Three things about The Deadtown Lovers that make the band cool:
1) The Lovers has a theme song. Just like The Monkees. Or The Demolition Doll Rods.
2) For last Halloween’s Night of the Living Cover Bands show—instead of the obvious and tired Ramones, Misfits and Johnny Cash tributes—The Lovers covered Wire. Who the hell even knows about Wire these days? That night, apparently only me and a couple of guys from Full Speed Veronica.
3) When its members were UNM sophomores Soni Reducer (guitar, keyboard) and Deadtown Lincoln (bass) adopted a recovering hippie older than them by about 15 years and hipped him to the best in punk and power pop, old and new.
OK, No. 3 is actually a disclaimer since the old guy was me. I liked Reducer and Lincoln’s tastes then, so it’s no wonder I like their band now. Back in 2000, Soni played with the whammy glammy The Phase, while Lincoln did time with the elusive garage/trash band The Wheelers. Now the pair has joined forces with drummer Mary Alayne, who in her UNM days played alto sax for goofball third-wave ska outfit 3-Ball Combo. Rudi Thornburgh is on keys and guitar—his former projects include electro-techno Clocklife and (with wife Soni) Pop-Bubblegum Favorite.
I cornered The Lovers to see what makes this band describe itself as the sound of “empty storefronts and warehouses.” That’s apt in terms of the old “no future” punk outlook, but this foursome’s stance is more like “Yeah, so what are you gonna do about it?” The Deadtown Lovers’ answer is intelligent and insistent music, buzzy garage punk with a hint of pop.
With thoughtful and evocative lyrics, all four share harmonies and rotate lead vocals. According to Mary, “One singer is boring.” Rudi’s inventive and unobtrusive “leads” swirl gracefully like counterpoint melodies behind the mainframe of the song. Soni chops at her guitar à la Johnny Ramone and The Damned’s Captain Sensible rolled into one. Lincoln thumps the bass and pens punchy songs like his musical role model Dee Dee Ramone.
“Lincoln writes good stuff that we all whittle down to its essence,” says Soni of the band’s fully collaborative efforts. Compelling originals are complimented by carefully chosen (read: somewhat obscure) covers of the Ramones or the Buzzcocks.
“It hasn’t really worked, but originally we wanted to sound like the Buzzcocks,” explains Lincoln.
Rudi waggishly counters, “When we play, people dance for half a set then get confused.” That confusion could stem from the fact that punk with intelligence fell by the wayside long ago in favor of a more popular (but misguided) intentionally offensive attitude. Eschewing that, The Deadtown Lovers has chosen to make music for dancing and thinking.
Also on the bill is Red Light Cameras, which has lately been hitting its stride, moving from an earlier uneven approach to a harder indie sound that matches singer Amanda Machon’s powerhouse voice.
Tonight’s headliner is Minneapolis post power pop band The Melismatics. This tour is in support of its fifth album, released on Jan. 10. Mania! features more electro-beats and synthesizers than previous outings, as well as improved intricacy in vocal harmonies by guitar player Ryan Smith and lead singer Pony.