The Oberlin Review
<< Front page Arts September 15, 2006

Writer Finds Beauty in Weeds

The Weird Weeds are a mysterious bunch. Although bands like Deerhoof, Xiu Xiu and Smog have been singing the praises of Austin, Texas’s Weird Weeds for some time, I imagine the hipster sheep that flock to those bands’ shows only get confused and uncomfortable during a Weird Weeds performance.

Songs start and stop in awkward places; one guitarist makes crazy noises with pieces of chalk. The other guitarist often plays riffs on a purposely out-of-tune guitar, and the drummer plays in and out of time like he keeps getting distracted by a squirrel.

Although I’m highlighting the Weird Weeds’ “weirder” elements, they’re very much a song-oriented band at heart. On their new record, Weird Feelings, the trio has refined the approach they took on last year’s debut, Hold Me, and merged it with newfound senses of focus, emotional resonance and compositional restraint.

I once described the Weird Weeds as Espers meets Storm & Stress — in other words, the group specializes in songs that feature a vaguely folky foundation with enough space for the musicians involved to take detours and try out more experimental approaches than, say, your average Mountain Goats record.

Songs on the new record such as “Tupper” and “For You to See Me” are magnificent exercises in tension and release, possessing both downright uplifting moments at times and dark undercurrents bubbling just beneath the surface.  On “For You to See Me,” just check out guitarist Sandy Ewen’s soaring harmony and the chilling build-up that follows.

My personal favorite tune on Weird Feelings, “In Your Arms,” illustrates the Weird Weeds’ powerful grasp of both economy and subtlety. It manages to say everything it needs to in a little over a minute, which allows the song to be delivered with utmost regard to the effect all the individual sounds have on one other.

While similar acts make the mistake of drawing out their ideas until they are stretched within an inch of their life, the Weird Weeds understand the importance of placing an emphasis on individual ideas. Although I’m probably not at liberty to explain the song’s subject matter, it doesn’t really matter; the poignancy of the music coupled with the almost nostalgic feel to the lyrics and vocals will surely give listeners enough fodder to come up with their own story.

The Weird Weeds are playing a free show at the Cat in the Cream at 8 p.m. sharp on Thursday, Sept. 21.


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