Too bad for San Francisco’s Dodos — some critics were not happy with the changes that producer Phil Ek brought to their sound on Time to Die. They whined that Ek cleaned up the rough edges, thereby losing some of the band’s earlier voltage. But having just gotten familiar with the Dodos and their sound, I am not burdened by such complaints. Time to Die is passionate, unanticipated, and welcome during a phase in rock history that may be remembered as the time when almost all indie rockers sounded alike. The Dodos are inventing a music that sometimes sounds rough and unfinished, even primitive, like a first take in a studio.
Drummer Logan Kroeber uses a stripped-down kit and injects a tribal vibe with his Dennis Wilson–meets-the-Surfaris ceaseless tom-tom trouncing. It follows that Meric Long’s acoustic guitar has to be jacked way over the top to keep up with that. Only two acoustic instruments, some singing — and already the ears have a lot to handle. And this year the Dodos added a vibraphonist, who is also handy with the effects pedals. Psychedelic folk? Not really. Call it folk music on dope, and never mind the critics.
For whatever reason, psychedelic folk (a ’60s phenom) saw a revival during this decade. The Dodos are deconstructionists of that sound. But having been raised on the traditional, I’m wanting to hear the sounds of a bass guitar and some keyboards, instruments that the Dodos find no use for. I admit, it took some getting used to — but this stripped-down version of the American garage band utilizes the negative space created by the absence of the familiar to set up little pools of tensions in need of resolve. The effect does not repel but rather draws a listener in to ponder lyrics like “We spoke today to a jury/ You can see the doubt in their eyes/ Our words are trained to the angry/ There was nothing left to change their minds.”
DODOS: The Casbah, Monday, September 28, 8:30 p.m. 619-232-4355. $12 advance; $14 day of show.