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That new skin is CRX, a new band fronted by Valensi and includes keyboard player Richie James Follin, drummer Ralph Alexander, bassist Jon Safley, and guitarist Darian Zahedi, newly out in support of their debut, New Skin (Columbia Records) and playing only their third date of tour in Minneapolis.
To warm things up and the venue being the Triple Rock, the first band on the bill was San Diego’s The Gloomies, who are not as glum as their name might imply, and who have a recent EP, Blackout (on Thrill Me Records), and lead single, ‘Bleached Out’.
Streets of Laredo was next, not a rural Texas band as their name might hint, but a Brooklyn collective transplanted by way of Auckland, NZ. The six members crowded the stage and are partially a family affair that includes two brothers, Daniel and David Gibson, and David's wife Sarahjane multi-tasking on guitar and percussion.
The group has self-described their music as “put John Lennon, Simon & Garfunkel and Talking Heads in a washing machine with a pair of shoes” but their earthy and fun indie folk pop is really more in the vein of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes or The Head and The Heart.
The band has their debut full-length, Wild (on Dine Alone Music) which features the irresistible but odd ‘Silly Bones’and ‘Trap for Young Players’ which may be a New Zealand expression for “rookie mistake”, as we would know it better here. The band even tried to teach the crowd some of the new songs, ever patient and clearly joyful to be presenting their new music to the mostly college-age audience.
Though CRX has been in existence since 2013, it’s only now that the band has found time to create and release an album, and hit the road to show crowds their unique hybrid of power-pop, garage, hard and desert style rock. There are traces of Valensi’s The Strokes, but it’s clear the band has expanded their horizons of sound, to so much more.
Like The Strokes, the band’s songs are quick to the point, and have a punk get in/get out mentality, playing just a 37 min. set, which even included a unexpected encore. “Thanks for coming, let’s have some fun” Valensi began, looking slightly disheveled like a young Joe Perry.
Velensi’s formidable guitar skills were on display with the opening, ‘On Edge’, a fueled-up track perfect for racing down a highway in a vintage muscle car. Next song, ‘Give It Up’ had more of a sparse desert rock stomp to it, with Valensi’s mid tone vocals sounding clearer than Julian Casablancas'. Drummer Alexander dedicated the entire set to crooner Leonard Cohen, who we’d all just learned had passed way, with the whole band in agreement for the sentiment.
‘Ways to Fake It’ is more power pop and accessible, getting airplay on local radio, while next song, the crunchy ‘Broken Bones’ sounded downright metal. Valensi alluded to the political rally which had just concluded near campus and ended up closing streets and the highway nearby briefly, saying “we should just drink our sorrows away” launching into a driving ‘One Track Mind’.
Being only the third night of the tour, Valensi commented that the van “still smells fresh” though that would likely change , and maybe purposely next going into the garage influenced ‘Walls’ with opening lyric, “I don't know what to make of it, when everyone is faking it”.
As the main set ended Valensi said, “thanks guys, we’ll be back” which the crowd took as an encore coming, but that wasn’t the band’s intention; rather, that they would return to play again in the area, but they still came back onstage and decided to do an encore, playing ‘Anything’.
With a new skin, and more varied sonic palette than expected (partially courtesy of album producer Josh Homme of QOTSA fame), CRX is a welcome addition to the rock scene and a more than worthy foray for Strokes guitarist Valensi.
Streets of Laredo
Streets of Laredo
CRX at Triple Rock Social Club, Minneapolis (10 Nov 2016)