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Published: 2003/09/24
by Jesse Jarnow

Lake Trout, North Six, Brooklyn, NY- 9/17

NYC ROLL-TOP: Of Street Fighting Men and Machines

Are Lake Trout finally getting the success they so righteously deserve?
Well, maybe just the props. Their excellent 2002 album, Another One
Lost, has been reissued by Palm to acclaim from highly visible outlets
like The Onion and the New York Times. Their recent show at Brooklyn's North
Six was sadly empty, though. Though attendance was sparse, the band was
spot-on excellent, as usual.

The band has been performing the Another One Lost material for almost
two years, which is both to their advantage and fault. Though they've
frequently (and not unfairly) been compared to Radiohead, after seeing what
Lake Trout has done to these songs after two years of constant touring, the
British art-rockers might not be the best model after all. Instead, in
getting good at navigating the byways of the tunes, they suggest (of all
things) a more instrumentally intricate version of Nirvana's loud/soft
dynamic. At North Six, whispered vocals, quietly wrapped Rhodes lines, and
delicate guitar figures frequently surged into thrash explosions punctuated
by wordless, guttural yowling from keyboardist Matt Pierce.

Though, at times, the music rocks with an almost violent energy, the
pleasure of Lake Trout comes not in cathartic release, but in the musicians'
precision (which is maybe why, in spite of their rock, they're still working
to totally shake the jamband tag). Since the band started adapting
drum-n-bass rhythms a few years back, their not-so-secret weapon has been
drummer Mike Lowry. Of the tunes they've introduced since Another One
Lost, including a number of blissfully arranged surf-punk instrumental
freak-outs, a fair amount rely on impossibly long snare rolls. They're an
old rock bit, Ringo's post-chorus/pre-verse fills on "I Want To Hold Your
Hand" becoming louder and longer. When Lowry does it, though (as he did with
aplomb at North Six), it's extended far past the point of absurdity, like
Dave Grohl's machine gun entrance on Nirvana's "Territorial Pissings" paced
to last all night. There were explosions, and they were joyful, but they
felt calculated, rigidly foretold by what came before. Like much of Lake
Trout's music, they had the great quality of sounding inevitable.

The songs from Another One Lost were great, each musician finding new
pockets to exploit. The question is how far the band can go in refining
them. Given the tumultuous music biz bullshit Another One Lost has
gone through (a long dispute with their old label prevented them from even
selling it on their own website for a while), it's not surprising the band
wants to hold onto the material until it's been exposed to enough folks.
While the music still retains its surprises for new audiences, it's almost
as if the band is flirting with the point where they may've played the songs
just one night too many. It's good shit, for sure, but it still might be the
right time to move on, and let Another One Lost be that killer album
in the back catalogue that everybody discovers later on.

Oddly, it was an encore cover of the Rolling Stones' "Street Fighting Man"
that suggested this more than anything else, like the deviant last song on
an album that suggests a future direction. The song began like most of Lake
Trout's recent tunes, with churning, mechanical rhythms that implied a
perfect sterility on the part of the musicians, guitarist Ed Harris swaying
like an animatronic indie rocker, vocalist Woody Ranere delivering the
vocals in a subtly building monotone. This has been Lake Trout's mode of
operation for the past few years: cool and detached.

It's ironic, of course: guitar rockers trying to look like detached laptop
nerds, in an age where laptop nerds are trying to be punks (a show the next
night at Rare, for example, featured glitch-electronic geek Donna Summer
exhorting people to dance by propelling himself off the stage and through
the crowd until he tackled a bystander, sending them both crashing
through a small wooden table which collapsed under them, and that's not
to mention the theatrical 'tardcore performance by the outlandishly decked
Dan Deacon). Lake Trout, by contrast, seemed like stone serious high-status

Though the song they played as their encore was undoubtedly "Street Fighting
Man," the slow motion rhythm invested it with a new energy. (With Palm's
clout potentially behind them, the band might consider releasing it as a
single, introducing their own voice through a familiar number of semi-social
relevance.) As they finished the chorus, bassist James Griffith hit the only
part of the song that directly resembled the original: Bill Wyman's
descending bassline, which seemed to burst from Lake Trout with a humanity
unheard during their previous hour on stage. Leave it to Lake Trout to be
unpredictable by sounding like somebody else.

Jesse Jarnow continues to blog.

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