June 20, 2011
Commonwealth Lounge, Fullerton
San Jose's The Mumlers, whose vintage-rock stylings were the point of focus in Fullerton last night, represent an interesting bit of musical irony in the post modern indie scene: they sound incredibly soulful--for a bunch of disaffected probable stoners. (It doesn't make any sense to me either.) For elaboration, continue reading after the jump
This sextet has a few significant positives going for them:
They multi task. Several times throughout the evening, tuba player Felix Archuleta pulled double duty on vibraphones, and triple duty on guitar. The use of vibraphone on the song "Cosolatrix" made for an interesting sonic juxtaposition--the unexpectedly pleasing blend between a Dixieland-style march and a cool jazz element.
They harmonize beautifully. These guys find pitch like ducks find water. On the slow tempo, rhythm and blues centered song "Don't Throw Me Away," they vocally coordinated to deliver pitch perfect, soft and breathy falsetto oohs and aahs.
They have a unique voice thanks to front man Will Sprott. While his lyrics rock a spectacular blend of humor and insight, at last night's show, his voice box sported the single barrel smooth coo of a Caleb Followill. It's even better on tape when it vacillates between the thin warble of Neil Young and the dirty howl of Jack White.
Sadly though, these attributes weren't enough to keep last night's show afloat, which was dreary and non-compelling. The mumbly, stoned teenager schtick was present in everyone on stage save for two guys on wind instruments shaking and shimmying to the music. Instead of amping an air of mystery, the disaffected attitude led to a lackluster stage presence and the energy was off between the band audience as well as between the members themselves.
However, this sense of emotional disconnection stood at odds with the vocals, which somehow sounded incredibly soulful--but lacked punch or potency and at times seemed to have a narcotic effect on those in the audience. There were points when people were more interested in making with one another while clutching sifters of dark beer rather than intently listening to what had essentially become background music. Problems were compunded when their bassist (sporting the mangy beard of a post-Vietnam Forrest Gump) experienced equipment difficulties and had to borrow a bass from another band mid-set.
The bright spot of the evening came at the end of the set when the band played the song "Coffin Factory," a spooky and quirky, monster mash-type ditty whose robotic rhythm and bizarre lyrics made for the most compelling performance of the evening. Sadly, Sprott's vocals, which on this number inhabit an unexpected pocket in each frame of the song, were badly off-meter. But during the jam's outro, Archuleta, who was manning the vibes at this point, began to howl wildly above the musical cacophony sans microphone. It was here that potential punch this band might someday pack, became perfectly clear.
The crowd: Hipster to the core. Fur coats, high heels and fuzzy hats mixed with greasy hair and pencil mustaches.
Overheard: "Play coffin factory!" yelled one girl in the crowd. Enjoy the video for "Coffin Factory":