Review and photos – Sex With Strangers at the Biltmore Cabaret, Oct. 24 2009
– review by Mikala Taylor/photos by Natasha Zippan
Sex With Strangers used to be awkward. But enough about last night, har har. *ahem*
No, we’re talking about Vancouver band Sex With Strangers. And they, too, used to be a bit awkward. Their last album, The Modern Seduction, had its fair share of smiley local coverage, but it was a bit of a clunky patchwork and shows were occasionally dodgy. But they had a few fun tracks, like “Dance Commander”, a healthy obsession with robots (which is cool. Who doesn’t like robots?), and a storming lead singer called Hatch Benedict (the best name out of a band with otherwise silly fake handles). So far, so… okay.
But something’s changing. Sex With Strangers is emerging into a bit of a good band. Really good, in fact. Just ask the drunken university boys and girls who hopped on stage to dance at the band’s record launch last night. Sure, Glory Days at the Biltmore (with resident DJs My! Gay! Husband! and Sincerely Hana), attracts that je-ne-sais-quoi crowd of pissheads, but the thing is, you do want to dance to Sex With Strangers. Or with them. Whatever.
The latest album is called The Tokyo Steel (on local label Boutique Empire). It’s an ode to Japan, vocoders, new wave, punk, pretty melodies, twitchy dance music, ambient interludes and yeah, robots. Spin magazine named SWS as one of their fave undiscovered bands, calling them “moody synth pop” featuring Benedict’s “unearthly falsetto”.
But the new platter errs more on the side of danceable, party alt-anthems – pretty handy for a live show, even if it is a short set wedged in between DJs.
Which brings us to that. Last night’s outing, it has to be said, wasn’t Hatch’s best – battling tour flu with medicinal Jack Daniels, he wasn’t his usual animal self – but he is still among the city’s best front men. A sweaty mess of drama and playfulness, Benedict and co. (Isabelle “Bobbie” Dunlop – who’s also in Combine the Victorious – Magnus Magnum, Dallas Archangel and Wedge Beavers – see what I mean about the redonkulous names?) bounced their way through “Tokyo Steel”,” The Dawn of Sexy” and “We Want the Fire” – a vocoder-heavy track vaguely reminiscent of Apollo 440’s “Stop The Rock”, only not cheesy and way better. Whatever you think about vocoders, let’s face it – the robots would approve. And when cyborgs take over the planet to subjugate the human race, you can bet they’re going to save the bands who sound most like them. But anyway.
The Modern Seduction’s best dance tracks, i.e. “Dance Commander” and “Dance Police” eked their way in, but it was jumpy first single “New City Anthem” that sounded tremendous tonight, as Benedict joined the throng to celebrate. And there is lots to celebrate. There’s something really great about Sex With Strangers.
But enough about last night.