Django Django got moves like Devo.
And I say that in the most sincerely flattering way. The young London-based quartet is by no means copying anything from their Ohio-born predecessors. Django Django have their own neo-psychedelic sound that comes off as a breath of fresh air — something somewhat unique in a time when a lot of people are embracing a lot of electro-pop tunes that recycle a lot of the same sounds. Django Django makes music that soars yet soothes and they don’t really retread any ground covered by Devo.
However, there is something in their presentation — the way they play with careless abandon, the way they sometime move in unison like robots and the way they sometimes look like geeky young fathers instead of rock stars — unmistakably smacks of the off-kilter, art-punk Devo. In the same way Devo approached new wave and shook it up with new approaches and occasionally different notes, so too does Django Django approaches its neo-psych with a fresh perspective, borrowing from surf rock and African melodies when it suits them.
At shows like the sold-out performance at the 9:30 Club Saturday night, singer and guitarist Vincent Neff throws himself into jumping around and singing tunes that sound like German odes to weather, as with the disarming breakout song “Hail Bop.” He wears a patterned collar shirt, which matches the shirts of the other Scots in the band although they each have different symbols repeated in their patterns. The uniformity of their appearance seems another nod, intentional or no, to Devo. Jimmy Dixon backs up Neff on bass. Tommy Grace, looking like a young Thomas Dolby in training, seizes his keyboards in a manner that is occasionally graceful and occasionally herky-jerky. Drummer David Maclean, of course, sits in the back, keeping time. But he’s also the producer and perhaps mastermind of this show.
The band essentially played through the 13 tracks on their debut self-titled album, tweaking the lineup of the playlist enough that it rolled out more smoothly in concert. It was a good effect, as the electronic “Introduction” set the scene and built anticipation to “Hail Bop,” a song apparently warning us to keep an eye on the future. A few songs later, we have rolled into “Firewater,” an ode to drinking, and later “Love’s Dart,” a sweeping song comparing those lost in love to being lost in the desert. The captivating “Skies over Cairo” captures some of those African rhythms quite prominently with its homage to Middle Eastern melodies. (The fact they have a remix album called “Hi Djinx!” also speaks to their sense of humor and interest in foreign beats.)
It will be very interesting to see where Django Django go from here, but you might think they will put energy into mastering and refining their sound in their next effort or their stage presence will devolve into a wider array of antics. They seem to have a terrific focus, so let’s hope it’s more of the former and less of the latter.
Minneapolis band Night Moves opened with a set of Americana themed songs like “Country Queen” and “Headlights,” which captured the attention of their fans. They brought an organ that seemed a bit underused for the effort. I’m not certain that I’ve listened to “psychedelic country” before but it really wasn’t my cup of tea.