Review: Department of Eagles

Brattle Theater, January 18, 2009
By CAITLIN E. CURRAN  |  January 20, 2009

WHOA! Even singer Daniel Rossen admitted that the Department of Eagles’ show wasn’t as fine-tuned as the album.

At the Brattle Theatre Sunday, Fred Nicolaus, guitarist from the Brooklyn-based duo Department of Eagles, announced that they'd play a song from their little-known 2003 debut album, The Whitey on the Moon UK LP. "It's not very good," he warned. Moments later, singer Daniel Rossen stopped the show. "Whoa, that's weird," he said, both to himself and to the audience. "I actually forgot the words to that song." A fan sitting a few rows back in the darkened movie theater came to his rescue, shouting out the next line of "Sailing by Night." "Oh, that's right," Rossen said, squinting through bright stage lights into the crowd. "This is interactive."

This interruptive flub threw off neither the audience nor the band, though it was one of many times the latter indulged in chummy self-depreciation. Rossen and Nicolaus, who formed the group in their days as NYU dorm mates in 2000, were fond of pointing out awkward song-transition silences, perhaps as a way of filling them.

Rossen's involvement with another notable band of Brooklynites, Grizzly Bear, has helped propel Department of Eagles' late-breaking sophomore album, In Ear Park (4AD), into the indie-rock spotlight. Since its October release, the album has made critics' "Best of 2008" lists, and the band have played Late Night with Conan O'Brien and sold out shows in Boston and New York.

Rossen has said that they're still fleshing out their live sound (they played Sunday with bassist Matthew Million, and Grizzly Bear drummer Christopher Bear), and indeed it can be quite different from their recorded music, often lacking the finely tuned orchestral complexities of In Ear Park. Still, "No One Does It like You" and a not-yet-released number involving a myriad of looped, falsetto ooohs conjured the echoey bombast, odd chord progressions, and guitar-driven mood shifts that make the album so underhandedly enthralling. And whether the band admit it or not, that is very good.

Related: Department of Eagles | In Ear Park, Tiger by the tail, On with the shows . . ., More more >
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