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October 25th, 2010

Review: School Of Seven Bells At Johnny Brenda’s Last Friday

sviib It’s hard to listen to School of Seven Bells’ driving harmonies without hearing the Cranberries’ anthemic “Dreams.” And as inspiration for the Brooklyn-based trio’s oneiric pop, it makes sense—singer Alejandra Deheza is supposedly a lucid dreamer. The aforementioned harmonies usually ricochet between Deheza and her identical twin sister Claudia, like on “Half Asleep,” a sparkling single off their 2008 debut album Alpinisms. But when they opened with the song upstairs at Johnny Brenda’s last Friday night, it sounded unexpectedly hollow. That’s because just a week or so before, the band announced on their Facebook page that Claudia was leaving the group for ever-vague ‘personal reasons.’ That leaves Alejandra, formerly of On!Air!Library!, and guitarist Benjamin Curtis of Secret Machines—who started SVIIB (as they are often annoyingly abbreviated) when they met as openers on tour with Interpol—plus drummer Zach Saginaw, who’s joining them for this tour. (Incidentally, he proposed to his girlfriend on stage in NYC the night after their show in Philly; she said “Oui!”)

There was definitely a sense of something missing, and I’m sure every guy who came to see a pair of hot twins on stage was thoroughly disappointed. But Curtis and the remaining Deheza—a sprite with a Chantal Goya haircut who was wearing some kind of druid cape at the show—have a lot of star power on their own. There was a good amount of hair flipping and that sort of sexy thing two guitarists do where they grind their guitars on each other. The songs off their new album Disconnect from Desire benefited from the energy that Saginaw brings, and it was hard to remain motionless amid their lofty, danceable sounds.

Speaking of lofty: Pat Grossi, the singer of opening band Active Child, has the most impressive range I’ve heard on post-pubescent male, and, for me, prematurely filled whatever void was created by School of Seven Bells’ loss. Grossi’s otherworldly voice crooned over the ethereal plucking of his miniature harp in a surprisingly non-Joanna Newsom way—against the backdrop of Johnny Brenda’s floor-to-ceiling plastic bead curtains it was actually something more like the Vienna Boys Choir performing a Spencer’s Gifts. Indeed, Grossi sang with our own Philadelphia Boys Choir as a kid, and his sound is a pretty perfect marriage of that past and the fact that he met a lot of famous rappers growing up because his father worked for record label Priority Records (which accounts for the electronic drum beats that pulse behind his woozy vocals on tracks like “Wilderness”). Look out ladies—on top of all that he looks like one of the Winklevoss twins, or at least the actor who plays them in Social Network. (Ellen Freeman)

[Photo by Ellen Freeman['s cell phone.]]

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