Friday, April 25, 2008

Musical Revue: Antenna Inn - Do/Work

For those of us who are giddy with glee at the onslaught of colossal groups like Architecture in Helsinki, Broken Social Scene and Hallelujah the Hills that cover the stage and cry out in a cacaphony of chaotic yet carefully composed counterpoint cantabile, a time for rejoicing is at hand. But for those of you who are growing tired of these runamucks with their counter-rhythmic tendencies, stacked polyphony and safety-in-numbers mentality, please, I beseech you, in the name of all that's good, before you close the gate to these types, allow one more.

Antenna Inn is easily one of the most creative bands in the New Orleans indie scene and their latest (and for all practical purposes, debut) EP "Do/Work" will be available on May 10th for everyone who doesn't mind a little rhythm in their lives. Although the band techinically already released an album ("I Minus") in 2003, that former roster was a mouse at the feet of the mammoth they have evolved into, and therefore can be considered a thing of the past as they move into this new beginning. And what a beginning it is! As a group, they have the power to boggle, shock, blow away, and depress any aspiring musicians within earshot who can't help but feel pale in comparison. Like its creators, "Do/Work" is all at once tribal, ambient, hard, delicate, anarchic, precise, sophisticated, accessible, and damn good.

This quaint collection of art rock tunes fills out a healthy 36 minutes and keeps hold of even the shortest attention span for the entire ride. Expanding upon their pop-song structures with everything from silky smooth guitar solos, sweeping horn passages, drastic meter changes and extended, ebb-and-flow instrumental jams that can sometimes take you miles from where you started, AI has a unique ability to dangle the musical carrot close enough for the listener to smell but far away enough to keep you chasing. Going a full 2 minutes before Sam Craft's vocals enter, the intro to the closing track "Come On People" develops from a soulful solo guitar riff, into a strangely empty and atmospheric latin groove, into a drawn-out, ambient, two-chord progression over snare drum syncopation that could cause an anuerysm, and finally swelling into a three-note, polyphonic climax, after which we are again left in suspense through a 9-count tinkering ride cymbal solo before the payoff finally arrives in Craft singing softly "So if you're looking for love / Stop / Unless you're looking for pain / Stop." Tension, beautiful tension.

A strong close isn't all this EP is good for. Right out the gate, the band pulls out all of their guns in the heavy-handed tale of a nightmare, "Ernest Borgnine." Opening with a two-chord piano riff that holds more weight than its simplicity should allow, the song quickly launches into a menacingly primal groove that would make any band entertain the idea of picking up a second drummer. A few bars and several syncopations later, the nightmare begins: "On a railroad track / There's a thickening crack / And even though they patched the hole / The trains all crash into the river, crash into the river." Following this locomotive imagery, the drums emulate the persistent "chugga-chugga" of a giant choo-choo under a driving chorus that could make "oooh-woo-hoo-hoo-hoo" a household catch-phrase. As the song progresses, the established groove is derailed by a couple of triple-meter interruptions, the second of which being a jazz waltz that devolves into a drunken trumpet choir finale so terribly wonderful you can't help but smile.

For everyone who is impressed by AI from this EP alone, I must inform you that the true treat lies in the lights and luster of their live shows. An audience member's dream, a sound guy's nightmare, the stage, donning mood-lighting table lamps, a strategically arranged arsenal of guitar, bass and keyboard amps, and an impressive array of perscussion toys tucked into every nook and cranny, is a hypnotizing spectacle even while the band is still backstage. Once they're on, the stage is ablaze with random shouting, barefoot guitar solos, crowd-enthralling clap-fests, and a constant guessing game as to which one of the 9 members is going to jump on the vibraphone next. That kind of raw energy is nigh impossible to capture on recording, but with "Do/Work," Antenna Inn gives it a hell of a shot.

Antenna Inn - Ernest Borgnine

Buy "Do/Work" on