-Clay’s Take –
I know I have broached the topic of “the live band” before, but it bears readdressing. It needs addressing for no other reason than I am within a hair’s breadth of dedicating my life to ensuring that the fan’s enjoyment of a musician can be equally matched between the live experience and the recorded one. Maybe I’m just tilting at windmills, but the gap between the two should be bridged.
Let’s look at the San Francisco indie-rock band Out Damned Spot. Aside from referencing one of my favorite tragedies by Shakespeare, they have a dedicated local following and have a sturdy laundry list of venues they have played in the bay area. To me, that means people love to seem them play live, put on a great show, or both. They put out a self-titled album of fan favorites in December of last year, and as an outsider, something is lacking.
Is it the music? No, it is as solid a indie/post-punk has been, with pensive alt-rock melodies and distorted three-chord progressions. The musical talent is incredibly varied and practically oozes out of the speakers. Is it the vocals? Negative. Trinity Nay’s vocals about pain, loss (perceived or real), are haunting as her alto flies above the melodies and borders on soulful on tracks like “Broken.” So what is it?
For me, it is the mix. If my musical instincts are correct, and they’re probably not since I just made that up, then this band is overpowering live. Anthony Barrie’s distorted solos could melt a room. Justin La’s bass would start making your chest hurt in the “I’m standing too close to the speakers” way. Andrew Travis’ drums would crash through your consciousness all while Trinity Nay captures your attention in the way a frontwoman should. I’m guessing. Listening to “Saw You Again,” I hear a intimacy and pain wrapped into a kinetic bomb of musical energy. I mean, this band could be one band member standing above a pool shouting “I AM A GOLDEN GOD!” away from being Stillwater.
But listening to Out Damned Spot’s debut, I cannot tell. The music is muted and the vocals are mixed a little too high. Everything feels a little subdued, a little off, like a picture that is just out of focus. Which is a shame because the more I listen to this album, the more I like it and the more I want to get just a little bit more out of it than I currently am. It makes me wish I had money to throw at an established producer to say: “Can you make these guys sound as good as I think they can sound?”
Maybe I need to just give up on that quixotic notion and cart myself over to San Francisco and just see how they are live. And if you are in the area, you should too. You can also head over to Out Damned Spot’s page and name your price on their album. Tell me I’m right, that it’s great but the recording sounds slightly out of place, or tell me I’m wrong and that this is what an indie album should sound like. Just do it before Cameron Crowe makes a movie about them.