The Kids Are All Right: Tame Impala w/Yuck @ The Black Cat 5.6.11

If rock and roll is a young man’s game then these kids could very well be kings. Looking like they just stepped off the bus (high school bus that is) both bands brought their brand of revisionist rock to the welcoming arms of a sold out crowd Friday night.

First up was Yuck. If you aren’t familiar with the band, take a little Sonic Youth and mix it with some Smashing Pumpkins and some Pavement. Then throw in a little Jesus and Mary Chain and any other early to mid 90’s band that you can think of. Put it in a blender, press chop, and basically you’ve got Yuck.

To say that this band celebrates their influences would be an understatement. Yuck ARE their influences… to a tee.  And while this shouldn’t work for anyone except for your favorite local cover/tribute band, Yuck, with their influences worn on their sleeves, jackets and, well, everywhere, manages to pull it off. Their self titled debut, while charming, can wear a little thin after a while due to the lo-fi production. Sure it’s an aesthetic choice, and an understandable one since the album wasn’t technically created in a studio (GarageBand anyone?), but ultimately it sounds sort of unnecessary. Performed live though,  songs like “Get Away”, “Operation” and “The Wall”, stripped of that layer of fuzz, come as powerful examples of not only playing, but songwriting. Sure, you’ve heard this stuff before, but given the conviction behind it, does it really matter? I liked all of the stuff when I was their age (well, maybe a little older), so there is no reason why I shouldn’t like it now. This stuff makes 25 year old me pretty damn happy, so I say go with it, and by the time the band finished their set they had me completely converted.

Not to be outdone by Yuck’s youth OR their reverent take on the 90’s, Tame Impala began to setup their equipment as one of those old school psycheldelic-ish screen savers was projected onto a screen behind them. You know the one.  The 3-5 color waveform generator that responds  to whatever sound you make. The one you put on in your dorm room, reached for your bong and spent the next hour journeying through space and time as you soaked in the sounds of whatever late 60’s psychedelia was closest to said bong. YOU KNOW.

And so does Tame Impala.

Initially it was unclear to me why these two bands were on the same bill. Their music is as different as night and day, and one would imagine that they draw VERY different audiences. Once Tame Impala began playing though, and that (glorious) screen saver started it’s oscillations, it became perfectly clear.

Just like Yuck, Tame Impala don’t merely honor their influences, they embody them.  Looking like something straight out of Live at Pompeii, lead singer and guitarist Kevin Parker along with drummer Jay Watson, guitarist Dominic Simper and bassist Nick Allbrook take this music that, again, should be passé, if not joke worthy, and make it sound completely vital, if not exciting at times. If there was any complaint about their performance it would be that I was left wondering where the hell all my 15 minute echoplexed guitar solos gone. 17 year old me NEEDS THAT, MAN!! 17 year old me LIVES for that stuff!!!

Which brings me to Max.

Max is 15. Literally. Not only is he 15, but Max is also absolutely batshit for music. All of it. Luckily he has his aunt, who takes him to damn near every show he wants to because she know how much this stuff can mean to someone.  We ran into Max’s aunt about half way through the Tame Impala set and by the time Max finally made his way back to the end of the bar (he was up front all night) you could see it in his eyes: Max just had his f@#@ing face rocked off! Which is what this whole rock and roll thing is all about really.

Sure, we’re out reporting on this stuff because music is what does it for us. It keeps us going, it enriches our lives, yadda yadda. But sometimes people can become jaded and somehow forget that at the end of this day, this stuff is supposed to make you feel GOOD! And both Yuck and Tame Impala know that, even if they have very different  ways of expressing it.

So who cares if the band you’re seeing sounds like every other band you’ve ever heard. Just remember: They aren’t playing to 38 year old you. They are playing to MAX.  They are playing because they love this stuff more than life itself and know that you do too. Remember this and the time you’re at a show  and are casting your oh-so-knowledgeable eye of disdain  at the band sounds like the band you used to love, take a breath , tap into your inner  15 year old, and let his or her face get rocked for the rest of the night. It’ll be worth it.

Oh, and Max…know that you have a column on waiting for you if you ever decide you want it. Either way, we’ll see you at the next rock show.


Click on any of the links above to head on over to the photo gallery.

Tame Impala: Myspace | Official Site

Yuck: Myspace | Official Site