|These Arms Are Snakes
November 18, 2004 - Neumos - Seattle, WA
|review by Brian Connolly|
|These Arms Are Snakes are caught in a genre limbo. Show promoters don't know what to do with them since they're not really indie rock, but they're not screamie enough to be called hardcore. They're all out rock that doesn't get caught in a trap of masturbatory testosterone, which is why show promoters seem to be confused as to what kind of show to bill them for.
Apparently the verdict is that they're a metal band.
This show wasn't technically a These Arms Are Snakes show since the headliner was a metal band named Isis and the opener was (also) a metal band named Wormwood. Sandwiched between these two acts was These Arms Are Snakes. I strolled in midway through Wormwood's epic adventure through the throes of metal under the impression that Isis and Wormwood were the opening acts for the popular Seattle band and was quite surprised to find out that Isis, whom I've never heard, was headlining.
So let's cut to the chase. I don't particularly like metal. I once did, but I can no longer stomach it. I leaned against Neumos' balcony railing for Wormwood's set waiting for the chuggity-chugging to end and relished the fact that once These Arms Are Snakes played, I could gingerly leave the premises.
These Arms Are Snakes' debut full length Oxeneers or The Lion Sleeps When Its Antelope Go Home is the best rock album of this year. This is a fact. Take the time to digest this fact because you will need to understand it in order to read the rest of this article. I'm not referencing "rock" as that all encompassing label we use for any band that uses a guitar and a drumset. I'm talking about real rock. Music that you could possibly play while the sky opens up and swallows the earth whole. Bearing this fact in mind, imagine the year's best rock album being performed live. Yes, this performance was pretty awesome.
Since the band is no longer forced to peddle the same five songs from their debut EP This is Meant to Hurt You, they can focus their set on the new jams from Oxeneers which is every bit as hook-y and amazing but with the expected maturity of a band who has had over a year to cultivate its own style.
I could go on about the wailing guitar delay and the driving bass, but then again, you could just listen to the album to get the idea. The more important issue to be discussed concerning this band is lead singer Steve Snere. He's a scrawny man with stringy hair, but be not fooled; the boy commands the stage with charisma and character than can only be described as comically self-aware. He puts the microphone inside his mouth and moans. He wraps the microphone around his neck and chews on the cable. He sits atop amp stacks while striking the drum kit's crash cymbal. He's not just standing there delivering some words he wrote. He's doing what a lead singer ought to do: entertain.
Something to note about Snere's techniques in entertaining a crowd is his penchant for microphone tricks. Every lead singer who doesn't play an instrument has certain skills with which they like to occupy the downtime, and the greatest past time of the lead singer is microphone-play. Some, such as Cedric Bixler of The Mars Volta, like to toss microphone stands into the air. Others, such as Steven Tyler of Aerosmith, are fans of tying various ribbons to their stands and swinging them around. Steve Snere is a microphone twirler. He doesn't seem to be a fan of the microphone stand. He's more the type to swing the microphone cord around his head and let it land softly on his breast. He has quite the knack for this art too, he's no novice. Swinging it left and right, doing figure eights, wrapping it around his head, neck, arms, and waist... he can seemingly do it all and I must say that it's quite entertaining.
Disregarding the presence of shitty metal bands, this show proved to me that These Arms Are Snakes are a powerful band capable of keeping the audience moving and listening. The youthful all-ages crowd bobbed their heads and flailed in unison to the kicked out jams even after Wormwood bored them to tears. I can't tell you how Isis performed since I was gone by the time TAAS tore down their equipment. In my mind, everyone else was too.