Monday, February 04, 2008

Review: The Riffbrokers & Throwback Suburbia @ Skylark

Welcome to SPB's third ever contributor, Mr. David Thompson of The Scheme. Below is his review of the Riffbrokers/Throwback Suburbia show at the Skylark this past weekend.

By David Thompson

Throwback Suburbia hit the stage with quite an impact, playing their super-catchy single “Circles” with killer three- and four-part harmonies and a sound so tight it’s hard to imagine a recording that could improve upon it. Their live show was all the more impressive when I found the Portland quarter has been together for less than two years. This was their Seattle debut & the excellent sound at the Skylark served them well.

Throwback Suburbia are probably the most “powerpop” band I’ve seen in years and unlike some genre purists, they don’t forget the “power” part, with enthusiastic drum bashing & upfront guitars … not with Who-like abandon but in a more commercial, modern-rock way, like American Hi-Fi or Seattle’s own Lashes. Singer Jimi Evans reminds one of a young Joe Jackson (and not just because his white shoes bring to mind the “Look Sharp” album cover.) Mostly think “Jellyfish” -- the sort of pop that aims for majestic radio greatness.

If Throwback Suburbia is tight without being too slick, the The Riffbrokers are loose without being too sloppy. Their music is reminiscent of what the Brits call “pub rock”, which may sound like “bar band” but is a big step up from that, think Nick Lowe or Graham Parker - fine musicians who don’t noodle around but play it straight up, rough ‘n’ ready. And on their poppier tunes, singer Nick Millward’s voice has a great twang to it that reminds me of Paul Chastain from fantastic 90’s powerpop group Velvet Crush. Nick’s fat guitar tone & Heather Burnett’s melodic basslines kept the trio sounding full - But, y’know, I coulda swore The Riffbrokers were a quartet. So when Scott Sutherland jumped on stage for backing vocals, I said “yeah, him, that’s the guy.” The Riffbrokers’ site has him listed as guitarist so I’m gonna guess he’s still in the group and has sprained his wrist in, say, a bizarre gardening accident.

(Guess I’m glad that the above review is positive cuz out of my speakers as I type this, the Riffbrokers are singing “careful what you say” (from the chorus of their rockin’ track “Evaporate.”))

I do apologize to Ryan Perrey for not showing up early enough, esp. since he came all the way from Austin, TX (though may be living here now?). [Word to the wise: the Skylark is a GREAT place to see a show but the opener really is on @ 9 and the headliner @ 11]

As a small act of contrition, here’s a quick review of the songs @ his MySpace page: “Perrey takes the best elements of folk: skillful fingerpicking, emotive lead vocals and spot-on harmonies and adds a nice bit of edge with the occasional rough guitar or psychedelic keyboard sound.” But, why read a review of his MySpace page? - just go there.

Final note: Big conrats to Riffbrokers Nick and Heather who just returned from their honeymoon in exotic Greenlake and my Superbowl condolences to their slammn’ drummer Dustin who, like me, is a New England expatriate (no pun intended.)

Thanks for the report, David!


Andy said...

Nice job. I hope you’ll plan on being a regular contributor.

heather said...

Actually, he tore his ACL in a bizarre jumping accident. In that he jumped on our drummer, Dustin, in an amazing display of horseplay after a show in Bellingham.

Dumb kids.

Thanks for the kind words!