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The best kept secret in music


""subterranean boogie""

The punk/ indie tradition has often embraced an entirely different type of animal: the rock and roll anti-hero. Anti-hero frontmen such as Elvis Costello, David Byrne and Stephen Malkmus thrive in the rarefied space that exists when you don’t look or sound the part: free from the burden of expectation, innovation often follows. However, the dirty little secret of the shorthaired man is out; it takes a lot of panache and guts to execute the lo-fi pose.

Phil Williams, lead singer for the NYC-based Sewer Doves, fits squarely in the category of the anti-hero. Possessed of a deadpan voice that echoes the Eels’ Mark Everett and the aforementioned Mr. Byrne, Williams imbues the band with a quirky aesthetic that is both one of its greatest strengths and fundamental flaws. Williams’ delivery is polarizing- his stark immediacy is often refreshing, especially on the more upbeat numbers. However, there are moments when the informal manner of the vocals fails to match both the intensity and polish of the music.

The Sewer Doves play an appealing brand of rock equally indebted to the sprawling psychedelia of the early Flaming Lips and the robotic new wave of Devo. Equal parts propulsive and atmospheric, the band often strikes a winning balance between garage rock stomp and fuzzy pop bliss, usually within the confines of the same song. The instrumental interplay on “Subterranean Boogie” is consistently strong, lending a tight, disciplined and tasteful feel to the tracks. The guitar playing is excellent throughout, varying between clever solos, crunching chords, and tuneful skronk. In an understated and thoughtful manner, the rhythm section provides solid support to the dense lead orchestration. In addition, the production on “Subterranean Boogie” is both lush and inventive.

The band deftly arranges a wide variety of sonic textures from pianos and keyboards to electric percussion and guitar feedback. Impressively, these disparate sounds provide genuine variation and serve the songs rather than appearing gimmicky and forced. Indeed, the album’s greatest strength is the interesting and eclectic clatter that informs the Sewer Doves’ din. The only minor blemish on the album is the inconsistency of the vocals. When Williams matches his low-key delivery to a winning melody, the band sounds inspired.

However, his singing and phrasing sometimes sounds mechanical and forced. Whereas Fred Schneider of the B-52’s uses a similar affectation to sound like the Rock and Roll Robot, Williams is more like the New Wave Foreign Exchange Student. If Williams is intent on following the anti-hero path, he needs to invest more personality into both his lyrics and singing. In short, the vocals would be stronger if Williams took his delivery even further over the top or opted for a more standard vocal style. Despite this critique, the album is tasteful and hooky throughout, with well-written songs that have a nice clear structure. With a little more seasoning and refinement of the band’s vocal style and identity, the Sewer Doves could be poised to deliver a very interesting album in the near future. The old Dating Game axiom rings true for the Sewer Doves: hooks will only get you so far, personality goes a long way. -

"sewerdoves/"subterranean boogie""

Sometimes it is difficult to judge a group's recorded music without having seen them play in person. You're perplexed because on one hand you sort of dig what the band is doing musically, but you know that any attempts at capturing that quality on an album is no substitute for a live set. When the listener experiences the CD duplication, s/he tends to lose that indispensable vibe that is only activated through a live performance. That was the very quandary I faced when listening to Sewer Doves' Subterranean Boogie.

I have never caught one of their shows, so it took me a couple plays to get a feel for their music. Their sound is quirky and whimsical, eliciting an intriguing pop dynamic. Punchy bass lines, phase-shifter effects and reverb-drenched harmonics are complemented by a vocal styling that, at times, is akin to the Eels’ lead singer. However, the most important detail is that Sewer Doves don't take themselves too seriously. As a result, their musical efforts translate into a fun record.

I think one of the better cuts off Subterranean Boogie is the Devo-esque "Happy Pill." That absurdly simple chorus line, “You're gonna do it/'Cuz everyone's doin' it,” is quite amusing. "Broken Wheel" and "Necessary Contact" are a few other standout tracks. Sewer Doves are kind of a novelty band, whose self-proclaimed goal revolves around “saving the world from corporate rock music and bad boy bands,” while fulfilling their mission to “rock you through sonics and melody.” I'm not sure it's possible to singlehandedly abolish corporate rock with a single EP. It seems contradictory that you could “rock” someone with melody. Nevertheless, it wouldn't hurt to give Sewer Doves some attention.

"TONY's "Picks""

“Locals Sewer Doves avoid whatever trend is ruling Ludlow Street at any given moment, concentrating simply on melodies and tight guitar rock… the dirty bird's better [songs] can be very satisfying...” - Time Out NY


Kevin Montgomery

Dirty Birds
More rock from another band of Noisefiends.

It’s 18 degrees outside, and The Endless Summer is silently splashing across a canvas along the back wall at Pianos on Ludlow St. Bruce Brown’s 1966 documentary on globetrotting surfers isn’t just appropriate in an inappropriate way–considering that half the audience hasn’t yet thawed out–but it’s also capturing the fantastic and highly fortunate adventures of a small tribe of singleminded beach boys.

The Sewer Doves are singleminded in their own way. The Brooklyn-based four-piece–part of the Noisefiends music collective, which also boasts Grand Mal and Cabbage as members–is playing to a mixed crowd of knowing supporters and curious first-timers. With their first song, they’re somehow synchronized to the beat of enormous and exotic breakers pounding the West African coast. The crowd rides the music, the band rides the crowd’s energy–and everyone is transported into the movie, feeling as if each song could take them away from the cold, dusty snow that whips around outside.

Sewer Doves’ bassist Jamie Laboz had the idea of performing a score to the film. He wanted to provide a sense of hospitality to winter-weary onlookers, that same comfortable, warm feeling one gets from a mug of mulled cider on a winter evening. It’s clear that this is one of those performances that inspires scenester types to talk about seeing a band before they played with X at Y, or before their Nth album became popular. Which may be sooner than some realize: a track from the band’s current release, Subterranean Boogie, will be featured on MTV’s dating show, Dismissed.

Some of the tracks on their self-released, seven-track CD are reminiscent of Abbey Road, while others throw back to the Kinks or Badfinger or the Vandals. But theirs, like Grand Mal’s and Cabbage’s, is not an old sound. The classic hooks support modern vocals that themselves waver between new garage and Brit rock. Beneath it all are melodies that suggest hope for rock ’n’ roll.

When playing live, the band presents more of a conversation between the musicians than an orchestrated event. Drummer Alan Camlet explained afterward: "When we play as a group, we’re having a conversation between us. The more honest that conversation is, the better you understand it and are moved by that conversation."

That said, sometimes the conversation seems more like an argument, particularly at the end of "Empty Pockets" and "Leave It Alone." Both songs are masterful, 60s-era pop bits that gel perfectly through climax, but they quickly decomposed at the Pianos show, leaving the audience grasping for the initial hook. That’s one fatal mistake that can easily kill the effectiveness of good pop music, but tonight, it was a forgivable sin.

In the coming months, the band will be playing a lot to support the new album. Don’t expect The Endless Summer at every performance, but do count on the Sewer Doves picking up where acts like Matthew Sweet and the Strokes have fumbled.

- Kevin Montgomery


Subterranean Boogie (EP - 2002)
The Big Stink (EP - 2001)
I dunno, I duncare (Ep, 2001)
SewerDoves have songs on and
Our song, Necessary Contact, was the featured song on 4/15/03.


Feeling a bit camera shy


There's no story to SewerDoves. We are what we are, kids who want to play nice, gentle anti-rock for the rest of our lives in front of giant audiences without giving up our beloved 9-5 Jobs. We want to make buttloads of money and drive expensive Lexus' while our wives take the SUV's that guzzle gallons and gallons of gas to the grocery store with the kids. We love the system and adhere to all of it's rules. We think Avril Lavigne is God's Gift to the Industry. We think that everything anesthetized and sterile is the back bone of this great country of ours. We think that war is poetic and that oil is the savior of the masses. We think that Saddam Hussein is the Devil and George Bush the Second Coming. We think that this whole story of our band is a crock of...

In November, 2004, they are moving west and will be seen and heard in the LA area playing their spastic mayhem.