The first thing you notice about TV Girl is that it sounds old-fashioned and modern at the same time. Brad Petering and Trung Ngo piece their music together from digital beats and samples of old songs from artists including Todd Rundgren, Bob Dylan, and Tracy Chapman, among more obscure sources. (The Rundgren sample got the band in some trouble when Rhino Entertainment, which owns the rights to the original recording, issued a takedown notice.) It’s a relaxed sound, even when the synth drums hit hard, and it seems a little retro even when it’s obviously put together on computer.
The next thing you notice is the real kicker. Ngo’s vocals make him sound like he wouldn’t hurt a fly, and that’s in keeping with the overall laid-back vibe, but the lyrics take unexpected twists. One recent song bears the lascivious title “Sarah (Meet Me in the Sauna),” but it’s really an innocent love song from a teenager to a female lifeguard, who is obviously never, ever going to meet him in the sauna.
Several of the songs are about songwriting itself. “Benny and the Jetts” isn’t a cover — it’s a song about a girl who was listening to the Elton John classic as she drove away. In “Your Own Religion,” Ngo references Paul Simon. “Lizzy Come Back to Life” begins with “I wrote a new song/ It sounds like one of your songs” and ends with Ngo wishing he could go back to New York in the ’70s and hang out with Patti Smith and Richard Hell.
Tropical Popsicle, Clockart, and Kynan also perform.
TV GIRL: Soda Bar, Thursday, December 22, 8:30 p.m. 619-255-7224. $5.