Two’s the charm

Pub date February 24, 2009
SectionMusicSectionMusic Features

You could dig up what you need to know about Baltimore, Md.’s Thank You on the Internet pretty easily: names, dates, discography, samples, and pics. Friends of mine released a real labor-of-love album recently, and a preliminary Lycos search turned up a review that was 90 percent press release. This is the kind of disappointment that makes me think rock criticism à la Richard Meltzer — the kind that trades in imaginative, frequently lazy yet still illuminating misinformation — is due for a comeback.

Judging by the name, I thought Thank You was the sort of band to be "in" on these sorts of pranks at rock’s expense. But search "thank+you+band" and blam, there it is. Thank You has a bona fide album on a serious indie, Terrible Two (Thrill Jockey, 2008), and, depending on your perspective, it can count as a long EP or short LP.

The opening track, "Empty Legs," is an oceanic expanse of faux-metal churn. The whistle toots toward the beginning reach out to fellow Thrill Jocks OOIOO’s ecstatic, kinda impenetrable Taiga (2006), but once the musicians settle in, the flashbacks are of the Don Caballero/Storm and Stress variety. It’s perverse post-rock all the way, but you probably knew that anyway, based on song titles like "Embryo Imbroglio."

Terrible Two‘s best quality is precisely that we don’t know what to make of it. That’s the point of the album and what makes the band a close fit with post-rock’s steez. Many standard-issue indie descriptors apply to Thank You’s music — it’s rhythmic and sports chanty vocals and so-called tribal percussion — but there’s a lingering question over what we’re supposed to do with it. Zone/make/freak out? The music doesn’t hang together in an album-as-statement way: it just drifts in and out of cymbal-showered cosmic grooves.

Thrill Jockey describes Thank You’s sound as a resource for "beat-diggers and electronic artists," raw material for repurposing, but don’t be discouraged by the ambiguity. The toxic assets spilling out of indie’s boom and bust aren’t crispy organs and tuned tom-toms — instead they’re everything embodied by Beirut and Jeremy Jay. Those dudes took it too far, while Thank You, like tourmates Mi Ami, take it further out. For examps, the only reason to tune out of the chugging, hypnotic middle section of the slothy title track would be to peep the mind-melting percussive discourses of N’Diaye Rose Sabar Group’s video clips — though you’d still end up coming back to finish "Terrible Two" off.

Chris Coady, who’s worked with fellow Charm City residents Celebration, mixed Terrible Two and gives it the saturated, subtly warped tone that sounds like a really classy 4-track, a sound Beach House also go in for. The production enhances the already-glassy quality of the songs. I imagine Thank You’s process for composing as something I christen "deep jamming": discarding the first dozen ideas that you stumble upon as a group, then reducing the 13th riff by half and looping indefinitely. In this sense, Thank You could have existed in the mid-’90s without arousing suspicions of time travel: it sounds like the ensemble mainly uses the computer to check out A Minor Forest’s page and play Minesweeper.

As far as Bmore bands go, this threesome out-Apollonian Animal Collective. Or out-Dionysian. We can leave that to the unspecified future lady/dude with the sampler to figure out.


With Mi Ami and JAWS

Fri/27, 9:30 p.m., $7

Hemlock Tavern

1131 Polk, SF

(415) 923-0923