BROOKLYN, New York — The members of Division of Laura Lee are a long way from being pretty boys, and they should take that as a compliment. Because, in case you're unfamiliar with the likes of Lemmy Kilmister, Iggy Pop, Joey Ramone, Alice Cooper and, more recently, System of a Down and Slipknot, ugly rocks ... hard.
While the Swedish quartet sounds splendidly hideous on their debut full-length, Black City, kicking off their first headlining tour of North America Wednesday at Southpaw, they sounded like a new haircut — strangely ill-fitting, easily duplicated and, at times, too flat.
Taking the stage shortly after 11 p.m., the members looked their sloppy selves. Flanked by guitarist David Ojala and bassist Jonas Gustafsson, both decked out in too-snug hipster garb, all 200-plus pounds of gap-toothed singer/guitarist Per StÅlberg lumbered up to the mic in a buttoned-up denim jacket and matching newsboy cap, which was shrugged off with his first headbang. The jacket would follow two songs later.
The apt opener, "We've Been Planning This for Years," came slamming out of the gate, all tightly wound, aggressive hooks and acerbic vocal jabs of "Give it all up" over a hammering rhythm. Gustafsson then seized lead vocals for "Black City," while the band plodded through verses filled with mounting intensity before violently throttling the chorus. Both songs brimmed with so much vigor that Division of Laura Lee were half spent by mid-set. Even Black City's best tracks, "Need to Get Some" and "Access Identity," fell victim to a lack of urgency that resulted in miscues and a muddled presentation.
On the record, the trance-inducing jams "I Walk on Broken Glass and "The Truth Is F---ed" show that D.O.L.L. aren't a one-trick pony, like countrymen the Hives, by revealing a heavy Joy Division and My Bloody Valentine influence (one of the two new songs they played is even titled "Loveless"). Folded into the concert setting, however, they're unwelcome distractions that push the band farther from the point at which it excels, namely taking its durable garage rock and delivering it battered and bruised but still standing proud.
Perhaps opening-night jitters played a part in the lackluster set. When D.O.L.L. played with the Hives in New York last year, they were loud, tight and vicious. Opening for a band that arrogantly sported a "next big thing" badge, they had something to prove. As headliners, they may have thought that fixing their place was behind them. It was clear, however, when performing for a finicky New York crowd, about half of which left before the end of a quick and unsolicited encore, that's never a safe assumption.
Philadelphia's Burning Brides performed just prior to D.O.L.L., and played songs from their debut, Fall of the Plastic Empire with definite purpose. Despite being short a member, unlike the headliners, the Brides filled the packed house with their slightly psychedelic stoner rock. Singer Dimitri Coats, with his wild, curly mane, provided the accents, screeching guitar solos and a cool stage presence, while bassist Melanie Campbell seductively laid the foundation. The single "Arctic Snow" exemplified the Brides' ethos, dynamic, loosely built structures that clinch up at the brink of falling apart. And by lapsing into jammy guitar freakouts whenever the mood struck, the Burning Brides showed that they could be both fun and fierce onstage.
Seattle garage rockers the Catheters are also a part of this three-band bill, but were a no-show. They're expected to pick up on the rest of the tour, which runs through February 6 in San Diego.
Remaining dates for Division of Laura Lee, Burning Brides and the Catheters, according to Epitaph Records :
- 1/16 - New York, NY @ The Mercury Lounge
- 1/17 - Washington, DC @ Black Cat
- 1/18 - Cambridge, MA @ T.T. The Bear's Place
- 1/19 - Philadelphia, PA @ The Khyber Pub
- 1/20 - Montreal, QC @ Cabaret Music Hall
- 1/22 - Toronto, ON @ Horseshoe Tavern
- 1/23 - Detroit, MI @ Small's
- 1/24 - Chicago, IL @ Double Door
- 1/25 - Minneapolis, MN @ 400 Bar
- 1/26 - Lawrence, KS @ The Bottleneck
- 1/27 - Boulder, CO @ Tulagi
- 1/28 - Salt Lake City, UT @ X-Scape (Formerly DV8)
- 1/30 - Vancouver, BC @ Richard's on Richards
- 1/31 - Portland, OR @ The Satyricon
- 2/1 - Seattle, WA @ The Crocodile Cafe
- 2/3 - San Francisco, CA @ Bottom of the Hill
- 2/4 - Pomona, CA @ Glass House
- 2/5 - West Hollywood, CA @ The Troubadour
- 2/6 - San Diego, CA @ Brick by Brick
For more on Division of Laura Lee, check out You Hear It First: Division of Laura Lee.
For more sights and stories from concerts around the country, check out MTV News Tour Reports.