Friday, February 20, 2009

SXSW '09 Pick #6 and New Act: Choo Choo!

Choo Choo

subversiv records

Aside from the fact that they're from Switzerland, it's initially hard to tell what Choo Choo is. The songs are almost viral in catchiness, great vintage organ melodies, and definitely a dance beat, but the songs show an affection for '60s Motown vocal groups. There's also great, echoey, definitely crunchy guitar chords with garage rock written all over them. Dan Choo's guitar chord intro on "Your Heart Is Breaking Down" is loud and raw, making them not just a statement, but an announcement. Lilli Choo's poppy, vintage keyboard melody kicks in, Dan Choo's teenage rocker, sweet voice comes in, and it's a pop song with strong influences from '60s Motown vocal groups. However, we're ignoring the music by narrowing it down to that since it's a lot louder. "All I know" has a furious and long drum start that makes me think of Animal, but it's really Sam Choo, human being. It's a tough choice. The songs are instant sing alongs, but the music is garage rock made into pop songs. A few things are prominent for Choo Choo, such as Lilli's keyboard melodies being what one might be humming along to, but the guitar sounds great! It's loud most of the time and with little embellishment other than a few chords, an intense punch, and some very strong familiarity to the ears. Once it's noticed that Jim Diamond (Dirtbombs, White Stripes, Von Bondies, Love Me Nots) at Detroit's famed Ghetto Recorders produced and collaborated on the arrangements, it all makes sense. No matter how different the bands are that he works with, the guitar on songs like "Half As Good" takes on a lot of familiar fuzz that's somehow so perfect that it's simultaneously clean, but still more distinctive for each band that has worked with him. It feels like Detroit Garage Rock and has soul from the same place to back it up, but the songs just stick like sugar; rock candy is a better description, maybe.

The garage rock injection is prevalent, but the songs are short pop songs, too. "You Don't Understand" is kind of new wave, early Blondie, but while the guitar chords carry the song along, one gets bursts of garage fuzz interspersed with the sing-a-long chorus. Although Choo Choo are great vocal harmonizers on top of all this happy ruckus, "Losing Balance" stands out since the harmonies seem to take on a stronger melodic dimension while the overall melody balances slight sadness in a bright package. In many ways, that description fits the combination of two very different acts that Choo Choo notes on their myspace page as among who they listen to: The Monkees and The Sonics. That's really hard to ponder! By extension, one should imagine Neil Diamond playing with The Sonics! Cool picture, isn't it? A modern and more easily understood comparison would be to the '60s garage/powerpop melodies of The Ugly Beats. We're not quite done since Choo Choo's talents come from other directions on songs like "I Hope You Feel" and '80s neo garage on "Tired of Waiting". There's also the faster tempo of the ending "I Ain't Coming Home (No More)" that bridges Motown and early garage to The Paisley Underground bands and slightly beyond in its slight angst.

An overall conclusion of Choo Choo's debut release is that everything about them sounds really, really good. There's no sense of elements missing. It's loud, heavy, catchy, garage rock and dance music with keyboards that also sounds like new wave when it was a term that was cool since nobody really knew what it meant. The results don't make it less heavy, but brighter. Everything sounds perfect! Vocal harmonies, a lead vocal from Dan that sounds young, songs about breakups that sound a little heartfelt, and a rhythm section with power that's not overbearing, but exciting. If you ever wanted to have super fun and sugary powerpop, you'll like Choo Choo. If you like slightly new wave dance tunes that are rock but have a strong melody led by an old keyboard, you'll like Choo Choo. However, if having all that with some strong, echoey, crunchy, empty room guitar and plenty of fuzz that's all Detroit, GARAGE POP is your thing and Choo Choo is your band!

Watch out for them at South By Southwest this year. It's a guarantee that everyone who sees them will love them. This is a band that a lot of people are going to be talking about.

Mar 15 2009 9:00P Lounge on Elm Street Dallas, Texas
Mar 16 2009 11:00P The Mix San Antonio, Texas
Mar 17 2009 11:00P St. Patrick’s Day Show @ Red Scoot Inn Austin, Texas
Mar 18 2009 8:00P SXSW TBA Austin, Texas
Mar 19 2009 9:00P OFFICIAL SXSW SHOWCASE @ BD Riley’s Austin, Texas
Mar 20 2009 2:00P SXSW Daytime Party @ Breakaway Records Austin, Texas
Mar 21 2009 2:00P SXSW Daytime Party/Paisley Umbrella Showcase @ Rockin Tomato Austin, Texas
Mar 21 2009 10:00P Home Party @ College Houses Cooperatives Austin, Texas
May 9 2009 10:00P CHOO CHOO @ Kornhauskeller Waldshut Waldshut, Deutschland
Jun 20 2009 8:00P CHOO CHOO @ 5. Solothurner Sommerfest Solothurn
Jul 6 2009 8:00P Club Mirror Kisses @ Madame Jo Jo’s London, London and South East
Jul 23 2009 10:00P KKL Luzern Luzern, Luzern

See how Choo Choo recorded their debut Album in Detroit with Jim Diamond at Ghetto Recorders!

I Ain't Coming Home (No More)

1 comment:

Martha said...

Choo Choo is fantastic!! They are going to blow everyone away!