Saturday, January 03, 2009

"Why Not Me" / Locksley

The opening act for Ray Davies on his most recent tour was this effervescent young indie band out of Madison, Wisconsin, by way of Brooklyn. I for one was pleasantly surprised by Locksley's infectious music. With their bright, bouncy backbeat sound, these guys make no secret of their debt to British beat bands like the Beatles and the Kinks. In classic Britpop style, it's a four-man group -- two guitarists (Jesse and Kai), a drummer (Sam), and a bassist (Jordan, who's also Jesse's brother -- how's that for following the Kinks' example?). Bottom line: I loved 'em, and after the show I made sure to buy their self-released CD Don't Make Me Wait (available at a bargain price on their website if you should be so inclined).

Crowded into the Hammerstein Ballroom, there was a flock of teenage fangirls behind us who clearly weren't there for Ray. In no time we were slipstreaming on their Locksley infatuation. (Locksley's front man Jesse, in his stovepipe trousers and Spanish boots and shaggy haircut, is pretty damn adorable.) The sound was unfortunately muddy so I couldn't catch all the lyrics, but these guys know how to work a hook, and soon we oldsters were singing right along too.

This song was a clear highlight for me, with its punchy syncopated repetitions: "Oh, talk talk talk / Oh, shut your mouth / A little kiss kiss kiss, / Come on and help me out." While some of Locksley's songs are earnest pop confections, this one has a little more grit and angst to it, as if you'd thrown a little Replacements into that Britpop mix. Skipping along through simple major chords, it's upbeat and yet urgent -- or as the next lines put it, "Desperate times call for desperate measures, / and desperate desires lead to desperate pleasures."

Hormones seem to be raging, and the emotional landscape is muddled and confused: "You know? / Oh yeah, you know don't you? / Oh god, you don't? / Oh no, you don't, do you?" It's not just sex putting him in a tailspin, but social identity issues as well: "Won't you teach teach teach me if you can / How to be more cosmopolitan / Who needs class when you got money? / Well I've got cash, but you've got everything else."

As the song pogos along, seduction becomes less important; what really matters is matching this girl's ineffable coolness: "Oh, it's so easy for you to be, / Just what everyone wants to be. / So, why not me? / Tell me, why not me?" Sneaky shifting verbs show just how malleable his identity can be: "Now listen to me, listen to me, /You're what I should be, what I could be....I'm willing to pay, begging to pay . . . get me a break, give me a break?" and eventually the pronouns start morphing as well: "Oh what can you do, what can I do, / To make you like me, make me like you?" That robust rhythm section, though, keeps him from sounding too neurotic -- that and Jesse's energetic, flirtatious vocals.

Will these guys make it? They were sure working their asses off that night, doing the most enthusiastic meet and greets out in the lobby, signing everything in sight. In this MySpace/Facebook age, self-promotion may be more important than having a label; for the moment, Locksley seems to be on the rise, getting attention from MTV and, well, opening for Ray Davies. They just may be the future of rock and roll -- I wish them well.

Why Not Me sample


Anonymous said...

glad to see you like locksley. i've been following them for years & am ecstatic to see them finally getting some attention! and that they got to open for one of their heroes!
just thought you'd be interested to know that 'why not me' was commissioned by mtv to be used as a theme song for a short-lived show called 'why can't i be you'. which locksley thought was going to be a sitcom, but actually was a reality show about people wanting to be other people.

Holly A Hughes said...

Cool to know! Sounds as if the song is better than the show was....