It wasn’t too long ago that people were impatiently wondering if we’d heard the last of The Strokes. Early 2009 marked 3 years since they announced their hiatus, and there seems to be some kind of statute of limitations on the length of time a band can stay apart if they want to reunite successfully. (There are exceptions – mega-star money-machines like Simon & Garfunkel will be able to sell out arenas in their wheelchairs by virtue of sheer star power… which is basically what they’ve done several times, and as recently as 2009.)
So it was nice to see them profiled last week in Spin Magazine, discussing their upcoming album (to be released in March). Apparently, the group has taken a very different attitude to this record, incorporating a more democratic approach to songwriting and arrangements. For a band with such a distinct voice – despite the fact that no single element of their sound is all that unusual – this is noteworthy. It remains to be seen whether this has enabled them to break new ground.
Either way, The Strokes appear to be a favorite of the bunch you see here, Punch Brothers. Assembled by virtuoso mandolinist Chris Thile (formerly of Nickel Creek) – who has, in significant ways, done for the mandolin what the demigod Bela Fleck has for the banjo – Punch Brothers’ repertoire has so far ranged from what I guess you’d call progressive bluegrass (their own material.. for lack of a better descriptor) to Radiohead covers (including some of their spaciest: Morning Bell, and hardest and heaviest: 2+2=5), to Bach (their rendition of Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G major is incredibly well executed and breathtakingly expressive, and the banjo mimics the tinniness of the harpsichord which Bach had in mind when he wrote it), to the alt-pop-punk of The Strokes. These guys are true modern musical renaissance men. The Strokes playing Reptilia, for comparison’s sake: The Strokes- Reptilia (Radio 1 Session) PB play Radiohead’s Packt Like Sardines in a Crush’d Tin Box: Punch Brothers – “Packt Like Sardines In a Crush’d Tin Box” (Radiohead Cover)
Purchase Punch Brothers’ new album, Antifogmatic, here.
They are the shit, shit, shitty, shit, shit indeed. You could even make a case that they are the shit, shitty, shit, shitty, shit shit shit. Or perhaps even shittier than that.
I have been listening to Antifogmatic on repeat for a week now. All the crazy textures – bass walkin’, violin singin’, banjo rollin’, guitar and mandolin strummin’, endlessly weave through my mind like a bunch of bouncing spools of thread.