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Review: Marmoset at Radio Radio

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Marmoset, Richard Edwards, Vacation Club
Sept. 10, Radio Radio
Four stars

Friday night was a big one for Indy-based rock band Marmoset, and they responded by giving their fans a rare performance. The show was in celebration of the release of a 4-LP box set (on Indy-based label Joyful Noise) collecting Marmoset’s four full-lengths. Included in the collection is the band’s 2001 album Record in Red, which they played in its entirety on Friday, along with a few of their new tracks as well.

Marmoset are what could be considered local legends, not only because of their 16-year, six-album run, but because of their timeless, subdued cool which has influenced what amounts to nearly two generations of fans. The depth of that influence is apparent in the fact that their show was opened by one of Indianapolis’ biggest musical success stories, Richard Edwards of Margot and the Nuclear So and So's, and also by local up-and-comers Vacation Club.

Record in Red is a subdued but edgy piece of music — an iron fist inside a silk glove — and Marmoset played true to the album, while adding more instrumentation and loosening up the arrangements a bit. Most of the songs are bass-heavy and moody, dark and introspective at times, but with enough grounding in straight-up rock and roll to hit the listener in the pit of the stomach at the right time.

Take for example “Art Maker,” on which Marmoset founder and frontman Jorma Whittaker imitates a vaguely European accent over a simple, plodding bass-line augmented only by a plaintive synth progression and the most rudimentary percussion. The track is one example of the way Marmoset’s sometimes simplistic grooves on the album accomplish much with little, as the refrain “art maker, strangulator” rings in the ears for long after the song is over.

A few songs later, Marmoset pushed up the tempo a bit with the song “Lost Days for Ways,” a proto-punk jam using the same steady and straightforward bass line, but faster, and with a darker, minor chord sequence on the guitar that made the track really stand out in concert. They followed that up with “Frendamine,” a song that again, perhaps typifies the sound of Record in Red. Distant and bassy, with a twisted, early psychedelic-60s kind of vibe (“So promise me the moon/I wanna see the moon”). Marmoset capped off their set by playing a few of their new tracks that seemed to be continuing more in the vein of their most recent album, Tea Tornado (2009): a little bit on the brighter side and more up-tempo.

Prior to Marmoset, Richard Edwards got the crowd good and warmed up with a great set featuring a few Margot classics and a cover of Weezer’s “El Scorcho.” Supported by a full band for most of the set, Edwards and co. rocked-out with a few fun songs like one about the NBA player Arvydas Sabonis, before putting on a solo rendition of “Jesus Breaks Your Heart,” “El Scorcho,” and then closing it down with the hauntingly beautiful “I Do,” from Margot’s 2010 album Buzzard.

Those who may have gotten to the show late missed what might be one of the most exciting new bands from central Indiana. Vacation Club play a unique brand of experimental, even psychedelic garage-rock, unwinding their sometimes Ramones-sounding songs into interesting solos and tripped-out guitar effects. At the same time, they manage to pull off a cool, pace-shifting bluesy feel that’s reminiscent of rougher Rolling Stones tracks. Their song “That’s What You Get,” is a nice example of this. The band’s lead singer has an eerily-female sounding falsetto, that only adds to the band’s unique sound. Regardless what bucket you put them into, these young bucks have something good going on and are hopefully at the beginning of a long run.

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