Rock of pure substance

Wax Tablet

Is music a type of theology? Generally not, we'd say, but now and again, a group like the WALDOS come along and we start to wonder. Not that the weird, complex, jazzy math-rock they churn out on Sans gets us any closer to the man or woman upstairs — or down below, for that matter. Not at all. But think how most groups are preoccupied with the anxious questions of their own existence, and fashion a sort of aesthetic or essential image with which to address the world outside their members. This might take the form of a hunky frontman, an infectious 4/4 beat, or a shithot synth line. Like chants of the Druids of yore, we might come to view these musical characteristics as attempts to get beyond their own world, to send a message to a distant, unknowable, and transcendent force: We are here. Listen to us. And like a stained-glass window, this is where the light shines through. It often appears as a viral single, a full audience at the show, or a simple "you guys rock," but it all feels like confirmation from beyond.

The Waldos, a four-piece group in Portland, do no such thing. Their songs are so tightly woven and intricate, so suffused with energy, and yet so completely devoid of any such face or aesthetic (just look at that cover!) that their music cannot be thought of as a supplication to the beyond. It's as if theirs is a church with no windows, as it were. In rock-formal terms, they make us think of Chicago's Ghosts and Vodka, or Boston's Cancer Conspiracy, or several other such groups to have sunned on the beaches of rock obscurity past. But the Waldos exist today, in an era where every rock fan possesses the omniscient eye of the Internet. Undaunted, they are musicians in pure conversation with one another, ignoring the hidebound strictures for practitioners of rock music and existing on their own terms alone. Out of respect — and because to do so would only serve to negate our portrait of them — we'll withhold our usual stream of descriptors and adjectives and simply praise the makers of this uniquely triumphant rock record, merely noting that it's as if, transcendentalism be damned, the only force they obey is what passes between them. Find Sans, their anti-gospel, at

And now for some practical knowledge: both the EMPIRE DINE AND DANCE and PORT CITY MUSIC HALL have been sold in the last few weeks. It's too early to tell how that might affect their entertainment schedules (or halt them completely?), but we're eager to see how it might. That's a lot of upheaval for the city's mid-capacity rock rooms.

Old pal PUTNAM SMITH, whose last record We Could Be Beekeepers was a major player on the national folk DJ charts, is preparing a new record, titled Kitchen, Love..., for May.

  Topics: New England Music News , EMPIRE DINE AND DANCE, Port City Music Hall, Putnam Smith,  More more >
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