Major threats

Indie-rock weekend: a play in three acts
By CHRISTOPHER GRAY  |  June 20, 2007
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ON THE ATTACK: Get Him Eat Him.

Ian MacKaye has set quite a model for how a punk rocker ought to grow up. The legendarily DIY performer — frontman of one-album wonder Minor Threat and seminal ’90s post-hardcore band Fugazi — has stuck to his anti-oppression, anti-mainstream guns for twenty years now. His latest project, the Evens, are softer but no less urgent. The duo — MacKaye and ex-Warmers drummer Amy Farina — play riffy, stripped-down punk that would easily qualify as folk were it not for MacKaye’s jittery baritone guitar and Farina’s insistent, rolling drumlines. Call it punk rock for your underground coffeeshop. The band start off a weekend well stocked with up-and-coming national indie talent at SPACE Gallery on Friday, playing as they (and Fugazi) do everywhere: $5, one hour, all-ages, no openers, and no booze. The music starts at 8:30 pm sharp.

The band’s 2005, self-titled debut unearths simmering tension and ambiguity in its juxtaposition of anti-government creeds and tortured relationship ballads, suggesting that questioning outside authority means you also have to question the integrity of those within arm’s reach. Certain dismal pronouncements — “It’s all downhill from here,” “There is no around the corner anymore” — walk that line perfectly, enlivening an album that does a solid job of combating the limitations of a guitar-and-drums duo. Last year’s overlooked follow-up, Get Evens, ratchets up the political activism a bit, with more explicit anti-Bush sentiments along the lines of “Washington is our city/Everybody knows you are a liar.” Farina’s drumming has become less cymbal-heavy and more focused on complex, dynamic rhythms, and MacKaye responds in kind.

Get Him Eat Him, hitting SPACE at 9:30 pm on Saturday night, are a Providence-based band fronted by contributing Pitchfork writer Matt LeMay. This nugget’s only really noteworthy because of how funny it is to see the notoriously trend-happy music-review Web site beget such an unfashionable band. Any itch to malign Get Him Eat Him as a product of the “P4k” next-big-thing machine dissipates after the first bar of their second album, Arms Down. Basically, the album is a three-years-too-late soundtrack to a spring break episode of The OC. The self-effacing nerves and witty enthusiasm of LeMay’s lyrics get down with spiky keyboard licks and loads of power chords that stumble over each other until they somersault into a popsicle stand.

If the music is conceptually worth condemnation, its execution is anything but. Frontman LeMay really runs with the band’s good-times vibe; he’s that increasingly rare indie-rock figure who actually sings, coming off like a more composed version of the hyper-passionate punk Ted Leo. The guitars match the comparison, too; nearly every track on Arms Down meshes enough memorable lyrical hooks and careening guitar parts to fill three of your favorite summer songs. The album’s busy tempo compensates for the fact that it’s rather front-loaded, and a revolving door of guest-spots keeps things spinning merrily; Beirut’s Zach Condon loans a triumphant trumpet break to opener “2x2,” and members of Broken Social Scene and the Wrens hop in as well. This ain’t a scene, it’s a beach party.

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