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Begin Anew

Chris Opilla
Juicy Fruit: A recent Ottobar gig showed the Oranges to be a band to watch.

By Lee Gardner | Posted 8/16/2000

Enon, The Slow Jets, The Oranges Band

Enon, The Slow Jets, The Oranges Band


Ohio-based Brainiac was one those bands so filled-to-bursting with crazy energy and good ideas that it seemed the members almost vibrated when standing still. Baltimore's own Roads to Space Travel vibrated a bit too, and shared Brainiac's fondness for blurted manifestos, spiky guitars, jerky time signatures, and breezy New Wave-ish melodies.

Sadly, Brainiac is gone (frontman/sparkplug Tim Taylor was killed in a car crash in 1997) and Roads went on "extended hiatus" earlier this year. But things were vibrating anew as Roads singer/guitarist Roman Kuebler took the Ottobar stage with his new band, the Oranges, to share a bill with Enon (featuring former Brainiac guitarist John Schmersal) and the Slow Jets (featuring erstwhile Roads members Greg Preston and Tim Baier). The New New Wave may be over, but a brand-new New New Wave is apparently a go.

Singer/guitarist Kuebler started the Oranges late last year, and the band is still a work in progress. The recent Five Dollars EP (on local label Morphius) features tinny ray-gun organ, but there was no keyboard in sight on the Ottobar stage, and it wasn't missed as the guitars/ bass/drums four-piece launched into a rampaging version of Dollars' "Nextstopexjock." The Oranges have kept Roads' tricky time signatures and spiky guitars, but the new band's sound is both more straightforward and more subtle, full of off-kilter guitar licks that slide satisfyingly into place in time to underline the punchy choruses. A slow number midset worked less well than rockers such as the strutting "What Got You Off the Hook"--maybe because the new incarnation of the band (featuring recent recruits Dan Black on guitar and Tim Johnston on bass) seemed so eager to go ker-pow, which it did. This is a band to watch.

Though the Slow Jets have been around for several years now under the aegis of original Roads bassist Preston and guitarist Baier (who have since switched axes), it has recently gained momentum and a new drummer in Landspeedrecord!'s pounding Marc Berrong. The Jets' set, stuffed with material from a forthcoming album, retained the wiry, nervy nature of the Roads sound but also broadcast plenty of classic pop melody. The trio closed with a cover of A Flock of Seagulls' 1982 fop-pop classic "Telecommunication," just in case anyone missed the New Wave connection.

Enon's Schmersal dropped his own New Wave nugget during his quartet's set, muttering "Jenny, Jenny/ Who can I turn to?" between songs. (Tommy Tutone, anyone?) But tonight it sounded like a serious plea. With former Blonde Redhead bassist Toko creating a suitably squonchy bottom end, Enon ably reproduced the kitchen-sink experimental pop of its debut album, Believo! (SeeThru Broadcasting), but Schmersal seemed a little low-key and lost onstage. Still, the geeked-out throb of tunes such as "Rubber Car" and the delicate pop melodies of "Get the Letter Out" and "Conjugate the Verbs" won over the crowd. Enon ended the night by devolving "Verbs" into a noisy rave-up/crash-down, leaving the stage with instruments still cycling and feeding back. High atop a stack of amps, an old oscilloscope glowed with a curved green line.

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