Grrr...eat: Bishop Allen Play Rickshaw Stop
Has a band ever dared to be as cute and cuddly as Brooklyn’s Bishop Allen? And who can resist a clutch of brainy indie rockers with such a light touch, such a likable sense of humor? You get a good dose of Bishop Allen’s whimsy on this year’s Dead Oceans release, Grrr..., and you wouldn’t be out of line to expect more when the combo appears tonight, Nov. 9, at Rickshaw Stop.
So pay no mind to the Ivy League credentials (Justin Rice and Christian Rudder first met as punk/indie DJs at Harvard’s WHRB), auspicious beginnings (ex-Rice and Rudder roommate and mumblecore filmmaker Andrew Bujalski gave the band its name) and critically acclaimed side projects (Rudder appeared Bujalski’s Funny Ha Ha and Rice in Mutual Appreciation and the band popped up en masse in Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist) -- Bishop Allen doesn’t seem to take itself too seriously -- on recording. Exhibit one: the vibe-speckled “The Lion & the Teacup” and lyrics like “Oh Pobrecita, / Tragic little teacup, / Did he go and shatter you again? / But the way that you're crying, / Is more like a lion, / Who licks her wounds before she seeks revenge.” Vibes, tambourines and shakers cavort across the sunny surfaces of the song, evoking pleasant associations with Jonathan Richman and other songwriting savants.
That said, Bishop Allen aren’t afraid to skew heavy, as the big distorted guitars kick in among the airy percussive notes of “South China Moon” -- inspiring one to envision a jungle king capering clunkily through a china shop. But those moments are few and far between. Stripped-down, eccentrically arranged numbers like “Dirt on Your New Shoes” betray Bishop Allen’s true heart -- and love of off-the-cuff-sounding, busk-worthy sounds. Is this just a youthful side project, before Rice, Rudder and company settle down and grow up? Does it matter? Picture the effervescent, ß-pop, southerly sounds of Vampire Weekend aired out, shaken, and given the faintly glittered veneer of much ‘80s pop and AOR radio listening. Bishop Allen bare their teeth with Grrr... and -- taking a cue from William Blake and other artists who have answered the call of the wild, the child’s mind -- smile.
Bishop Allen performs Monday, Nov. 9, 7:30 p.m., at Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell, SF. Throw Me the Statue and Darwin Deez open. $15. (415) 861-2011, www.rickshawstop.com