By WILL RATH
Catchy guitar riffs and fine-tuned vocal harmonies set the mood on Sunday night at the Jackpot Music Hall as Springfield band Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin brought heaping doses of their head-bopping spin on indie pop.
SSLYBY's sound - developed over the course of two studio albums, Broom and Pershing - owes much to lead singer and guitarist John Robert Cardwell's distressed yet light-hearted vocals.
Singing sincerely with eyes closed, the boys of SSLYBY gave off an air of authenticity befitting a pack of plaid-shirted Midwesterners. Though modest, they're not shy - these guys have toured relentlessly, and they're old pros at building a rapport with a crowd. The band took time out between songs to introduce new material from their third studio album, which they have been working on with Death Cab for Cutie's Chris Walla since last September. Four new songs (including "Everlyn") featured more sophisticated guitars than their usual fare - they even had solos. "All Hail Dracula" was new as well and arguably even catchier than many of their older songs. Another new tune, "Critical Drain," featured a shimmery, tremolo-heavy intro that was strangely reminiscent of the Smiths.
SSLYBY also took time out for requests, which unfortunately (and invariably) resulted in people all over the Jackpot yelling "Glue Girls!" Halfway into the set Cardwell stopped between songs to shoot straight with the crowd: "Wow, you guys really didn't like our second album." This type of older-brother familiarity was standard for the band's set, paired with a bold honesty that only comes with an established relationship with a crowd. Springfield isn't quite Lawrence - but for SSLYBY, it seems like it's pretty damn close.
In their signature musical-chairs move, the band swapped instruments for the last third of the show, putting Cardwell on bass, bassist Jonathan James on drums and drummer Philip Dickey on lead guitar and vocals. (Knauer stayed on guitar.) Following the instrument switch, the band became noticeably more animated, which of course begs a fan to ask: "Why didn't you guys rock out this hard from the beginning of the show?"
This question was inadvertently answered by Cardwell after the crowd's enthusiastic hooting and hollering following "Oregon Girl." As the cheering diminished he said, "I know you guys think that was great but after 100, 200 - I don't know how many times - playing that song on tour...it just sounds weak." Hopefully the new album (due out in early to mid-2010) will be challenging enough to keep these guys interested until they're in town again.
*Note: Our writer had camera malfunctions; hence, the lack of photographs.
Banned by the Man
I Wanna Die
All Hail Dracula
You Could Write a Book
Back in the Saddle