"Move the flipping* Audi [away from the front of the club]!" shouted one of the members of the Washington Social Club to the audience. They drew quite a crowd -including an Audi - for a headlining show at the Black Cat in Washington DC. I was not intrigued at first impression; I was there to see another local band and left two songs into the WSC's set both by force (friends had curfew) and choice (we stood outside waiting for a ride). I was startled by their eccentric demeanor, which included coming onstage to a recorded song that could belong to Bizet's opera Carmen. The WSC has opened for Phantom Planet and the Presidents of the United States of America and has received a decent amount of press coverage including a spot on a MTV's Advanced Warning.
DC has harbored such punk acts like Minor Threat and Jawbox, and it currently boasts Q and Not U and Black Eyes. Although the Washington Social Club would not fit in with the Dischord roster, they are, to some extent, influenced by their peers. In fact, they recently have returned from a string of dates on the not-so-much-punk-anymore Warped Tour. On their debut Catching Looks, they encourage people to dance and have fun; the sound is close to a mix of early Cure pop, Elvis Costello, and a bit of Hot Hot Heat.
From the very start of "On the Inside," this band lets you know they want listeners to dance, with Olivia Mancini's danceable bass line and Evan Featherstone's catching guitar notes. They are more obvious in their demand with song titles "Dancing Song" and "Modern Trance." Besides the subject of dancing, the WSC singa about being jobless and broke, which is something great to groove to. Martin Royle sneers, "Your friends have good jobs/but they're miserable/they might dress cool/but they're lame as hell" to Randy Scope's beats on the social commentary "On the Inside."
Royle's singing is more like chanting rather than smooth crooning. From the "I take my wallet out/but there's nothing in it/so flip* it man/let's get stupid/stupid's free" chant in "Dancing Song" to the "hey man you want something/to feel alright/do you feel alright?/I feel alright" incantation in "Charlie the Russian," Royle helps prove the WSC is a live band instead of a studio band. The recordings sound dry, especially on "Simple Sound," when Royle and the band chant "come on/come on/come on/come on/we've got to save this town;" it sounds unwelcoming. These simple lyrics could easily have more people chanting along at their concerts than at Dashboard Confessional concerts. Before I even came up with an opinion on the WSC, I involuntarily picked up a couple of lyrics, too.
Catching Looks is a fairly catchy debut, but it needs some improvements. The songwriting on the album is not very challenging; more intricacy is required in order for their next album to avoid a sophomore slump. Also, by the next recording they need to find a way to capture the live spirit of the band.
*edited for language
6.1 / 10
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