, Alex Giannascoli and his band took the stage fittingly bedraggled, sporting middle-school long hair and thrifty shirts.

With his microphone positioned perpendicularly to the gaze of the crowd, it was easy for Alex G, the man everybody had come to see, to avoid being seen. The microphone was positioned low, forcing him to hunch – that was so he could see his guitar while he played and sang, leaving little room for rock star posturing, except his ceaseless rhythmic shifting from foot to foot and occasional caveman-like aping during instrumental passages.

Alex G proves that if you make enough mistakes it can become an aesthetic. With the foundation already laid by the likes of Stephen Malkmus and Pavement, Alex G successfully plays, maybe unknowingly, with the tried-and-true indie schtick of ambivalent I-don’t-give-a-fuckery.

On the first song of the set, “After Ur Gone,” a highlight from 2014’s DSU, there was too much vibrato on the lead guitar. On “Salt,” what was the best arrangement of Beach Music became tainted by a senseless finale of guitar noodling. On “Kicker,” a Beach Music standout became tuneless sludge.

 

The guitars seemed perpetually just out of tune. After “Harvey,” Alex broke a string and borrowed Maine’s black fender. When the anti-rock star joked about being unable to change strings on his guitar it wasn’t beyond the realm of possibility. Could he really not?

But that’s the fucking point. Alex G proves that you don’t need to reach a level of knowledge to produce creatively. Use what you know to make what you can – even if that means a desktop microphone and a few chords, like the three that make up “Soaker,” a short and to the point success from the show.     

Alex G is unpretentious, sincere rock music that gets a sold out crowd screaming along. So yes, there will be mistakes. It can’t always be glossy – there has to be some grit too.

Grit & Gloss: Alex G & Porches
Pros
  • Porches's precision
  • Alex G's sincerity
  • Unpretentious
Cons
  • Amateur guitar solos from Alex G's band
  • Sloppy set even for Alex G
7.8Overall Score

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