There’s a reason it’s called CMJ Music Marathon, rather than CMJ Music Festival or CMJ Lots of Bands Playing Music in a Five-Day Span Extravaganza. On the first night of the marathon, Tuesday in this case, you start slowly, yet steadily, saving up your strength for the rest of the week, like you would in a long race. Midway through, Thursday, you start to get tired, your back begins to hurt, and you’re not as easily impressed or forgiving of mediocre bands than you might be at the beginning—it’s the middle of the sprint, after the initial thrill has worn off, and before the finish-line adrenaline kicks in. Or sometimes you stumble at the start line, and spend the rest of the time catching up. Thursday night at Music Hall of Williamsburg was a mini-marathon in itself, with a middling beginning, all-out dash middle, and strong finish.
The stumbling start came courtesy of Washington DC’s True Womanhood (what must Barbara Welter think?). Singer Thomas Redmond attempted his best Morrissey-by way of-Ian Curtis impression, and while his body moved like Moz, he couldn’t hit the same notes (particularly on a cover of Justin Timberlake’s “My Love”), and his voice, and the band’s moody, industrial electronica sound, often fell flat.
Much better was Caged Animals (don’t Google Image their name), a five-piece, New York-based group dressed all in white, who played twinkle-eyed dreampop doo-wop that you’d dance to with your first love, laughing at the “cinema”/”tarantula” rhyme, nodding along to the “I just want to smoke pot and know that you’re still mine” line. Vincent Cacchione had a smooth, melodic voice, and the band played smooth, soaring music—the entire thing was just smooth, and likable and tender and obvious and kind of wonderful. Check out “Teflon Heart”; it’ll be lodged in your brain for a week.
Our very own Jeff Klingman covered Class Actress when the trio played Public Assembly on Tuesday, calling them “one of the most overlooked pop bands in Brooklyn.” I don’t disagree. The set began a little stiffly, with Elizabeth Harper doing more cooing than singing, but after she threw off her Lloyd Dobler jacket, things loosened up, and the group played an appealing, seductive, It’s Blitz-with-more synth set.
Metronomy is one of the more animated bands out there today, and not just because there are large painted pictures of the group hanging behind them during their shows. You can also imagine a cartoon character or action figure built around every member, especially when bassist Gbenga Adelekan wears those fantastic hitched-up orange pants of his. According to frontman Joseph Mount, this was the group’s first sold-out show in America (and only third total in New York since 2008, most recently at Pier 54 as part of the Hudson River Rocks series), and I’d say that they added an extra amount of enthusiasm to their set, but I’m not sure if that’s possible; Metronomy’s energy level is already nearly unmatched. The packed crowd was (literally) jumping to the band’s funky dance-pop sound (think Cut Copy, but with better basslines), and singing along to every selection from this year’s Mercury Prize-nominated album, The English Riviera. I couldn’t stop staring at the flashing white badges the members had attached to their chests, and they seemed as curious about whether the East River was made up of salt or fresh water as the audience was enthralled by the playful song that came following the question, “The Bay.” Drummer Anna Prior, bedazzled in a sparkling one-piece green outfit, keep the beat tight, and Oscar Cash, when he wasn’t playing the keyboards or saxophone, moved in robotic motions. Metronomy is basically the Yo Gabba Gabba of indie rock, and I mean that as a compliment.
Photos by Nadia Chaudhury