Friday, May 21, 2010

Sex Mob at the 55 Bar - May 20, 2010

The slide trumpet is an unruly instrument. It sounds more raw than its valved cousin and intonation's just a bitch. When Steven Bernstein puts the instrument to his lips while fronting his band Sex Mob, he doesn't tame the beastly horn, but lets the thing out of its cage. It's hard to imagine anything other than a slide trumpet leading this raucously fun band.

Even after 14 years together, Sex Mob still plays with irrepressible energy, an energy that threatened to blow out the windows of the tiny speakeasy venue. While its repertoire is more indicative of a bar band, Sex Mob deconstructs the cheesy pop tunes with a great deal of subversive wit. The melody's there, but doesn't sound quite right. The groove's there, but Wollesen puts the backbeat just a little too far behind the pulse to make it comfortable. And it's just frickin' hilarious when they transition from Duke Ellington's "The Mooch" to "The Macarena" without blinking an eye.

Bernstein's also one hell of an emmcee. He filled breaks with goofy stories about Bill O'Reilly and doctors of music writing pot prescriptions, and was totally comfortable asking the audience about volume levels during sound check (Somebody should get him on a late night show. Seriously.) This casualness runs into the music as well. Se Mob's not about creating well-manicured works where everything lines up exactly, but that's not to say they aren't a tight band. It's more like wickedly-precise untogetherness, making it sound like a group of four guys just picking up instruments and deciding to play whatever they heard on the AM radio.

Sex Mob is very analog music. There are no quantized divisions between genres, or pitches, or tempos. It's all just a soupy texture of pop tunes you're embarrassed to like and mind-blowing free jazz. And in a digital music world, nothing can be so refreshing.

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