Speed critics

Mar 5, 2008 at 12:00 am

No shit. One can learn a lot about another from their musical tastes. For example, if someone hates Simple Plan but adores Harry Nilsson, it says that person's probably worth accompanying on a drinking night out, and that he or she is most likely on the same page about culture, music and life. Some things are obvious. Good songs connect.

After digging the band live a number of times and living with its songs, we figured we were on the same page as the young, Commerce Township-based Satin Peaches. The band's aesthetic and skill transcends its youth (guitarist Ryan Wiese is the oldest, turned 21 last summer), because some either get it, or they don't.

Also, the band jaws on reverently about Burt Bacharach, the Beatles and the Velvets while recognizing the weird juxtaposition of sadness and singsong in Radiohead's The Bends — important stuff in pop, to be sure.

What's more, there's an intellectual curiosity in the Peaches' brand of big, deceptively simple sticky pop and hushed passages; it's a musical literacy that belies tender ages.

In frayed fringes and denim flares, ironic T's and waves of tousled locks, the loose-limbed Peaches arrive at the MT headquarters shivering cold, looking every bit up-to-their-moment. They're ready to drink, ready to listen. (Well, three of 'em anyway, guitarist Wiese is on holiday in sunny California with his squeeze. He phones in a few times, makes an indecipherable comment or two, and is never heard from again.)

Songwriter-singer George Morris carries himself with a kind of natural, unaffected rock-'n'-roll-star refinement — perfectly angled cigarette lodged between thin fingers, legs crossed, flowing scarf, unhurried demeanor — it's as if he'd slithered from the womb like that. (And his singing rasp could be called Lennonesque.)

What's weird is that these guys, including bassist Aaron Nelson and drummer Jeremy Smith, are disarmingly polite; they light up in the "smoking section" only, say "thank you" often, listen when another talks, and never speak ill of women — mothers, girlfriends whatever.

It's easy to see why SP landed a fat deal with Island Records and Oasis' management and producer. It's not because the band wrote, rehearsed its ass off and created its own reality on MySpace (which is basically how the band got its deal). Lots of bands do that. And it's not because a member or two quit. No, the Peaches future glimmers like a string of Tahitian pearls because the band is good. Remember when a band had to be good to be worthy of attention?

The Peaches' next UK single, "Wash It Away," will hit in May, followed by a late-summer mini-album. (A major American record deal is in the works.) The band is UK-bound again this summer with, among other shows, coveted slots on major festivals.

The two Rate-A-Song rules: 1) The band drinks. 2) They listen blindly — the Peaches weren't made aware of the artist or band, local or whatever, until after commenting.

Once the band assembled and got oiled on Red Stripe, Killian's and Heineken, they were ready to rip:

Mick Bassett & the Marthas (local): "Found in a  Bottle" from the Here's the Whirlwind EP
(The Peaches recognized the song and band immediately, excitement ensued.)

George Morris: Mick, you fuckin' rule ... that's awesome.

Jeremy Smith: Nice one ...

Aaron Nelson: Yeah, that's one of my favorite tracks by Mick.

• North Mississippi Allstars: "Shake" from the  album Hernado (Songs of the South)

Morris (shaking his head): I didn't like that at all. It sounded like a bunch of white guys playing the blues.

Smith (no hesitation): I would not pay to see them play live!

Nelson (his eyes move to the other guys, then around the room, as if he's pulling verbal punches): Uh ... I didn't like the song.

• Simple Plan: "Take My Hand" single from the forthcoming album Simple Plan (Atlantic/Lava)
(The song lasts maybe 20 seconds before the three Peaches role eyes and swig beer (in unison) in complete disgust.)

Morris: I wouldn't go as far to say it has everything I hate about pop music today, but it's really close to having everything I hate about pop music today.

Smith: I'm gonna have to agree. ... If it wasn't for the singer it wouldn't be so bad. It's a step-up from Fall Out Boy but that's not saying much, huh.

Nelson (bored): I can't stand the vocalist, the production, everything.

• Harry Nilsson: "Mr Richland's Favorite Song" from  the album Ariel Ballet, Japanese mini-LP reissue (BMG)

Morris: I really like that. Usually that kind of voice is too good for my tastes, but here it worked.

Smith: I liked it. It sounds like I heard it before ... who is that?

Nelson (awake now): That's the best one yet for sure. The ending was kinda weird, the buh-ba-shua-bua-blee-buha thing ...

• Goldfrapp: "Clowns" from the album Seventh  Tree (Mute)

George: (Eyes bright, head shaking): That's amazing. Who is that?

Smith: That sounded like the coolest track ever off of one of those CDs you put in when you're taking a bubble bath or something. Know what I mean?

Nelson: I liked it. But it wasn't really memorable, like I'd want to listen to more by them, whoever it was. It got better as it went on, I guess.

• Morning Light: "You're Not Mine" from the Sounds  of Love EP (Fearless)

Morris: It's the same type of bad as Simple Plan. It's better, but that voice. I can't stand that voice.

Smith: It sounds like every band on 89x, that hyper-produced thing. There are some bands that seem like they could sound cool but they get with a producer who turns them into something so bad.

Morris: It's like they make the singer sing that way.

Smith: There's an idea there that could be cool if it was executed right ...

Nelson: Once everything but the drums came in, it turned to shit. Now I have other songs from 89x stuck in my head just from hearing that song!

• Ty Pharaoh (local): "Mr. Sawyer's Opus" from the album God, Love, War (no label)

Morris: The sample was kinda boring but the rhymes were cool. It wasn't macho, I like that.

Smith: Being a drummer, I never listen to lyrics so if it's not smooth and the rhythms aren't good ... that's why I like '90s hip hop because the rhythms are simple but cool. Now, once you hear the first four beats — this sampled drum beat — it's just the most boring shit ever.

Nelson: I actually liked the groove! It's better than all the rap on the radio ...

• Nick Lowe: "Breaking Glass" from the album Jesus of Cool, reissue (Yep Roc)

Morris: I liked it. I'm curious to know what it is? It's gotta be from the late '70s.

Smith: I liked it too. I really like the piano solo.

Nelson: I really like the vocals, reminds me of Paul Simon's Graceland.

• Gore Gore Girls (local): "Fox in a Box" from the album Get the Gore (Bloodshot)

Morris: I didn't mind it. It's straight dirty rock, but not quite dirty enough. I'll take it.

Smith: Is that the Hard Lessons? If that's actually classic rock, good for them.

Nelson: Dull.

• Sera Cahone: "You Might as Well" from the forthcoming album Only as the Day is Long

Morris (About 30 seconds into song): I love this. I love the resolution in the chords ... the kind you hear over and over and it's always just as good every time.

Smith: I really liked that. Really liked it.

Nelson: Yeah, I thought it was a good song. Vocals are kind of a Cat Power thing ...

• Colin Stetson: "Stand, Walk" from the album New History Warfare Vol. 1 (Aagoo)

Morris: Yeah, dude, I like that kind of shit. It makes no sense at all.

Smith: The suspense, man. I wanted so bad for the drums to come in. And then when it ended the drums never came in. But that's OK. I liked that they never came in. Cool.

Morris: But it would've been corny if they did.

Smith: Yeah! But you still wanted to hear it.

Nelson (bored): It was alright. It was cool, interesting and creative and all that. But I wouldn't listen ...

The Satin Peaches - Friday, March 7 at Knights of Columbus (main hall), 9632 Conant; 313-871-8888. With Child Bite, the Hentchmen and Detroit Cobras.

Brian Smith is Metro Times features editor. Send comments to [email protected]