A new compilation of SoCal bands titled Who invented the Mirror has just been released and is available exclusively at Amoeba. One of the bands featured thereon, Those, recently released their debut, We Cure Nothing, just before Christmas.
The name of the band, Those (assuming it's the plural pronoun of "that" and not the village in Nepal), seems calculatedly obscure and at the same time reminiscent of Them, The Who, The The, They, Them, Them! or It. The they behind those are John Cason (guitar), Eric Spolans (ex-The Not Today and 000 Records - guitar), JJ Watson (bass and horns), Brett Strobridge (drums), and Emily Grant (keys). It was recorded and engineered by Chris Reynolds at Dangerbird Studios in Silver Lake.
The song titles are all quotes taken from mainstream films of the 1980s, cult-classic films of the 1990s, and Billy Wilder's 1950 classic Sunset Blvd. The title of the album, We Cure Nothing, is possibly a reference to a 1971 Arthur Hiller film, The Hospital. It would seem, then, that movies are on Those's mind(s).
Those's music is instrumental and evocative. Like the score of a film you haven't seen, it subconsciously conjures up mental imagery -- in my case -- of the sea. Tempos and dynamics rise and fall like waves and there's a faintly surf-rock sound, albeit for a post-rock age. The sample of what sounds like waves advancing and receding at the beginning of "That huh… jellyfish" reinforce the association.
However, it's not really like the post-rock I'm familiar with. The songs are all too succinct to meander, the average song length is under two and a half minutes. I've been to post-rock shoes where overwhelmingly young, white fans sit politely on the ground, eyes on the virtually catatonic performers on the stage. I haven't seen Those play but I'm imagining it's a rather more animated experience.
From the opening track, "Funeral for a monkey," Those establish a signature sound that touches on New Wave and Western scores whilst simultaneously evoking British anorak bands, Kiwi rock, and Aussie underground bands of the '80s, albeit cleaner and less shambolic.
"Surreal" is an over-used term, especially in film and music. Mostly forgotten is the original meaning and it's now wielded as shorthand for "dreamlike" or "weird." As imagined by André Breton, Surrealism was pure psychic automatism, not merely self-consciously bizarre, symbolic art (as epitomized by Salvador Dalí from the '30s on).
In music, Breton's vision of surrealism is most closely echoed in Free Jazz. Though Those's music doesn't sound similarly improvised in its performance, there seems to me to be an improvisational approach to composition. Guitars softly jangle and cascade before abruptly changing gears, as suddenly rumbling bass take over and the music goes skronky. Pretty, delicate passages shift into martial drumming and thrashy noise. To my ears, it's refreshingly different from the indistinguishable, mealy, bed-wetter music that dominates the current indie scene.
Their album, at time of writing, is available on bandcamp and iTunes. If they record it on CD, I suspect one will be able to obtain it at Amoeba. And, as previously mentioned, they can also be checked out on the compilation Who invented the Mirror.