It has been said in a million weary voices that parody is the lowest form of art. If that belief is to be accepted as truth in the live-music hemisphere, then cover songs (and their bastard cousins, karaoke tunes) should be considered the rock bottom of songwriting.
the Breakroom, December 30
Indie-rock purists and white-knuckled torchbearers of originality in music would have done well to stay far away from the second performance by the Crust Brothers, an apparent stress-relieving project featuring Stephen Malkmus of Pavement and three-thirds of Silkworm dallying their way through Southern-fried- and hairspray-rock covers.
While the Crust Brothers' debut last year was a sold-out, highly amped affair at the Crocodile, this time the setting and crowd were more subdued: Audience members in the know shouted out requests for classics like Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Lodi" instead of Pavement's "Cut Your Hair," and the Breakroom's dimensions allowed room for ample devil's-horn hand salutes and Budweiser waving. Opening act the klauskinskis chugged through a power set of orbital jams somewhere between old Sunny Day Real Estate and new Yo La Tengo, aptly wrapping things up with an instrumental diatribe that followed Pavement's "Unfair" almost note for note—setting the pace for the evening's cavalcade of cover songs.
The Novocaine vibe continued into the Crust Brothers' set, perhaps due to the flurry of rumors that Pavement is breaking up, or maybe partially because Silkworm has been on hiatus since singer-guitarist Andy Cohen moved to Chicago to attend law school. Regardless, the group's ramshackle set—largely composed of CCR and AC/DC covers—had all the sloppy canine appeal of a karaoke sports bar in the U District.
Though both Malkmus and Silkworm have infinite charms, their oft-kitschy stabs felt dull and unpracticed. After a particularly awful take on AC/DC's "Ride On" with drummer Mike Dahlquist singing and Malkmus manning the kit, one disgruntled fan hollered, "Play something original!"
No such luck. After way too many good ol' boy anthems, the band did manage a respectful cover of Uncle Tupelo's "Effigy," then plunged back into cock-rock depths with a rendition of Guns N' Roses' "Sweet Child o' Mine." Though the honeyed choruses of guest singer Heather Larimer put a spit shine on the hackneyed guitar solos, both she and Malkmus had difficulty finding cues, let alone fun—the main purpose of any cover or karaoke rendition. By the end of the show, the crowd had thinned considerably, with nary an original tune to be heard, proving parody really isn't funny anymore.