Nineteen ninety-five — ah, those were the good old days. Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera still had their Mickey Mouse ears, the Backstreet Boys were known only in Europe, Carson Daly was still a loser. It was a beautiful time, a time when a solid Northwestern indie band like Seaweed could get a major label contract, and when the seminal drummer, Dave Grohl, of the seminal Northwestern band, Nirvana, could reveal himself as a power-pop natural, cheeky enough to make a video based on a Mentos commercial — certainly not the act of a guy about to follow his bandmate into the bittersweet hereafter. Yep, those were some good times.
Joe Davis of the Pinehurst Kids apparently thought so, too. He and the band named for his hometown in Idaho didn’t get their first album out until nearly three years after those mid-decade salad days, but all the pieces were there: an affectionately upset lead singer, guitars that were all treble and twink, and that dropped grunge chord pounded out at a frenetic punk pace. It was, and is, perfect indie club music. As you’re listening to Bleed It Dry, the third full-length effort from the Pinehurst Kids, and you can almost see the black paint peeling off the pillars next to the stage and smell the stale beer.
Which is all fine and good. There are undoubtedly thousands of fans who like nothing more than bobbing their heads and occasionally patting their legs to the beat on a weekday night in a small club, and the Pinehurst Kids deftly balance angst with accessibility. Even jaded music critics have to admit that “Deconstruct”, “Spinning Out” and “Planet of the Apes” rip, clang and wail, respectively.
What none of them seem to do is stick out. Nothing makes you want to sing along, none of the chords sound any different from those of any other upbeat indie band, none of Davis’ hollow vocals or smart lyrics stick into you like a poison dart the way fellow Idaho native Doug Martsch’s or Modest Mouse singer Isaac Brock’s do. The Pinehurst Kids seem too “anti-” for any of that fanfare, introverted or extroverted.
And that’s just fine. All those kids bobbing their heads in understated recognition of membership in the International Wallflower Club don’t want their music mucked up by contrived displays of showmanship. Yet, the showmanship is lurking in there somewhere. Listen to “Shepherd to Lost Sheep”, a catchy piece of pop by any standard, and you realize that the only differences between the Pinehurst Kids and Blink 182 are a six-pack of Mountain Dew and some California sunshine. Lest you think that’s a putdown, Blink 182 is a perfectly serviceable pop-punk band, just as the Pinehurst Kids are a perfectly serviceable emo-pop basement band.
Unfortunately, basement bands are out. The windowless rehearsals, the amps deadened by layers of cement and insulation so the neighbors won’t complain, that quiet tragedy that works its way into the psyche — such kindnesses are for yesteryear, kids. These days it’s all about garage bands like the White Stripes, rawkus bastards who practice with the garage door opened and the amps cranked, daring the neighbors either to move away or come over and join the fun. It’s no 1995, that’s for sure. But then again, only one year was.