"No more psalms of deep devotion / Just the thrill of the pop-explosion." This resigned lyric from Showroom's song "Brooding on a Friday Night," part of the band's headlining set last Friday night at the Rivoli in Toronto, encapsulates a dilemma about artistic direction that's faced many a musician through the ages. Fortunately for those who want to have their intellectual cake and to have fun eating it too, the Toronto quartet's live show proved you don't have to choose; Showroom is both profound and full of energy to get you moving.
The band showed up full of enthusiasm to launch The World is Too Much With Us, the full-length successor to its 2004 debut EP, playing for an adoring and vocal, if not enormous, crowd. "Am I to assume most of you know us personally?" singer Ben Hutchinson wondered aloud between songs while resting his steady, striving tenor pipes, whose soaring syllables seemed unhitched from any earthly tether. Rory Lindsay entertained almost as much with his unselfconscious physical antics as with his guitar playing. Which is not to say he was any slouch with the latterůhis energetic strumming sent ripples of rhythm through his bandmates when a song really clicked, as most did. How the mostly standing crowd resisted dancing is anyone's guess.
Lindsay routinely digged well beneath familiar four-chord depths, and the words often betrayed the band's scholarly background. (The quartet emerges from the University of Toronto, where between them they took poli sci, history, philosophy, religion and aboriginal studies, among other things.) But the songs' poppy packaging, sewn together with tight, even drums from Tyler Dokis and Tristan Samuk's workmanlike bass, made it easier to get at their sometimes precious lyricism.
The band's new disc borrows its title from William Wordsworth's 1806 poem lamenting humanity's modern disenchantment of and with the natural world. Hutchinson seems morally inspired to fight this flattening outlook. He told the audience he's happy to be "useless and beautiful," choosing these almost reverential terms over the more common instrumental characterizations of the generic, job-seeking university graduate. Showroom's performance that night clearly indicated these Bachelors of Arts most definitely have skills, albeit of a kind difficult to capture on a r»sum».
If you're in Toronto, you can peer at all Showroom has to offer on two successive Saturdays this month: June 11th at Rancho Relaxo as part of North by Northeast's 2005 showcase, and June 18th at Mitzi's Sister.
Writer: Patrick Fothergill