Mates of State
If Wednesday's The Gloria Record/Her Space Holiday/Ides of Space show at Gypsy Tea Room is proof that indie rock as a sociocultural entity has moved beyond the raw materials of guitars and drums and such to embrace a postmodern sensibility in which artists are inclined to consider their own creative histories to truly connect with their work (see below), the appearance of San Francisco's Mates of State should end up an impossibly good-natured riposte to the idea that the form has ceased to function as a straightforward venue of squishy twentysomething feelings.
The Mates--the married couple Kori and Jason Hammel--aren't the types you'd usually associate with reactionary theories on anything, but their new Our Constant Concern, their first record for equally good-natured Illinois indie Polyvinyl, so capitalizes on indie's original promise of unfettered expression that their songs, in which one Hammel sings to the other in intertwining harmonies that seem to trace the indefinite choreography of domestic life, practically defy you to resist their earnest, simple charm. I fully expected Concern to grate after a few songs, positive it would descend to the same over-obvious pap found on the new record by the Promise Ring side project Vermont. But with each listen the Hammels' songs pick up steam, Kori's organ-playing becoming deeper and responding more deftly to Jason's drumming, their harmonies revealing little notes that I didn't hear the first time through. And their lyrics are simply better than anyone who's familiar with underground American indie-pop has a right to expect: "I'm so duly impressed/Decisions for the whole, a reading and response, parables that act out/Those books are thrown out," they sing on "A Duel Will Settle This," a tune that knowingly goes from delicate to rough and back again.
Declarations of undying love set to chirpy, scrappy accompaniment may not be your cup of tea--may not, as many have decided, sound like a cup of tea at all--but if the Mates keep this up, they may find themselves at the forefront of a cuddly counterrevolution.
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