Do Make Say Think and the danger of high expectations

This past Monday, I saw my second Do Make Say Think show of the year. The first one was one of the best concerts I’ve seen all year, and their new album, You, You’re a History In Rust, is one of my favorite new records of the year. So needless to say, I was going in with pretty high expectations. Not surprisingly given those sky-high expectations, I was a little bit disappointed.

This time around, despite having exactly the same eight-piece band (I’ve heard that at shows closer to their home base of Montreal, they sometimes play with as many as 12 instrumentalists onstage), they seemed a little sloppy, which especially came through in the new songs with vocals. The singing is pretty rough on the album, but in a charming sort of way; at this show, it was downright bad. Also, they played a lot of older songs that are less compositionally rigorous than the new stuff, and instead focus on establishing a groove or a jazzy rhythm and riding it into the ground. I like that stuff well enough — it has a kind of trancelike effect on me after a while — but it just isn’t quite as compelling as the more song-oriented new material.

The world was set aright, though, after the encore, which consisted of beautiful renditions of three of the best songs from the new album: the gorgeous, acoustically centered “A Tender History in Rust,” the powerful and energetic “The Universe!” and the satisfying denouement “In Mind.” The latter is a perfect example of how Do Make Say Think craft gorgeous melodies and then mess with them just enough to keep you off-balance, but not quite enough to keep you from enjoying the songsmanship (I just made up a word). It starts off beautifully but quickly becomes cacophonous, at first retaining the central melody and even building on it with ecstatic vocals, but then gradually just turning into glorious noise. It’s a fabulous way to close the album and an even better way to end a concert.

So although the bulk of the concert was a little disappointing, the encore made it all worth it. I went with three friends who enjoyed the hell out of the show, and it’s good to see the appeal of this band growing (I’d guess there were 300+ people there that night). Best of all, they seem to be really hard workers, touring incessantly, so hopefully there will be some new material coming sooner than later!

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