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Review: Divine Fits at Hollywood Forever Cemetery's Masonic Hall

August 29, 2012|By Randall Roberts | Times Pop Music Critic
  • Divine Fits performs at the Masonic Temple inside Hollywood Forever Cemetery on Aug. 28, 2012.
Divine Fits performs at the Masonic Temple inside Hollywood Forever Cemetery… (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles…)

When the members of new band Divine Fits, best described as an indie-rock supergroup (even if it sounds silly), first hooked up, they had a common goal. 

“We basically wanted to write songs together, make an album, and go and play those songs live,” guitarist-singer Dan Boeckner said in a recent interview with Pitchfork. “We wanted to start a band.” 

Featuring Boeckner, best known for his work with Wolf Parade and Handsome Furs, singer and guitarist Britt Daniel of the band Spoon, and New Bomb Turks drummer Sam Brown, the group hit its goal as it concluded its month-long Los Angeles residency Tuesday night at the gorgeous, acoustically rich Masonic Temple at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

Dreams really can come true: Divine Fits' debut album, "A Thing Called Divine Fits," hit the stores Tuesday. But as evidenced by the volumes of new music pouring out of every portal known to man, one of the last things the world needs now is another album by another band of dreamers.

Or so it sometimes seems. Judging by the Fits’ powerful, at times hypnotic gig at the Masonic Temple, however, three men with recognizable gifts and a keen sense of song can build mesmerizing musical structures despite the volume of wannabes surrounding them.   

Over August, Divine Fits has been working out the live part of its stated goal with little club shows around L.A. Last week, the band crammed onto the Hotel Cafe stage for a thrilling, nearly identical, set of songs that illustrated its compact, tight power. There, songs such as “Love Is Real” recalled postpunk and/or rock singers such as early-period Elvis Costello, Tom Petty and the Cars’ Ric Ocasek:  Taking-care-of-business songs about the urgency of desire. Earlier in the month, the band did the little Bootleg Theater on East Beverly.

At the Masonic, this compactness was given room to breathe, and the songs reacted by taking on the echoed quality of the room. With its high, pitched wooden roof and cavernous construction, the venue adds a natural reverb.  

You could best hear that on “The Salton Sea,” a synthesizer-driven mantra sung by Daniel that echoed through the temple. While drummer Brown, who’s pulled back the hard-pound requirements of the New Bomb Turks, crafted a simpler, though no less powerful, metronomic beat, touring keyboardist Alex Fischel created deep, rumbling tones.

On “For Your Heart,” Boeckner led the band into an odd abyss of a song that harnessed the Underworld-era rave sounds as a weapon in a sturdily structured rock song. On the group's record, the track sounds like a lost new wave club hit. The Temple amplified the bass tones to create more throbbing pulse, as though the band wrote a rock song on Kraftwerk's analog synths. And their version of Tom Petty's "You Got Lucky" was even darker, if that's possible, than the original. (Admittedly, we were in a cemetery.)

It’s a double-edged sword, being a noted singer and songwriter in an acclaimed but not gushingly so band -- touring, trying to sell records, licensing music, making ends meet and making good new songs. On the one hand, it makes for an interesting life. On the other, you get into a rut and no doubt start to worry that fans are getting bored. 

On Tuesday, Daniel, Boeckner and the rest of the band proved the best remedy for this is pretty basic: Start a new group, write some (really good) songs, make a (catchy) record, then play them (incredibly well) live.

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Twitter: @liledit

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