Fans of their latest, Population (QRO review), might be surprised to see how young the seven-piece band is, given how much their sound has grown since last year’s Phages EP and 2005’s Underwater Cinematographer. But that maturity hasn’t dimmed the band’s fire. If anything, they’re more hyperactive now, something that really came through in their set at Maxwell’s (QRO venue review) in Hoboken, NJ, on Saturday, September 22nd.
Hailing from the Toronto suburb of Milton, The Most Serene Republic certainly bear hallmarks of the Toronto music scene’s collective approach, seen in bands like Arts & Crafts labelmates Broken Social Scene and Stars, and MSR opened things up with “Sherry and Her Butterfly Net”, maybe the track most representative of this kind of music. The lower volume of the vocals on the record was replicated on stage, but that seemed to be an error, as singer Adrian Jewett kept giving the ‘higher’ sign for both his microphone and singer/guitarist Emma Ditchburn’s. But this didn’t stop Jewett from delivering a spastic, ecstatic performance, especially as they got deeper into the evening.
Phages’ “You’re Not an Astronaut” and “Anhoi Polloi” followed, on a night where The Most Serene Republic drew almost as much from that EP as their new LP. While “Astronaut” might have been a bit too atmospheric, that soon in the set-list, “Anhoi” was definitely taken up a notch, live, with more fury in its sound. One virtue many of the songs had live, vs. on recording, was that the sometimes excessive instrumental intros and outros were either fleshed out and infused with energy, or dropped entirely.
At the center of the evening was the Population–Phages–Underwater Cinematographer trilogy of “The Men Who Live Upstairs”, “Phages”, and “(Oh) God”. On stage, the enveloping “Men” was less choral, more anthemistic, making it even better. It also meant a greater shift when the high and choral “Phages” was brought out, something that served the piece quite well. And the night had another nice change, from the refined “Choral” to the fuzzier, woollier “(Oh) God”.
While the lower-key “Threehead” failed to capitalize on the night’s energy, the Phages piece did serve as lead-in to a few minutes of instrumental-only jam, highlighted by drummer Tony Nesbitt-Larking’s solo, where Jewett stepped off the stage and into the crowd, in order to watch his friend play. “Compliance” did take advantage of the band’s extra spark to go even more explosive, while its Population-mate “Career In Shaping Clay” managed to combine the high and the energy, into the evening’s high point.
The Most Serene Republic playing "Career In Shaping Clay" live @ Maxwell's, Hoboken, NJ:
Also see them playing "Compliance"
Musical high point, that is. The funniest part of the evening had to be right after the penultimate number, Underwater’s indietronic “Content Was Always My Favorite Color”. Jewett, who’d already delighted the crowd at times by joining them, playing trumpet, and having one of the most expressive faces you’ll see in indie-rock, saved his best for last. After thanking the crowd and “wish[ing] your blogs the best”, he wished for The Most Serene Republic that they would get a 9.2 on Pitchfork, as “we will achieve successful success, because they said so…” He then regaled the crowd in full faux-excitement, “We’ll be set for life! Oh, if we get a 9.2, we’ll be huge! After the show, we’ll get blowjobs! ‘Cause whatever that says is correct.”
Jewett dedicated the final song of the night, Population’s “Present of Future End”, to Pitchfork, but really, it was for everyone. The ‘wind rushing through your hair’ speed of the anthem left quite a lasting impression, and so did the night as a whole.