Sweethearts Of The District
A breathless blogger or lazy reviewer will no doubt mix his cliches for a Nethers review, writing that they have "emerged from the Carlsonics' ashes" with "sleepy, swirling guitars," and "a country folk-rock" sound. In hindsight, the Nethers are just that- four-fifths of the Carlsonics eschewing the beer-spitting loud rock for a new sound that mixes country, bluegrass, folk and psychedelic rock. But onstage, they make it look like no big deal at all.
Nikki West sings every song now, a steady stream of honey-drenched birds flying straight out of her mouth each time her teeth shine in the club lights. The formerly truculent Aaron Carlson switches between acoustic and electric guitar, and a new guy on keyboards replaces the Carlsonics' guitarist Ed Donohue. It's gonna be tough for him, being know as that new guy-- but he helps shape the new sound so much that we'll get his name straight soon enough. The band as a whole plays so drastically differently that a blind man would confuse the old lineup for a whole different band.
Nethers call themselves just that, a plural noun with no article in the front in what must be a grammatic nod to their former incarnations' onstage assholery. It's irritating as hell to say and even tougher for any writer to write, but the quality of their sound far eclipses the presumptuous article-free name.
(The) Nethers' Hung Herself In A Birdcage sums up a large part of their new style fairly well; sleepy and mellow now, sweet but tinged with dark urgency. "O the Deed" is a catchy, shambling bluegrassy pop stomp that's guaranteed to rattle around in the skull for days, one of the rare songs that's welcome to reside on the brain's endless tape loop for weeks. Just when I thought (the) Nethers had completely chucked their rock-out sensibilities, they cracked out a new psych-freakout called "Helping Our Friends Escape the Underwater City,", evoking Saturday morning action cartoons and Barret-era Pink Floyd in its frantic pounding under controlled, knob-twisting guitar.
Four months ago, the Carlsonics were spitting beer on each other and playing Stooges-infused garage rock. They haven't risen from their own ashes or jumped up out of a chrysalis or any other tired metaphor. The Nethers are more like a musical nudist banana, the sweet essence of country, pop, and rock stepping naked and bold out of an thick old skin. I spoke with one of the guitarists right after the show and he said, "Man, this was our first show in DC and we were all so nervous tonight..."
They didn't need to be.