They Always Entertain, No Matter What They Call Their BandNovember 6th, 2009
Islands – The Bowery Ballroom – November 5, 2009
The Unicorns were a surprising mix of indie-pop experimentation. They broke all kinds of rules, all while crafting funny, ridiculous, hypertwee adolescent pop. Their first album was a critical success, so they immediately disbanded to reform as th’ Corn Gangg, briefly playing hip-hop covers of Unicorns songs. Following another break up, they returned as Islands, which, as Nick Thorburn constantly reminds interviewers, are forever. Two members remain at the core of all of these projects: Thorburn and Jamie Thompson, whose tumultuous relationship has spawned some of the most endearing and innovative pop songs over the past 10 years.
Islands, known for their onstage theatrics, didn’t disappoint. Dressed in all white, almost Greek-influenced robes with head wreaths, Thorburn headed the forum with a James Brown-inspired, diamond-studded cape. Comfortable onstage, all through “Vapours” he stared down at fans, baptizing them with a push of his hand, swiping their beer or even picking up a notebook left on the edge of the stage and writing the owner a note. There’s an inherent sense of humor to their music that still comes from that experimental place of unorthodox instrumentation and clever lyrics. Who else could passionately deliver “Uncross my arms/To disarm the car bomb/It’s taking too long/Something must be wrong”? Islands are taking their playful formula further and further with each album, becoming more polished, and reintroducing synth and dance rhythms in pursuit of that perfect pop sound. Saving the best for last, they indulged the crowd with “Rough Gem,” which launched the Bowery crowd into a final frenzy of indie-rock proportions. —Jason Dean
Photos courtesy of Mina K