EAVESDROPPING RULESand it's even better when you've got a mini cassette recorder. So we invited four of Seattle's best local bandsall of whom, as chance would have it, are playing together this Sunday at the Sunset Tavernto check out each other's records, for the record. What follows are the highlights of that afternoon: Two audiotapes, four bands, four discourses on the look and feel of music, and lots of requests for more beer.
The Intelligence, the Pulses, the Lights, Electric Blanket Sunset Tavern, 206-784-4800, $5 4 p.m. Sun., Aug. 10
ROUND ONE: ELECTRIC BLANKET VS. THE PULSES
Electric Blanket play spastically kinetic pop. The PulsesJesse Steinchen, Dave Ramm, and Shannon McConnellpass judgment. First song: "We Will Help You Move."
Seattle Weekly: They just recorded this stuff at Egg Studios with Conrad Uno.
Steinchen: They sound like the Fall.
McConnell: But they do a good job of sounding like the Fall.
Ramm: It sounds really goodthe drums are good. And the singer reminds me of the singer from Unwound. [Clarifying lyrics] "We will help you move"?
Steinchen: Yeah. Is that like an ad? [Listens more] Yeah, that's what this is about. They will "assist you with your sofa."
SW: "And chairs/And chairs."
McConnell: Well, they sound serious about it. [The track ends, and the herky-jerky, uphill pull of "I Know What Goes On in Cabins" begins.] The singer sounds really Britishthat late-'70s punk thing.
Steinchen: It reminds me of the Swell Maps a bit. "I Know What Goes On in Cabins"it's like [the Swell Maps'] "International Rescue." They should have a piano.
Ramm: Does this remind you of Pavement at all?
Steinchen: No. We said the Fall, remember? It reminds us of the Fall. [Laughter] I haven't listened to enough Pavement to know if this reminds me of Pavement. Can I grab another beer?
ROUND TWO: THE INTELLIGENCE VS. THE LIGHTS
Jeff Albertson, Craig Chambers, and PJ Rogalski of the Lights sit in my backyard listening to some newly four-tracked counterintelligence pop by the Intelligence. The first song they hear is "Who Gives a Fuck if the World Is a Drag."
Albertson: I like it. I can identify with the lyrics.
Chambers: It speaks to the everyman. ["Confidence," which combines junkyard drums, a crazy man's apology, and a bass line so low you can't get under it, comes on next.]
Rogalski: I like Lars' vocals. There are hints of the Country Teasers in therein the best way. He's good at it.
Chambers: I think it's his nose.
Rogalski: Yeah, his nose and his sweet ass and his haircut. [The next track is instrumental. Charmingly, it's called "Instrumental."]
Albertson: You can tell [the Intelligence's new drummer] Matthew Ford is going to have an influence on this band.
SW: Yeah, Matthew and Dean Whitmore, the Intelligence's former drummer, are pretty different drummers.
Chambers: I loved Dean's drumming.
Rogalski: Yeah, Dean's awesome.
Albertson: So what kind of music is this anyway?
SW: Good question; the Intelligence are hard to classify. The next song is called "Boredom and Terror." Rumor has it that it'll be the title track of their debut album.
Rogalski: I like this one a lot. In a really convoluted way, it reminds me of Brainiac.
Albertson: Anyone need a beer?
ROUND THREE: THE LIGHTS VS. ELECTRIC BLANKET
It's like a fire drill around here: Matt Nyce, Andrew Balmer, and Cody Marvin of Electric Blanket are sitting where the Lights just were. The Lights left as soon as we put their brand-new record, Beautiful Bird, on the stereo. To make things more confusing, various members of the Intelligence are here now, too. As everyone listens, "Ice Course" displays the Lights' penetrating, precipice post-rock. It's like unironic irony.
Nyce: Did you just take my picture?
SW: Nope. Were you guys in bands together before?
Marvin: Andy and I had a band when we were 17 or something.
SW: [To Andy] I heard you just learned to play drums?
Balmer: Yeah, I just started.
Marvin: We asked him to learn. ["Trapped Like a Trap Inside a Trap," a laid-back tearjerker for jerks, begins with Chamber's hillbilly-tinged, hungover voice singing, "When the soul comes home and finds a dirty, dirty house/ It has no one to blame but you."]
Marvin: When I saw them live, I thought they had more of a Birthday Party thing, especially with the bass. This doesn't really seem like what I saw, but I like this a lot.
SW: They're so different live than they are recorded it's almost confusing.
Marvin: The vocals sound really different on this, too. Everything sounds different. But I like them both.
Min Yee [bassist for the Intelligence, breaking protocol]: I saw Electric Blanket, and they were really great. They're one of the best new bands I've seen in Seattle in a long time. Wasn't someone supposed to bring me a beer?
ROUND FOUR: THE PULSES VS. THE INTELLIGENCE
Min Yee, Kimberly Morrison, Matthew Ford, and Lars Finberg of the Intelligence are listening to the Pulses' "Make the Right Choice," a twisted power-pop anthem from their self-titled Dirtnap release from last year.
Morrison: My old band [Ian and the Barnetts] used to use their practice space at Hush. Jesse had this awesome amp that sounded so good
Finberg: That one he still uses? That cool thing?
Morrison: Yeah, yeah. We used to just play their shit all the time.
Finberg: These guys are always so earnest; even when they're being dorky or goofing around, it's real. It's never like, "I want to make this sort of geeky indie-rock song." It's always so real. And I love that these guys had a 30-song CD before this came out, but they're like, "We don't play those songs anymore." And then to find out they had this band way back in college . . . it's like they have this quest to keep writing songs.
Yee: They stand apart from the scene. It's pop with balls, it's garage with imagination. They're real, prolific songsters with nary a clunker to be foundhow'd they manage that? And they avoid overexposure by not playing out too often, another plus. Watching them play, they do their thing very naturally.
Ford: Hey, I think you're out of beer.