Fishing for hooks

Pub date July 23, 2008
SectionMusicSectionMusic Features

Jackson, Miss., might not top everyone’s cities-to-see list, but Juan Velazquez of Chino band Abe Vigoda makes it sound like a damn fun place to play a show. "Everyone was really psyched, and there were a bunch of younger people there," raved Velazquez by phone while en route from Atlanta to Athens, Ga. "It was really, really fun." He and the rest of the band are pretty young themselves: they’re currently taking a break from their work and collegiate studies to tour across the states with their cloudy pop homies in No Age, fellow fixtures at the Smell in downtown Los Angeles.

Making time has allowed the four-year-old Abe Vigoda some taking of time, especially with the recording process. They just released their third full-length, Skeleton (PPM), which sharpens their tightly wound, clanging sensibilities into a set of songs more aggressively constructed than anything they’ve committed to tape before.

Various listeners and critics have been trumpeting Abe Vigoda’s racket as "tropical punk/pop," a label that the band sees little reason to complain about, even if it is arbitrary pigeonholing to a certain degree. "People like to make up genres for things, and I’m a little tired of it, especially because a lot of our new songs aren’t like that," Velazquez said. "But nobody’s calling it ‘shit punk’ or ‘shit rock,’ so it’s OK." Shit it is not. The record reveals itself to be a few shades darker than its murky production on repeat listens, but its enthusiasm and refined approach makes Skeleton Abe Vigoda’s first record that allows listeners to dig deeper. Songs like "Cranes" and "Hyacinth Girls" have an Afro-pop beat, care of drummer Reggie Guerrero and corroborated by David Reichart’s bass playing, and the zap-gun guitars of "Endless Sleeper" collide in rousing, unusually anthemic fashion.

To produce their wire-crossed jangle, Velazquez explains that the group’s other singer-guitarist Michael Vidal plays "thick-sounding and full" chords on his guitar in standard tuning, while Velazquez employs an alternate tuning that he’s been using since 2007’s Kid City (Olfactory) and a Ricky Wilson–esque employment of single, finger-picked notes. "It’s more jarring live because we’re playing very high frequencies that are off from each other — harsh, ringing, and kinda kraut rock–sounding."

Although the group has become more traditional in its song structure, it’s not really "pop" that they put together: their cataclysmic, yelping noise of yore has given way to a polyrhythmic pogo twist with opportunities aplenty for fist-shaking and epic metalhead finger-waving.


With No Age and Mika Miko

Mon/28, 8 p.m., $13

Great American Music Hall

859 O’Farrell, SF

(415) 885-0750

Also Club Sandwich’s second anniversary with No Age, Mika Miko, and KIT

Tues/29, 7 p.m., $8

Lobot Gallery

1800 Campbell, Oakl.

For more on the show and No Age, see this week’s Sonic Reducer.