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Pop Music Review

Two More New York Bands Are Rockin' L.A.

September 21, 2002|NATALIE NICHOLS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Sick of hearing about all the New York City "buzz bands" who are gonna save rock 'n' roll? Well, too bad, because two more made a splash in local clubs this week.

Although the dark pleasures of Interpol and the more immediate thrills of the Mooney Suzuki didn't intersect much, each did its part to help absolve pop's recent sins, drawing from storied underground traditions to deliver music for the here and now.

Hearing these two groups wouldn't pinpoint any New York "sound," but their differences evoked the variety in NYC's last vibrant era, the late '70s. Performing on Wednesday at the Troubadour, Interpol showed roots in British punk and post-punk, while the Mooney Suzuki's Roxy set on Thursday cleaved to the MC5's Detroit rock anarchy.

Interpol demonstrated why it's often compared to Joy Division. Singer-guitarist Paul Banks' vocals do recall the late Ian Curtis' hollowed-out warble, but the introverted melodies and inventive rhythms of songs from the group's debut album, "Turn on the Bright Lights," also evoked Wire's kinetic angularity, Echo and the Bunnymen's haunted torchiness and the Pixies' visceral imagery.

The more extroverted Mooney Suzuki charged through selections from its current album, "Electric Sweat," and more with ferocious abandon. Incorporating flavors of the Who and early Stones, the black-clad quartet shaped its influences less originally than Interpol did. Yet it was more fun to watch, firing up the packed house with crazy stage antics while exhorting the crowd to clap rhythms and sing refrains.

Such driving numbers as "In a Young Man's Mind" celebrated the moment with an exciting clash of guitars and beats that felt dangerous and sexy like the MC5, although the messages rarely had a fight-the-power point. One can perhaps argue that this group's priorities aren't entirely straight, considering its appearance in a Nike commercial covering Cole Porter's "Don't Fence Me In," punked-out almost beyond recognition on Thursday. Yet it played with such conviction the music screamed "Revolution!"

*

The Mooney Suzuki, with the BellRays, others, plays Wednesday at the Roxy, 9009 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, 8 p.m. $10. (310) 278-9457.

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