The Stockholm quintet Shout Out Louds played the Theater of the Living Arts (the TLA) in Philadelphia last night, in front of a few hundred enthusiastic fans. Sun and Essex Green opened.
Essex Green was a nice enough band, but they were too rock-lite for my tastes. Whatever momentum they had seemed to be lost in the song with a flute, a ukulele, a violin and handclaps.
Coming into the night, I already knew that the Shout Out Louds melodies and mood would be amazing. A pleasant bonus, however, was to find that they also bring a ton of energy to their shows and, tonight, they were exceedingly tight. The result was that rockers like 100 Degrees and Hurry Up Let’s Go were even more exciting than I would have hoped.
The band covered most every song on their debut CD released earlier this year, Howl Howl Gaff Gaff, including the showstopper Very Loud, which could pass for a lost Cure classic, and I Wish I Was Dead, Pt. 2, a single popularised on the TV show The OC. The show began with the opening, string-sounding notes (a keyboard, actually) of the glorious Oh Sweetheart and the set never lulled for the next hour and a half. This is a group that, when it wants to, will rock out with abandon and driven by tight guitar lines; their singer is reminiscent of a hyped-up Robert Smith; and they compose and arrange intricate, gorgeous melodies, often with a keyboard adding simple but beautiful sounds, reminiscent of a Belle And Sebastian. In short, I am not sure that current It bands Death Cab For Cutie or Franz Ferdinand really have anything on these guys.
Singer Adam (they only go by their first names–damn humble Scandinavians!) emotes anguish as well as anyone and never sounds whiny. He is also (apparently) responsible for one of the better and more fascinating lines I have heard in quite a while: “My heart beats faster than the train in my mind”, from A Track and a Train. This song in particular ably demonstrates how the Shout Out Louds can be bittersweet and very deep, but ultimately always uplifting, at the same time.
The only flaw of the evening was that for the first few songs the bass overwhelmed much of the music, which was particularly odd and annoying considering that this was not exactly AC/DC. In any event, Shout Out Louds’ mix of lilting ballads and faster paced tunes allowed them to maintain a perfect tempo throughout the show. With minimal theatrics (a single puff of smoke from a smoke machine and some Christmas lights for their encore) and little patter, they still command attention.
The first song of their encore was the touching Go Sadness, with only Adam singing and on acoustic guitar, accompanied by Bebban playing an organ that turned the song into a sort of indie-church hymn. They then closed the night with the excellent Seagull, a meandering, walk-on-the-beach-type song, which the group expertly closed out with a brilliant white noise, while the delicate keyboard riff played itself out.
While they are off to a great start, I will be really surprised if Shout Out Louds do not cause even more of a commotion in the near future.