Honesty Is the Best PolicyApril 29th, 2011
Lord Huron – Mercury Lounge – April 28, 2011
It was after 11 p.m. at a rapidly filling Mercury Lounge and we were at least three layers down in the world-music permafrost. The first dulcet tones of Lord Huron’s stunning single “Mighty” played over the PA as the band marshaled itself slowly and even a little deliberately to the stage. The sound was post-colonial, of the same type that Paul Simon used so effortlessly on Graceland and Rhythm of the Saints—the same beautiful simulacra of Eastern and Southern Hemispheres that Vampire Weekend used later, although with an admittedly updated set of influences.
Lord Huron, an L.A. band I’m certain a hack music publicist would describe as Silverlake Soweto, proved to be both of and above this venerable cannon of White Guys Playing World Pop. “Mighty” swelled big enough, like many of the band’s compositions, to melt any frosty comparisons to old bands, even if the derivation was obvious and unhidden. The crowd rollicked to the band’s first two songs, the aforementioned “Mighty” and the upstroke “Into the Sun.”
The sound was very nearly too big, given that many of the melodies rely on group vocals of two or more members, in addition to some of the delicacy of the recordings turning into more punched-up electric numbers live. But Lord Huron slowly screwed themselves into tighter and tighter progressions, shedding some of the early muddiness for clarity and crystalline Afrobeat guitar lines. On “Son of a Gun,” vocalist Ben Schneider turned a pedantic cliché into something meaningful, his brand of graciousness and earnestness not necessarily practiced and also entirely intentional. Most important, given the tradition of world music being co-opted by the West, this didn’t feel a bit dishonest, even if the themes were unapologetically neocolonial. —Geoff Nelson