|Keep it nice and loud.|
There we were, on day Seventy-Nine of the Project, back yet again at Club Dada. The cover was ten bucks for three bands. Who was first to take the stage? El Cento!
Fifty or so people were watching --- not bad for the opener --- as frontman Don Cento, in a natty black tie on black shirt, joked from the stage during sound check. Drum and bass completed the power trio. They were wearing black too. Come to think of it, lots of bands we've seen this summer have worn only black. Is that this summer's musical fashion statement? We aren't on that mailing list.
Sounding very much like Talking Heads if they'd grown up in Dallas listening to Devo and Television, El Cento knocked song after song out of the venue. The vocals were strong and clear (again, Chris Carmichael is a sound master), the music tight. Three terrific songs in, more folks started to moving closer to the stage.
We'd seen El Cento quite some time ago, and liked them, but they were light-years ahead of that earlier show. Strong from touring, they took charge of the stage and made greatness look effortless. Don had an easy, confident rapport with the crowd; early on, he cheerfully mentioned that Beyond Thunderdome was playing on Dada's TV, and it was switched off. He hadn't been having a Rock Star Moment, trying to impose his will or anything like that, but it was clear that El Cento's music was the more entertaining option.
The guys are so talented, the songs --- New Wave love letters, but fresh and original, clearly from Don's heart --- are so terrific, that El Cento is definitely TV commercial-ready, major label-ready, major-tour-ready... Whatever defines success in this MP3 era, they should have lots of it.
There's a music lover out there somewhere who's wondering why he only likes things they don't make any more. He'll love El Cento.
To play devil's advocate, we're sure that there are some who might hear El Cento and at first flush wonder if they don't lay on the Talking Heads fixation a bit too heavy. There are flashes of David Byrne growl-vocals, there are the same seagull-cry guitar noises that instantly recall "This Must Be the Place;" the lyrics are even influenced by that Byrne algorithm that values euphony over sense. But to that, we would reply, first, that El Cento certainly puts it own spin on its influences rather than slavishly copying them. Second, that making the music that the Talking Heads would be making if David Byrne hadn't transcended Rock and gone on to World Art is no bad thing --- indeed, it's damned impressive and terrific fun.
In sum: New Wave pop-rock perfection. This is N's favorite Dallas band, and given what we've written about Slobberbone and the O's, that's saying a lot. They should be huge. You should see them. You should buy the album.