Live: Love Is All Better Than Arctic Monkeys?


Love is All + Cause Co-Motion
Knitting Factory
March 24, 2006

Here are some things I learned about Love is All from the Fader back-cover story: they’re older than me (29 to mid-thirties), they’ve all got day-jobs (Josephine Olausson is a rock writer, a couple of the others do actual worthy things like helping people eat or something), and they’re from the mid-sized Swedish city of Gothenburg. I’m going to ride with this Gothenburg thing for a minute, since the only thing that I know about this city is that it’s home to a big pile of metal bands, In Flames among them, who have perfected this big, meaty, soaring, triumphant take on death metal, crosscutting their blastbeat pummel with these gloriously hamfisted emo choruses, like they’re cool being dark and evil for a few seconds at a time but they can’t resist flying into the sun every so often either. Love is All couldn’t have less to do with metal; their thing is jagged amateurish danced-up herky-jerk postpunk, not brutally florid virtuosic roar-bangs, and they’ve probably spent the last million years making jokes about the guy from In Flames and his dreadlocks and board-shorts. But there’s something of that same joyous rush in Love is All; they scrape and screech like any number of other bands, but they don’t hide their hooks, and you can hear their loopy grins. So I don’t know, maybe people are just happier in Gothenburg? Maybe I should go to Gothenburg.

Love is All came to New York this weekend after getting huge critical love and playing a bunch of SXSW showcases and being on the Fader back-cover; they are officially a Cool New Band. And Cool New Bands basically don’t have to do shit; Interpol has been riding the whole standing-stock-still and being-boring wave for how many years now? (Line of the month goes to Mikael Wood on She Wants Revenge: “Probably formed as an excuse to have a publicity photo taken.”) Love is All’s delirious happiness onstage probably would’ve come through even if they were the first band on a four-band Tuesday-night bill at the Mercury Lounge, but coming from a Cool New Band, it was revelatory. Olausson is all nervous jittery stick-figure charisma, banging on a cowbell or stabbing at a keyboard while she yelped through her songs. The saxophone player, when he wasn’t squawking broken James Chance half-jazz, would put his horn down and jump around like a spaz. The other dudes in the band simply looked bemused, like they couldn’t believe this stuff was finally happening after all their years of being in bands. And even though it was way too hot and way too late, the kids jammed onto the Knitting Factory floor bugged the fuck out; crowd-surfing was involved. It might not have been an I Was There moment, exactly, but I was glad to be there.

I wouldn’t have been as glad if there wasn’t anything to the band beyond enthusiasm, of course; no-wave horn-squiggles and electro-shock yips are never enough. But Love is All’s bass player is the band’s secret weapon; even when their trebly scattershot energy-bombs threaten to fall apart completely, they’ve got a rubbery disco pull to them. It’s not dance-rock, thank God, but they always make sure not to take the beat for granted. And on a barely disguised atomic-pop weeper like “Felt Tip,” the swoony, fragile prettiness may come through only in awkward little high-pitched blurts, but it’s always there.

Openers Cause Co-Motion didn’t have that; they sounded something like I was afraid Love is All would sound onstage, all infantile retro wavery kiddie-punk. I’m not mad at it; they seemed like nice people and everything. But I’m not sure why anyone is bothering to imitate some mid-90s K Records goofballs imitating the Buzzcocks. The little surf-guitar shards and ambling college-freshman clumsiness were likable enough, and they didn’t play for too long or anything, but I just don’t see any reason for this band to exist. Bridget mentioned Paul Westerberg, so maybe that’s it, but even then I’m not sure.