On the final stop of their U.S. tour, Canada’s Immaculate Machine brightened up New York’s Cake Shop on a cold November night.The band is best known for keyboardist/singer Kathryn Calder, as she is also part of the north-of-the-border indie-rock supergroup The New Pornographers; indeed, the first half of Immaculate’s tour was as Pornographer opener. But headlining their own (admittedly smaller) venue on the 12th (QRO venue review), the Victoria, British Columbia three-piece got to shine all on their lonesome, drawing an interested crowd in and rewarding them for it.
Immaculate Machine delivered a set-list that was split evenly between their latest, the excellent Fables (QRO review), and their prior LP, 2005’s Ones and Zeros – along with a top-notch cover. The newer record dominated the start of the show, with the one-two combo of “Dear Confessor” and “Jarhand”; the reverse of how Fables begins, this might actually have been a better way to open up, especially live, as “Confessor” gave the evening a slow, growing boil, displaying the impressive duel/duet XX/XY vocals of Calder and singer/guitarist Brooke Gallupe. Meanwhile, the following Fables standout road that wave with a driving, poppy fury, thanks to its jangly beats and Calder’s glowing voice. Gallupe’s throat then took center stage with “C’mon Sea Legs”, a seaman’s call to limbs that really benefited, live, from all the places it could go.
Just as Fables was a real step up from Ones and Zeros, things mostly slipped a bit whenever the group shifted back in time to the earlier record. “On/Off” and “Phone Number” were both more straightforward, and a little darker (relatively speaking), but Immaculate Machine are at their best when they’re wide and upbeat. They hit that nail on the head, in two very different ways, with their last two Fables pieces of the night, “Roman Statues” and “Nothing Ever Happens”. “Nothing” was probably the best example of the band’s speedy, cheery sound from Fables (Gallupe and Calder even intro-ed into the song with a joke, Gallupe saying, “This is about our hometown of Victoria, British Columbia” – with Calder quickly following, “You guys don’t have this problem”). But “Statues” played much finer and higher, more akin to sweet, Swedish indie-pop.
The Fables highpoint led into the Ones and Zeros highpoint with “Broken Ship”; like “Nothing” for Fables, “Broken” was the top representation of its own album, as some pressing and powerful indie-rock. But these were not the night’s highpoint; no, that was last left to band’s cover of the quintessential sixties flashback track, The Zombies’ “Time of the Season”. Featured in hippie montages everywhere from The Simpsons to Tampax ads to NBC’s The 60’s miniseries, and covered by everyone from the Dave Matthews Band to Snowden to recent American Idol runner-up Blake Lewis, the flower child’s “Stand By Me” actually deserves that level of ubiquity, thanks to its sweet psychedelica and call-and-response portion. And Immaculate Machine did right by it, effortlessly and enjoyably, with Gallupe expertly and engagingly leading the crowd in the back and forth of “What’s your name?” and “Who’s your daddy?”
In fact, that might have been the perfect way to go out on a high note, but while Ones’ following “So Cynical” and “There’s No Such Thing As a Future” are strong, their downbeat nature felt a little off after such a great “Time”, “Cynical” a little too slow and sloshing, “Future” a little too hyper and pushy. But you can’t say the diverse crowd – drawing from as far away as Halifax, Nova Scotia – didn’t rock ‘n’ roll to Immaculate Machine’s pumped-up energy and sound, whatever the note. With only a couple of dates in the Pacific Northwest in December, and Spain in January, one can only hope the band’s season comes back in no time at all.