Ungdomskulen | Cake Shop | 1.20.2008

Ungomskulen_cakeshop"This next song is about a very popular sport in Norway that we hope to get in the Olympics. We hear it’s popular in New York too. It’s called ‘Gloryhole’" — Kristian Stockhaus, singer/guitarist, Ungdomskulen.

On Friday, a friend was asking if I was going to see Ungdomdkulen this weekend. I said "who are they?" She said "Norwegian metal." No thanks. But then I was in the neighborhood on Sunday night, having gone to see The World Without Magic at Mercury Lounge. I didn’t have to work Monday, so I thought "why not?" I’m not a fan of the genre in any way (unlike my downstairs neighbor, Pat)  but I do like that Of Montreal song where Kevin Barnes talks about "the darkness of black metal bands."

Ungdomskulen are not black metal. Or even just metal. They’re kind of punk, in a Les Savvy Fav kind of way, though less nutty. But a lot of fun. I think they want to be a black metal band, and like that stuff, but are just sort of goofing on it. The ’80s sweaters and furry hat was a giveaway. Also: no unecessary umlauts. Or screaming. Not that they would deny not being a black metal band. They do, however, rock. And I liked them way more than I ever expected to.

The crowd at Cake Shop was small, due probably to the frigid temperature on Sunday, was nonetheless enthusiastic. The drummer lost his shirt after the first song. We got most of their album Cry-Baby, which I bought after the show. The best song, I’m pretty sure, was somewhat relentless "Modern Drummer," and show-closer "Spartacus," which ended in balloons and stage-rushing. I rushed into a taxi right after.

MP3: Ungdomskulen – "Modern Drummer"
(Buy it!)

Here’s some footage of "Spartacus," though my camera ran out of memory before the song ended:

And you too can rock Norway-style. Tourdates…

Jan 22 O´Briens        Allston, Massachusetts
Jan 23 AS220        Providence, Rhode Island
Jan 24 The Nines    Ithaca, New York
Jan 25 Lee´s Palace    Toronto, Ontario
Jan 26 The Pike Room    Pontiac, Michigan
Jan 27 Grog Shop    Cleveland, Ohio
Jan 28 Jammin Java    Vienna, Virginia
Jan 29 The M Room    Philladelphia, Pennsylvania
Jan 30 Tea Bazaar    Charlottesville, Virginia
Jan 31 The Earl        Atlanta, Georgia
Feb 1 Tasty World    Athens, Georgia
Feb 2 Yau House        Charlotte, NC
Feb 4 The Viper Room     Hollywood, California
Feb 6 SPACELAND        Los Angeles, California

Sondre Lerche | Music Hall of Williamsburg | 11.26.2007


Sondre Lerche is charming even when shilling. Monday night’s solo show at Music Hall of Williamsburg was kind of like watching an extended segment of a talk show where the blonde Norwegian relentlessly plugged Dan in Real Life, the romantic comedy he scored. In-between songs from the soundtrack, he told stories of how director Peter Hedges (who was in the house) asked him to do it; how he wrote the song "To Be Surprised" while a scene was being filmed in the next room; how he met the cast of The Office at the Dan in Real Life premiere; how awesome he thought the movie turned out… etc.

It would’ve been kinda nauseating if Lerche wasn’t so genuinely enthusiastic and generally psyched about the whole experience. And if the songs weren’t good. (It was still a bit much.) Remember, the Dan in Real Life soundtrack is his second good album this year — the other being the fantastic, underheard Phantom Punch. The only real downer of the show was that I was under the impression of that he was going to be there with his backing band, The Faces Down. No, this was him solo. Which ended up being totally fine. Lerche is one of those performers, like Billy Bragg, Elvis Costello and Robyn Hitchcock who can hold a big room’s attention with just a guitar, a sparkling personality and some great songs.

He had the mostly-female audience in the palm of his hand, who were singing along often and loudly. It was really cute, especially on "Modern Nature," where they filled in Lillian Samdal’s part of the duet. Lerche played for maybe 90 minutes or so, hitting all his albums plus a cover of Elvis Costello’s "Human Hands" (from the DiRL soundtrack). He also performed an abbreviated, impromptu cover of Scritti Polliti’s "The Word Girl" after some girl screamed out "Scritti Polliti!" for seemingly no reason. (I think it was maybe better than the original which featured some seriously icky ’80s production.) Part of me considered yelling "Orange Juice!" in hopes of a "Consolation Prize" cover. But I didn’t do it. The only time I really wanted the Faces Down to be there was for The Phantom Punch‘s rockin’ title track, yet he still pretty much went to town on his instrument.

It baffles me why he’s not more popular. Anyone who’s seen him live leaves charmed yet Music Hall of Williamsburg was only half-full at best. And at only 25, he’s got plenty of time to gain more fans.

MP3: Sondre Lerche – To Be Surprised
(buy the Dan in Real Life soundtrack)

MP3: Sondre Lerche – The Phantom Punch
(buy The Phantom Punch)

MP3: Scritti Politti – The Word Girl
(buy Cupid & Psyche 85)

I also shot video of "Modern Nature":