Envelopes + The Research | Mercury Lounge | 3.14.2006

"I bought a pretzel. It was rubbish."

Capping a seven-day rock marathon was this excellent double-bill, two bands making their American debut. I guess everyone really had left for SXSW as the Mercury Lounge was half-empty. It was like the old days — you know, three years ago — when people didn’t give a crap about British bands and it would be me and a handful of expats shelling out ten bucks to see Razorlight or the Warm Jets or whoever.

The Research are about as cute as Paddington Bear, with all their "ba ba ba" choruses and a lead singer whose reedy voice and erudite accent — not to mention that blond hair tucked under a trucker hat — make him seem like a cartoon character. My friend Erinn said she wanted to take them home. It wasn’t the best of conditions for the show, as drummer Sarah was under-the-weather, and front-man Russell and bassist Georgia joked that they were worried she wasn’t going to survive the plane trip over (which was that day).

On their debut, Breaking Up, the band somewhat resembles the twee pop of Papas Fritas, but live Russell’s cheapo keyboard (which had "Piney Gir s Bearsuit" emblazoned on it) sounded like it was being run through a distortion pedal, giving gems like "Lonely Hearts Still Beat the Same," "I Love You But" and "C’mon Chameleon" a little bite. It’s a wonder it worked at all, the way he purposely banged it around and tossed it in the air. I was utterly charmed.

MP3: The Research – "C’mon Chameleon"

Music videos (Windows Media): "Lonely Hearts Still Beat the Same," "The Way You Used to Smile," "C’mon Chameleon"

Headliners were Sweden’s Envelopes whose album, Demons, is sort of a lovely mess, all off-key vocals and dissonant guitars hiding some lovely pop songs underneath. (Sort of a Swedish version of the Pastels.) Either they learned to play since making the album or they were just faking it, but the quintet — two of whom were wearing Envelopes t-shirts — really had it together Tuesday night.

Maybe it was just the three guitars, I don’t know. Singers Henrik Orrling and Audrey Pic (who looked like a tiny version of Kelly from Bad News Bears) didn’t say much beyond introducing the song, but they held everyone’s attention throughout the set. A lot of their songs feature spoken/shouted verses with super-catchy choruses — it’s a formula that works for songs like "Sister in Love," "Glue" and "Isobel and Leonard." It’s a truly beautiful racket, and I hope Envelopes play here again very soon.

MP3: Envelopes – "Sister in Love"

Music videos (Quicktime): "Freejazz," "Sister in Love," "It is the Law"

More pictures after the jump…

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