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Volume 69, Issue 135, Friday, April 23, 2004

Arts & Entertainment
 

Apples keep pop, stay fresh

Small crowd sticks around for headliners, everyone enjoys blend of new and old

by Jason Gagnon
The Daily Cougar

Just a handful of Houston pop fans made the trip out to Fat Cat's on Wednesday night, but it was well worth the time. Young and old mingled happily in the tiny venue to witness a bridge between the current generation and 1960s sugary rock: The Apples in Stereo.

High Water Marks began the night and featured Apples' drummer Hillarie on guitar and vocals. The band was fun garage-pop a la the Nuggets compilations (you could hear some Exploding Hearts influence as well), but Hillarie's voice was pretty awful. It's just another monotone cutesy-voice affair that was hindered by some horrendously flat notes. Oddly, these factors weren't present when she later played with The Apples. 

Per Ole Bratset, the male vocalist for High Water Marks, had a great, warm voice that complemented the sunny sounds perfectly, and the drummer was phenomenal, with a loose but powerful style. What brought the set down were the morose grimaces on the band members' faces while they played. It's reasonable to expect the Cure to play and not smile, but pop is about fun -- High Water Mark's brooding, oh so serious "I'm a tortured artist" shtick was weak. Even Brian Wilson smiles on stage at times. 

The band that took the award for Most Interesting took half an hour to set up and brought out the most people (even though most were relatives and family friends) was Boston's Apollo Sunshine. These guys have a lot of hype going for them now and it's easy to see why. They're working within the confines of a few different genres, but that is what ultimately brings the band down. The songs seem lacking of focus and are bridged with the same drum and guitar build every time. 

Their saving grace, however, is Sam Cohen, their guitarist, who wails fuzzily in J. Mascis's style. He rescued the band from the dull indie-rock filler that plagued the set. The songs really dragged, but toward the middle of its performance, the band put the baggage aside and stuck with some nice, fuzzy, neo Brit-pop. And this is when the band is at its best and shows why it's getting hyped hard. By the way, they need to lose the vibraphone. This is rock 'n' roll, not high school band practice. 

So, with the most of the old timers quickly making their exit, The Apples in Stereo arrived on stage and were something most haven't seen or heard in a long time: a fun, catchy pop band. No pretensions, just straight Pet Sounds pop with some crunchy distortion and great, simple leads. The band played "Tidal Wave" off Fun Trick Noisemaker at one fan's request and got a nice reception when tracks like "Rainfall" and "Do You Understand" from their last album, Velocity of Sound, were carried out to perfection.

Apples in Stereo

Fat Cat's, 4216 Washington Ave.

The verdict: The Apples easily played the best set, but the whole show was enjoyable.

 Send comments to dcshobiz@mail.uh.edu

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