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Review Tue Feb 06 2007

Review: Under the Influence of Giants

I can't tell you exactly why Los Angeles-based Under the Influence of Giants didn't get more attention than they did last summer, when "Mama's Room" was all over MySpace like the disco-rock version of ForBiddeN. Maybe it was because they didn't wear as much vinyl.

I have a better theory, though, and it's sort of counter-intuitive. I think it's because they're on Island. It's hard to trust a band that sounds like UTIOG when they're signed to a major. It's like that terrible fall of 2003, when like, corduroy jackets and Ramones t-shirts became super fashionable. The world was suddenly full of women that for all the world looked like maybe they had something interesting to say, but then you'd look up from how good that Joy Division logo looked stretched across a push-up bra and listen to them prattle on about how much of a contribution Ross Robinson had made to The Cure* and realize that you'd been bamboozled by The Man once again.

Not that I'm inclined to give any great weight to The Pitchfork Media Empire, but I think it's indicative of how gun-shy we've all become as a result of this kind of trickery that the 'fork is all over The Rapture, (because they used to be on an indie and thus have cred), but have never mentioned UTIOG, even though they regularly tour with The Rapture and have a similar ethos, if not a similar sound. Everyone's afraid of getting burned again. (Being on Island makes it even worse, since they're the label that let U2 go from The Band That Put Out The Joshua Tree to The Band That Thinks The Word "Catorce" Is Somehow Edgy.)

But you gotta take a chance sometime, and Under the Influence of Giants are a strong candidate for your affection. Their eponymous debut record is as strong as they come, the sort of record that you listen to nonstop for about three weeks, shelve for two months, and then find happily bubbling to the surface forever after. The aforementioned "Mama's Room" is a slow burner of a single, highlighted by singer Aaron Bruno's uncanny Bee Gees falsetto during the chorus, but the real stars here are "In the Clouds" and "Got Nothing," a pair of disco anthems featuring all manner of awesomely silly lyrics made somehow poignant by their sheer unintelligibility ("I cannot control my feet/when I feel the beat!") and strident chanting during the bridge. These are offset by "Stay Illogical," which is slower, if not any less bombastic, and "Lay Me Down," which, rumor has it, must legally be played anytime Zach Braff reminisces about walking down a street with a girl in slow motion. (Several of these are on their MySpace page.)

There are problems, of course: The falsetto gets annoying. I can hear the autotune. (I've seen them live and Bruno hit all the notes, so it's doubly irritating.) The Curse of Major Label Compression has once again struck a powerhouse live band, leaving the whole album lacking in the subtle dynamics that makes their shows so exciting. No song should ever be called "I Love You," even if it sounds exactly like Stars. That's just unforgivable.

Overall, though, Under the Influence of Giants is one of the better disco-rock hybrids to emerge in the wake of the epic torch-dropping that was the second Scissor Sisters album. Plus the bass player looks like a straight-up lumberjack. What's not to love?

Under the Influence of Giants, 8pm, Monday, February 19 at The Abbey Pub, 3420 W. Grace. $12 at the door, $10 in advance. 18 and over.

*I wish. Fully 70% of the women I met during this time did not know who the Cure even were. I am not making this up, you can ask any of my friends. For about six months, I basically stopped introducing myself, instead just storming up to people and demanding Cure trivia like my brain had been replaced by SceneIt: Robert Smith Edition.

UPDATE: Someone just pointed out to me that the UTIOG song "Faces" actually starts out "¬°Uno Dos Tres Cuatro!" as though the band senses our collective U2 pain.

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

By The Gapers Block Transmission Staff

Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

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  Chicago Music Media

Alarm Magazine
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