Sound Advice: : They Might Be Giants, Josh Ritter and The Secret Handshake

Upcoming concert previews of note

Nov 4, 2007 at 2:06 pm
They Might Be Giants

The Secret Handshake

Friday · The Underground

To the average music fan, it might seem inconceivable that a Metal drummer and a laptop constructionist could find enough common ground to carry on a polite conversation. Luis Dubuc is proof that those two entities not only inhabit the same space, they also can coexist within the same body. Long before Debuc adopted his one man mixmaster identity as the Secret Handshake and assembled roiling beats, Hip Hop rhythms, sultry R&B glide and thunderous Rock into the singular Dance sensation of his Summer of '98 EP and his greatly anticipated full-length debut, One Full Year (due next month), he was pounding skins for a variety of Dallas Metal bands, including Thirty Called Arson.

Feeling limited by his Metal timekeeper role, Dubuc began heading for the front of the stage. He acquired an iBook, a taste for Electronic music and was actively writing material in that vein when he attended a Mouse on Mars show and became aware of the potential that was inherent in both the recording and performing realm.

"It gave me the idea that I should add in some live elements, things that I'd done in Metal bands," says Dubuc. "Taking one medium and mixing it with another and making this new Electronic thing that rocks like a Rock band, but there are no guitars."

Dubuc launched the Secret Handshake at an Oklahoma City opening date for late lamented Emo/Poppers the Gloria Record four years ago. After a subsequent wildly-received grassroots basement/garage/house-party tour, Dubuc signed with Triple Crown last year. Although live musicians (including ...Trail of Dead bassist Danny Wood) populate the debut, One Full Year remains Dubuc's diverse sound and vision.

"A lot of people think that it's an upbeat Dance band at all times and it's not," says Dubuc. "Once people get the album, they'll see that there's a whole other side. What's happening now is that a lot of labels are signing the lone Indie Electronic guy, because that seems to be the rage. It doesn't cost much to make a record so it's easy for labels to sign some guy with a laptop. A lot of them sound the same, so I wanted to make a statement that it's not just Electronic Dance music, there's also a lot of R&B and Funk and Disco." Buy tickets, check out performance times and find nearby bars and restaurants here. (Brian Baker)

Josh Ritter

Sunday · Southgate House

The first Josh Ritter song I heard was 10 minutes long — and I didn't get bored. For most artists, a 10-minute track is tucked away deep in their record, usually the last track. On Ritter's 2006 release, Animal Years, his epic, "Thin Blue Flame," was the second song on the record.

The Idaho native has been developing his own style since his first major release in 2001. With his amazing storytelling ability, Ritter takes listeners on a voyage into the old days of American Folk culture. At Oberlin College, Ritter was able to change his major to Folk Music through a make-your-own-major program offered by the school. His intense study of the music he cherishes shines through in his songs.

Ritter's most recent album, The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter, was a stylistic leap from his previous releases. Prior albums had been meticulously crafted, with everything in the right place. For his newest release he decided to take a different approach to songwriting. The deviation from Ritter's previous songwriting style has yielded a different, much more vibrant sound.

Unlike other artists that only manage to tug on listener's heartstrings with songs of unrequited love, Ritter pulls at the heartstrings of life. His ability to be powerful and intense while at the same time being quiet and methodical is what makes Josh Ritter truly captivating as a performer. It's apparent that Ritter is extremely passionate about not only his lyrical topics, but also about life in general. His approach to music as a craft is what makes him a truly great voice of his generation. Buy tickets, check out performance times and find nearby bars and restaurants here. (Zachary Breedlove)

They Might Be Giants with Oppenheimer

Tuesday · Southgate House

Even after 25 years of relative success, They Might Be Giants' John Flansburgh can't suppress a little momentary paranoia about the positive feedback he and musical partner John Linnell have been garnering over their new album, The Else.

"It's a very exciting moment for us just because it's getting such a good response," says the hyper-caffeinated Flansburgh of the Giants' latest effort. "In the past couple of months, people that we work with have pulled us aside and said, 'Really good album,' in this sort of conspiratorial way, which only makes you wonder if they've been lying to you up until now. It's like, 'But you said you liked the other one.' But we invested a lot of time and money in this album, so we were trying to do something exceptional, something notable."

Most reviews have labeled The Else's rambunctious energy as a return to form, a reference that Flansburgh has trouble grasping. TMBG has successfully mixed Rock, Folk, Jazz, Klezmer, Pop, Blues and Himalayan throat singing (include your own ridiculous music reference here) in varying degrees; how exactly would you define their standard form?

"I don't think that's even possible," says Flansburgh. "We're not a band that has a consistent arrangement style or approach. We're sort of, by definition, undefined. If that makes people intrigued enough to check out what the album's about, I'm all for it."

TMBG's success over the course of their long career has been modest by most measures, fueled by a relatively small group of rabid loyalists. The trick for Flansburgh and Linnell has been to alter things enough within the Giants' repertoire to keep themselves engaged without alienating the core fans that have propelled them along their odd career trajectory and create a semi-popular and lasting legacy without compromising their artistic spirit.

"You don't really know how to get people to reassess what you're doing," says Flansburgh. "There are tried and true formulas, but they're all really jive. There is this 'reinvention by press release' thing that happens in Rock music where people make major changes to their sound or their approach in a more fashionable or controversial kind of way and that always rang false to me. We're in an unusual position where we actually stand behind everything we've ever done. It's not a given that a band that's been around for 25 years can look back on their catalog and go, 'Well, that worked.' And I feel like we're there. We want to do stuff that stands up."

The Else fits within TMBG's timeless construct. It's an edgier album than they've made in quite some time, which might be inspiring the return-to-form comments.

"There's this aspect to this record that's a little bit strange which is that it's very tough sounding, it's not a very cozy record," says Flansburgh. "There are people who really like the cozy, friendly side of what we do and people who like the ugly, strange side of what we do, and they all claim to be our first and biggest fan. So (The Else) effects people differently." Buy tickets, check out performance times and find nearby bars and restaurants here. (BB)