Long live rock, I need it every night

Monday, December 28, 2009

Rock Machine: Max Levine

Andrew, our Senior Youth Correspondent is back! This time he reviews the Max Levine Ensemble.

Max Levine Ensemble
Wednesday December 23, 2009
Black Cat Backstage
Photos by Rachel Atcheson

When DC native David Combs (aka Spoonboy) is not busy spreading the word on grass roots anarchy movements or supporting local charities, he fronts the Max Levine Ensemble, one of DC’s best-kept musical secrets. The Max Levine Ensemble (MLE), a pop punk trio that follows a DIY ethic that brings to mind bands such as Fugazi, are something of a rare (relative) success in the world of DC underground punk-which despite what people say still exists, albeit not very visibly. While there is some similarity to the operation of 80s/90s Dischord bands in MLE’s anti-corporate stance and self-run, exhaustive touring of the country, they do it with a sincerity not seen in many “purist” DC punk acts.

Maybe you caught MLE at Fort Reno—they have played several summers over the past few years. The group plays super high-energy blend of pop punk and ska that incorporates politically and socially conscious lyrics. A sampling of tracks from the band’s handful of albums and EPs brings to mind Ted Leo and The Thermals. I caught MLE this past Wednesday at the Black Cat.

For a band that I had seen twice before and already knew I liked a lot, MLE still managed to put on a very entertaining show. The approximately 40 minute set saw the band pulling out new songs from a new cassette release entitled “Them Steadily Depressing, Low Down Mind Messing, Post Modern Recession Blues.” Well that’s just a mouthful! Lyrical content on those songs seemed to consist of pretty direct indictments of those responsible for the financial debacle of 08/09. The band played super tight and had a surprising fidelity to the quality of the recorded versions of their songs. Meaning they are a good live act, not that you’d be just as satisfied to stay home and listen to the records. Drumming from Nick Popovici was fast and furious; bassist “Bepstein” handled a fair portion of the singing, adding a nice change from Spoonboy’s lead vocal. Banter was at just the right level-enough to make the audience feel recognized but not so much that something stupid/annoying is bound to be said.

I think a big area of success for this band has been the accessibility of their music, especially to the younger portion of the DC scene (The band are in their mid twenties however). Upbeat, catchy pop punk is often written off as mall punk Hot Topic garbage—and often there is truth in that. MLE pair deathly serious lyrics and outlook with catchy pop punk in a way that, as mentioned before, comes off very sincere.. Sure, they have goofy nicknames and too long cassette titles, but these guys deserve some credit. They are a punk band that is still finding issues to comment on even after George W. left the White House. That plus the quality of the tunes is enough for me. Check em out!

1 comment:

Jimbromski said...

wow, a real photographer