Sunday Night with Small Black

March 8th, 2010

Small Black – Mercury Lounge – March 7, 2010

Small Black
In an appropriate coda to the fading electro craze of the past five years, newly dubbed “glo-fi” bands stepped into a void that perhaps didn’t even exist. Small Black is exactly one of those bands, not quite original but more likely a sharp, revisionist critic. After all, the lo-fi synth movement managed to fire this electro impulse through muddy, underwater effects and fuzz, finding rough choruses and beauty in something intentionally broken. If Justice is a metaphorical Saturday night, Small Black is a slow-drive, contrarian Sunday morning.

With multicolored lights echoing around the front of the stage, Small Black appeared four across, opening with “Weird Machines.” Not the least bit ironic, even given the collection of technology onstage, the song is endemic of what makes the band such an intriguing prospect: It is both anthemic and intentionally drowned in cold-medicine reverb. In what is now typical response, those in the crowd moved their feet and nodded their heads with vicious and responsive purpose. Running through the bass-heavy “Lady in the Wires” and some unreleased material before finishing with the antihit hit “Despicable Dogs” and the closer, “Bad Lover,” Small Black defined something both steeped in criticism and concerned with the contemporary.

As the lyrics to “Despicable Dogs” (“Do it without me/ Do it when I’m gone”) sailed out through flashing light and moving humanity, there was no extra significance attached as the second-to-last song of the night. The pathos was the narrative movement from bands obsessed with the dance floor to bands making similar music in their bedrooms. This is the soundtrack to a Breakfast Club generation that never got detention, a soundtrack for the kids who actually enjoyed staying home. If Small Black isn’t crushing your Saturday night, and this was a Sunday, they are the blinking, blurry eyes of a Sunday morning—criticism and coffee in the kitchen. —Geoff Nelson

(Small Black and Washed Out play Mercury Lounge tonight. The show is sold out.)