Friday, July 09, 2004

Slide return

Trachtenberg Family Slideshow Players
Water Rats, King’s Cross, London
8 July 04

Overblown band names like the Trachtenberg Family Slideshow Players (TFSP) are often quirky word association exercises but TFSP’s schtick is exactly as its name would suggest. Trachtenburg family members Father Jason on piano and pre-teen daughter Rachel Pina on drums are augmented by mother Tina Pina, who operates the projector. The twist is that the slides they play – typically ones from the 50/60s/70s US boom era before new technologies arrived – are culled from American car boot sales, house clearings and auctions. Whole alternative histories are created about the people in fresh focus and new context. TFSP describe themselves as an “indie vaudeville conceptual art-rock pop band” and although that is a definition too far it is refreshing to see the vanity of these personal histories, “ooh, look at me by Mount Fuji” or “my god that barbecue was a scream – I nearly soiled myself” wretched out and rewritten.

And good to see a reformatting of the usual song-break-mumbled introduction to next song procedure, as Jason takes ages explaining the old and the new contexts for each song/show. This works well early on, as TFSP take old focus group-type market reports from McDonalds in 1979 and people are already laughing at the Americanised business-speak, but the delivery seems unable to sustain the weight of so many layers of irony later on. TFSP seem to melt back into the American dream they make fun of.

So most of the craft of their revue is in the slightly subversive, gently satirical nature of their alt-narratives, often improvised on the spot it would seem. Though we are assured that this is not your usual gig, musically their piano-propelled pop is nothing inspiring, and with wafer-thin, effects-free production would probably start to grate pretty soon on record. No soundscapes or rhythm science to be found here. With Jason’s big glasses and the overall kooky act thoughts of They Might Be Giants are hard to erase. Endearing loser’s rock for the naughties. Caring too, as the liggers were asked not to smoke in the main room as a ten-year-old was drumming.

Yet with our craving for difference in popular culture they would be a fine counterpoint, however briefly, to the uniform recycled noise and angst of the indie charts and the processed piss and pornographic choreographics of the pop charts. They deserve their transitory moment.

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