Sic Alps (hunched over in the hoodies) hewed closer to traditional song lengths and structures at their GlobGlobGlob show on July 7. Photo from SicAlps.com.
Considering that they share a building, Rhinoceropolis and GlobGlobGlob are in a familial situation. If it’s a familial situation they’re in, one might say that they’re twin sisters. Rhinoceropolis is the messy, unpredictable sister with tangled hair — the one that sneaks out of her window on most mild summer evenings to cause mischief with her friends. Glob is more reserved, more controlled; she has a quite a few moth-eaten cardigans, but she’ll keep them on hangers.
In real life, I am friends with two sisters. They’re markedly cut from the same cloth, and yet quite dissimilar. Both are great company, but I’m used to seeing one more often than the other. To draw an end to this string of metaphors, I’ll get right back to it; I adore Rhino, but I also like going to Glob. It’s tall and wide, with plenty of space for audience and band members alike to wriggle in any direction. There are still rogue items scattered about and lining the walls, but it is not so obviously a living space. A band playing here could very well play a totally different show than one they might play next door.
Would Sic Alps have played differently? It will remain a mystery. I was glad to see them at all on July 7, considering the fact that they had canceled a handful of dates in the past. I was half expecting someone to make an announcement that no, they weren’t actually coming. Was the audience skeptical, too? It seemed that way, considering the wide semicircle they began to make at soundcheck. They had possibly gotten all their ya-yas out, after dancing to the excellent Bird Names just previous.
I became a fan of Sic Alps from their 2006 full-length “Pleasures and Treasures.” I would describe the album as an exercise in fuzzy glory. Upon eyeing the instruments, I was assuming the public performance would live up to my privatized love — the guitars were scratched and eaten around the edges, and the drum kit, wrapped in dusty, golden glitter, had a dinky “Sic Alps” calligraphed on the front. There were two dudes in bare feet, both with indifferent three-day growths of facial hair. Once they had assumed the appropriate hunch over their respective apparatuses, the noisy scratching began, with sloppy, pseudo-drunken drumming nipping at its heels.
Now, it seemed, the audience had shifted out of our skepticism as one would an uncomfortable shoe. The racket was delightfully sobering. Suddenly, it was as though Sic Alps was not a band we had come to see, but two dudes rocking in a garage with an open door — and we were the neighborhood tow-headed brats on bikes, forgetting our crusty orange-soda mustaches to gape impolitely for a moment. Something was definitely getting put into the performance this evening; it was the mark of nonchalant enjoyment, of a languorous, sybaritic haze. This wasn’t a practice we were watching, but it seemed that way. These fellows gave a damn — not about us, but about their playing.
Then I began to notice something. Wait a minute… these were actual songs! Songs! The three-minute variety, with verses and choruses! Ladies and gentlemen, the Sic Alps I knew didn’t play those. Sic Alps played something sun-bleached and amorphous. Let’s put it this way: Thurston Moore didn’t call “Pleasures and Treasures” his #3 favorite album-of-that-year for nothing. What in heckfire?
All right, so it was still good. I had to collect myself for a moment before I admitted this. It was still dripping with reverb and dappling sunlight; the showmanship was worthy of its friendly applause; the band was unfailingly polite. And those terrific sparkling drums! A smidgen of something was lost, however. Now the music was in danger of falling in with other psychedelic-revival enthusiasts (of which there seem to be a growing number). I didn’t want it to be smothered under the weight.
This happens to lots of bands; “blandification” is the nastiest term for it. I’ve seen it happen frequently enough (in sophomore albums, etc.) to be forgiving at least most of the time. Tonight was no exception — Sic Alps were still fun to see, still worthy of a visit to the merch table. In essence, I forgave them of a misdemeanor. I would very much enjoy a t-shirt, if I could afford it. The only thing that will happen now is that I will recommence my search for bands that dazzle, so that I might ride some other new, exciting wave.
Reverb contributor Alex Edgeworth is a Denver-based writer.