Venus Bogardus, Spitting At The Glass

Published on February 10th, 2010 in: Current Faves, Music, Music Reviews, Reviews |

By Jemiah Jefferson

When does influence become imitation? When does homage become outright copying? These questions illuminate upon listening to this album, the third from UK-to-Santa Fe art rock transplants Venus Bogardus.

A collection of taut, propulsive guitar riffs, urgent vocals, and peculiar lyrics makes its case in rocking tracks like “Flat Planes,” “Judy Davis Lips,” and “Spitting at the Glass,” and it takes a few spins and a few songs for it to sink in that this sounds almost exactly like Evol-era Sonic Youth. The fact that the two primary members, Hannah Levbarg and James Reich, trade off on the male and female vocals just makes the similarity more obvious, especially with Levbarg’s occasionally breathy, bored delivery.

venus bogardus spitting cover

It’s a better Kim Gordon impersonation than is usually attempted. “Gulf of Mexico,” in particular, could be tucked into side two of Goo and it’d be right at home. “Brett Smiley Pile-Up,” the eighteen-minute-long closing track, devolves into noisy jamming after Levbarg repeats dreamily, “Share my basket and I’ll tell you you’re my lucky star.” It’s a strange kind of nostalgia for a feedback-drenched New York City scene of the mid-1980s, which probably took place before these musicians were born.

The remarkable thing about Venus Bogardus is that all this musical shape shifting works, at least for this particular fan of the Youth. These folks are not rip-off artists; their approach seems more reverential, like a blurry photocopy of a vintage Maximum RockNRoll.

It helps that Youth is not their only source; they also reveal some of the slanted harmonic structures of Graham Coxon, some sensitive folky touches reminiscent of Hunky Dory Bowie, and pointy touches of early XTC. It all melds together with insanely catchy songs and a sexy, relentless, punky, danceable vibe.

Who knows if Venus Bogardus has an original bone in their bodies? And what, in the end, does it matter when the music’s this good?

Spitting At The Glass was released on February 9 via Five03 Records. For more on the band, and to hear tracks from the album, check out the band’s Official Site or MySpace page. Venus Bogardus will be touring the US West Coast through the end of March.

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