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Friday, April 2, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Night Watch / Tom Scanlon

Shane Tutmarc: Eastside's very own neo-Brian Wilson

"You look like I could use a drink," sings Shane Tutmarc, on "New Old Friends," the new Dolour album. "I never had time to stop and think/Who even owns the songs I sing ... Who wants to be a superstar?"

The leader of the one-man (plus rotating collaborators) band Dolour, young Tutmarc came blasting out of the Eastside three years ago: At 21, he released a wonderful, Beach Boys-influenced pop CD, "Waiting for a World War." A quick follow-up, "Suburbiac," was solid but a bit of a disappointment, lacking the creative energy of its predecessor. Now Tutmarc is back at the top of his game on the third Dolour CD, "New Old Friends," a not-to-be-missed collection of indie pop, with Tutmarc channeling Brian Wilson, the Beatles — even Burt Bacharach.

As a writer, Tutmarc can be wryly humorous, particularly on up-tempo rock numbers, such as "I Smell a Lawsuit" and "Before Tonight's Big Party." He's at his finest, though, on songs such as "Cheer Up Baby" and "Next 2U," when he is being sincere and laying out his emotions; that's when his wild potential comes close to fruition.

The best song on this fine album is "October 29th," a spectacular, Flaming Lips-esque number that rolls along on summer breezes, then suddenly lunges forward on Phil Peterson's cello — that's right, cello, but played with rock-guitar vigor.

Tutmarc's relaxed voice leads the listener on a nostalgia trip:

"If we meet somewhere
where the smoke clears
will I find
the things in you
that seemed so rare long ago ... "

The wonderful song — which indeed suggests music that seemed so rare long ago — ends "New Old Friends," a welcome addition to the Seattle soundscape.

Tutmarc will be singing from it at the all-ages Vera Project at 8 tonight ($8). Dolour also has a show April 15 at the Hideaway, in between dates in L.A. and New York. He doesn't seem like he wants to be a superstar, but if the right people see him, he just might become one.

• "The year was 2000. The Wackacons had invaded the Emerald City. Parties grew listless and nightclubs suffered greatly under the Wackacons' ever-growing influence. Repetitive loop manufacturers, lackluster DJs and angst-filled metal pushers aligned with the Wackacons and quickly flourished in our once-great city ... It is the primary objective of Optimus Rhyme to rid the world of Wackacon oppressors."

Optimus Rhyme's self-titled recording lives up to the spirit of the bizarre press release from which we quote above. If you get the weirdly creative "Optimus Rhyme," click immediately to track No. 2, "Cybernetic Circuits," a hilarious, fast-flowing rap that meshes technology and hip-hop boastin'. Only in Seattle will you get an MC thumping his chest about hacking:

"I got five hard drives with 89 gigabytes.
I eat databases, networks and websites.
I got vicious viruses that devour these satellites.
Encryption deciphering all that you read and write
."

Optimus Rhyme features a programmer (Powerthighs, the guitar player) and Web designer (Wheelie, one of three MCs).

Optimus Rhyme celebrates its new album with a show 9 p.m. Saturday at the Rainbow ($5, with 100th Monkey also performing). And "live" show really does mean live, here. Powerthighs plays guitar, Stumblebee bass and Grimrock drums, with Wheelie, Cyberman and Broken English on microphone duty.

Wheelie explains the band's name: "It's definitely not Optimus as in 'number one' or 'the best.' It basically represents that we don't take ourselves too seriously and that we're in this to have fun and get creative."

Produced by Jack Endino, who messed around with Nirvana recordings back in the day, "Optimus Rhyme" is released by Tacoma's Narcofunk Records (www.narcofunk.com), which is also home to 100th Monkey. Endino also worked on the 100th Monkey album, so he is getting used to hip-hop — well, maybe not quite: "The funny thing is that Jack normally works with rock bands, so when he was feeling the music he'd make these air-guitar moves," Wheelie says. "I've never really seen that done before to hip-hop music, but I felt like doing it myself ... "

Getting back to a recurring Optimus Rhyme theme, what about all this Wackacon stuff? One can imagine it's an extension of the hip-hop word "wack" (meaning: lame), but what exactly is Wackacon? Wheelie answers, more or less:

"Have you ever been to show in Seattle and seen a whole room full of people standing almost perfectly still while some band is rocking out on stage? That's weird to me. It seems to me like people should be dancing or moving when they listen to music. I definitely think that that's a manifestation of the Wackacon presence around here. They have a hold on people."

• Wackacons stay away: The disco-pop-rock band United State of Electronica will have the Crocodile dancing at 10 p.m. Saturday ($8). Seattle's U.S.E. will play from its new CD. U.S.E's Jason Holstrom, Jon ("e. Rock") Khanjian and Noah Weaver also appear on friend Tutmarc's Dolour CD. On top of that, the three are the core of Wonderful, which rivals Dolour as the best indie pop band playing around Seattle. (Unfortunately, the wild success of U.S.E. has meant only sporadic Wonderful shows.)

• Another exceptionally talented Seattle band has a CD-release show this weekend: FCS North ("focus north") jams from its latest at Chop Suey at 10 p.m. Saturday ($7). This extraordinary crew melds rock, jazz and hip-hop.

• Hip-hop massive: Blackalicious, DJ Shadow and Portland's Lifesavas toss rhymes and beats at the Showbox at 9 p.m. Tuesday ($30).

• Sam Beam, the one-man band known as Iron and Wine, performs his haunting songs at 10 p.m. Tuesday at Neumo's ($12). His new Sub Pop album is "Our Endless Days." The New York Times says Beam "tells his tales one mumbling phrase at a time. ... The whispering conceals sturdy melodies and striking phrases ('Sodom, South Georgia, woke like a tree full of bees'), and although it's hard, at first, to fit it all together, each listen makes it easier to hear these luminous songs whole."

Tom Scanlon: tscanlon@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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