Arts & Culture

Tonight at the Comet Tavern: Dancing Like Idiots

By Anand Balasubrahmanyan April 9, 2010

Live, Hair Envelope are a bizarre force. Effect pedal ambiance lurches along to drummer Billy Hoover's titanic grooves. What comes next is up the the whims of a particularly whimsical band. Maybe the local trio will all adopt falsetto and project a looney tune pop masterpiece. Or maybe front-man Matt McDowell will become Sax-man Matt McDowell and unleash a scorching free jazz solo. You get the feeling each member ran away from home to join the circus and instead joined Hair Envelope.

The band is not afraid to be silly in their journey to write the perfect pop song. “Largo Lagos” rides an excitable glockenspiel riff as McDowell and the rest of the band do their best Kidz Bop Issac Brock impersonation. The song is infectious, leaving stoned non sequiturs stuck in your head (My favorite line, “Duck Town you say? Try Largo Lagos/ that's what they call it on the rough side delta/ where a man can lose an ear for speaking out of turn.” Is that a thing?)

Don't get turned off by the loopy smiles, Hair Envelope make sure to keep the weirdness dance-able. “Teeth,” a riotous jangle-boogie, burns through scuzzy riffage and a get-your-body-moving bass line. On the disco-baiting “TA to Fiancée,” the band anchors the song's absurd punchline with a surging drum beat. The song's humor is vital; who better to get you to dance like an idiot than a bunch of enthusiastic jokers who are themselves dancing like idiots.

But it's not all high jinks. Behind the band's skewed goofs lies a surprising technical proficiency. They create ambient textures with ease and each member could teach a class on jazz improvisation. On “Grandfathers,” they get everything right, taking a Baltic horn line and finding every moment of joy buried inside. They accent it with a feel good piano, mutate it into a sing a long melody, and leave you marveling at the skilled composition. It's a stunning moment: half because the song is a hand holding gem and half because the group contained their Barnum and Bailey imagination in a single exhibit.

Hair Envelope play the Comet Tavern this Friday, April 9th
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