Under a decade ago, alternative rock looked poised to bifurcate into two equally compelling streams. On one hand, the needle-in-the-arm, greasy-undied garage revivalists. On the other, the Beach Boys babies: tab-under-the-tongue chamber poppers, characterized by fluty voices and lush orchestrations influenced more by cinema than The Stooges. Today, neither genre is making the bank it once was. But while the recent, second wave of jangly retro mopes are still being absorbed into car commercials and subsequently larger, spendier venues ($17.50 for Kings of Leon in Boise? Over $30 for The Strokes? Eff!), chamber pop version 2.0 has largely stayed under the radar. Oklahoma's dreamy Starlight Mints, for instance, played at the Neurolux last spring for a pittance. Portland's Heroes and Villains, a less established but equally imaginative outfit, filled the Bouquet this March for a single Washington. Now, they're back with a new EP, in a new-to-them venue and a new big-city cover charge: three whole big'uns.
Brian Wilson's brain-batter is all over the band. Check their name--a song from his long-lost and recently reanimated pop suite Smile--and their orchestration, rife with so many instruments, we're left wondering where the people sit in the van. On H and V's new five-song release, you'll hear not only bass, guitar and drums but glockenspiel, piano, harpsichord, accordion, bells, a children's choir, trumpets, the mighty licorice stick (nee clarinet) and a healthy smattering of the original woodwind: people whistling. Their cover of Tom Waits' "Tom Traubert's Blues" is so reverently weepy, your metabolism might permanently slow down just listening to it. The originals "Bleed," "Color Coded," and "Welcome Home" are similarly heavy, portraying an attention to compositional detail that belies the group's meager output. As anyone who witnessed their last visit to town knows, H and V aren't all tears and torch songs, but with Junkyard Bandstand and Thomas Paul on the bill, this show promises as much depth and ambition than any other $3 show this season.
Neurolux, September 24, $3, www.handvband.com