ARCHIVE of District of Cacophony

May 24, 2010 | REVIEWS

Medications & Imperial China @ Black Cat, 5/20/10

Last week I was pretty excited to go see Medications at the Black Cat. I have their new album and have been grappling with it for a few weeks. I am not sure yet how I feel about it — it is a strange album — and I was hoping the live show would provide a little clarity.

I’ve seen Medications lots of times (and Faraquet lots of times before that), though the current version of the band is obviously significantly different from what came before. The last time I saw them was maybe a year and a half ago to two years ago, after Andrew Becker had left the band. Devin and Chad played a show at DC9 with someone else (maybe Mark Cisneros?) as a keyboard/utility man. I happened to end up chatting to Devin after that performance, and he said they were still working out how to continue as a band, and were doing a lot of recording. So basically that was a work-in-progress version of what is now the new Medications, including more singing by Chad, more keyboards, and an overall more-stripped-down sound.

At the totally-packed backstage of the Black Cat last week, they rolled out a quartet version of the band, and sounded pretty great. I think I am going to like this incarnation (if they stay very active… they are getting older, and busy in life). It took me a long time to start really loving Medications after I was such a huge Faraquet fan, and I think it will take me some more time to adjust to Medications version 2.0. But it was great.

The new Medications stuff is much poppier than their older music, with lots of nice duets and harmonies between Chad and Devin. I really like the singing in Medications songs, and now they are getting so melodic that you lose track of the impressive music. And without the powerhouse drumming that they used to have, they don’t seem nearly as challenging or hard-rock/math-rock. That’s cool though — I think they accomplished all that they needed to in that direction.

Devin’s guitar was often backed up with rhythm guitar from the other guitarist which left him free to play minimalistically, throwing in leads that sometimes sounded like Nels Cline. They played a couple of old Medications for good measure, including the encore (though I can never remember the names of their songs), so they haven’t entirely abandoned the old stuff. I am pretty happy with the whole thing, and was glad I made it, and even a little inspired by it.

I only caught about half of Imperial China‘s set. I like this band (and wish them only success) but got a little fatigued by them after promoting them to friends and listening to their new album so much when it came out a few months ago. At the backstage, they sounded awesome musically — it’s a good venue for them and it was fun to see them in front of a packed and attentive crowd. Again, I have a few caveats about this band (i.e., the singing). It is interesting to contrast to Medications, where the singing is not traditionally strong either, but somehow works a little better. Anyhow Imperial China seem to be experiencing some success and hopefully they can keep it up. But Medications is still a couple steps above them in the quality hierarchy.

PS there was a very interesting piece in the City Paper recently about DC bands booking shows and tours, relating to both of these bands. Check it out.