A Band Before It Breaks

November 22nd, 2010

The Naked and Famous – Mercury Lounge – November 19, 2010

The Naked and Famous reflect, at least nominally, on a society obsessed with celebrity, or, perhaps worse, on a society of meaningless, unconnected fame. This is an age where you can be sort of famous for being naked on the Internet, and this was the unforgettable truth as the band from New Zealand took the stage with the stunning “All of This,” off their debut LP, Passive Me, Aggressive You. The quintet would poke fun at this arbitrary fame, with a wry grin and a deep respect for the moment before the Moment. If all of this was a little ridiculous—and even a cursory glance at the sheer number of Universal Records reps in the house would indicate it was—they were certainly in on the joke: a band built equally for fame and stabbing holes in it.

Sounding like the creators of an updated John Hughes movie soundtrack, the Naked and Famous motored through a 40-minute set of youthful anthems built on the dynamic shift from calm to furious. The band survives and thrives on these quiet moments and then explodes into a sea of synths and soaring twin vocals. On the final thrust of “No Way,” achingly fragile made way for a thrashing conclusion. This same twin cinema was on display later in the set with “Girls Like You,” which started so delicately before its downbeat took over and the song, like Icarus, spun higher than realistically possible.

The night, of course, would close with the singular and outstanding single “Young Blood.” Its doorbell synths instruct everything there is to know about this band: They are about to be famous and they love living inside this exact moment before it happens. With cultural touchstones telling us that exposure equals celebrity and that fame is profane and gorgeous, this was the perfect band. They will very shortly show us everything. —Geoff Nelson