bar room architecture

Why can’t I talk about “genuine sincerity” in music without it sounding like consolation, without conjuring up wounded, soaking wet dogs or second place blue ribbon produce at the 4-H fair. Centro-Matic are first place, they’ve made it to the summit without water or appropriate footwear . They’ve made a career out of making the perfect soundtrack for sunsets and first kisses, and except for a few obsessive bloggers and a few alt-weekly’s in texas, their existence is all but forgotten in the shockingly short time in between their excellent full lengths, eps, side projects, and collaborations.

I’d say that Denton, Texas’ best band are built for arenas, but I saw them a month or so ago at the Bowery Ballroom, and the show was charming in an absolutely awkward and small scale way. Most of the band were pretty stoic, except for lead singer/songwriter/guitarist Will Johnson who kept karate kicking the air in front of him and running about as far as his amp chord would let him, so instead I’ll say they’re built to knock the mirrors off the walls of midsized rock clubs, where all the angled reflections sticking out of exposed arms attached to fists still pumping towards the ceiling make the stage feel like madison square garden, double encore.

My favorite thing about Centro-Matic, unlike a lot of other favorite bands of mine (The Weakerthans, Built To Spill, etc.), is that the whole thing is absolutely a group project. The majority of the groups albums are expertly produced by drummer Matt Pence, who manages to make the whole thing sound goddamn democratic without also losing tug and pull. Bassist Mark Headman wraps his bass around the drums like an ace bandage, and it is impossible to underplay the additions of keyboardist/violinist/slide guitar player Scott Danborn.

My other favorite thing about Centro-Matic is how quickly their lyrics can and do trampoline from the surreal to the isolated to the spot-on. “Calling Thermatico” is, apparently, a song about steroid abuse but for all I know it could be the creation of a new underdog mythological demi-god, one whose power comes from being able to turn water into Lone Star Beer. I can’t think of a song that better sums up the first fifteen breaths after college graduation or the car ride home after the first job you quit on principle better than “Flashes and Cables,” and while “A Critical Display of Snakes,” off of this year’s double album Dual Hawks, is a song about a relationship falls apart, its a precise and defined enough song that you can picture the couple walking symmetrically in opposite directions from a car that just died in the flattest plain in the middle of Arizona.

Centro-Matic, man, they just make rock songs that are also unexpected letters from friends you’d lost touch with, the centripetal force after you’ve jumped towards the lake, pictures you found as bookmarks in good books you haven’t read in years, and the drunk feeling right after you’ve vommed in the alley and suddenly, in that second, you’re ready to get back up and go get another round.

A Critical Display of Snakes” is from the band’s 2008 album Dual Hawks

Calling Thermatico” and “For New Starts” are from the band’s 2006 album Fort Recovery (which, for all zero of you keeping track, was tied my second favorite album from that year)

The Mighty Midshipman” and “Flashes and Cables” are from the band’s 2003 album Love You Just The Same.

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