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The fire within: Dante's features a hearthside barstool with Kurt Dahlke's name on it.
Guest Writer

Man of the Year & Voyager One at Dante's
Inner ear meets outer space
by Kurt Dahlke

Every time I want to head into outer space -- quite frequently, actually -- I know I can find a dark corner, slap on the Walkman, er, MP3 player, and listen to Yo La Tengo or Spacemen 3 with eyes closed. No matter the band, the stuff to which we listen in order to get that warm, faraway feeling exhibits a common motif: set up a riff and stretch it like taffy.

Now some, they do it to trounce you with a wash of sound. And some, they do it as a pop put-on. In between those poles lie Man of the Year and Voyager One, bands that know the value of a good four-note figure repeated for two minutes straight.

Man of the Year

Man of the Year, the April 28 headliner down at Dante's, wields a pop stick, while opening act Voyager One tries to recreate the sound of amniotic fluid.

And suddenly there is just enough time to flag down another pint before the West Burnside bar is overwhelmed by sound ...

... Slick and sleazy (in a good way), Man of the Year starts out like the Archies -- if they'd evolved a few years and got hooked on Laudanum. The first song is a languid, grinding, major-key rave-up. Sounds like an oxymoron but it's a great combination. The down-tempo rhythm matches nicely with the upbeat melody.

Singer/guitarist and general Man of the Year Todd Morrissey is decked out in tight, brown T-shirt and corduroys. Or is it an orange T, brown denim jacket and cords? No matter; Morrissey's a long way from his days with Nero's Rome. The artifice of those days gives way to the casual ease with which he now throws out Portland-style Brit-pop tunes. He strums a loose pop chorus in languorous manner, while Brenna Sheridan plays a greasy, looping figure on the Moog. Lance Kreiter's drums propel everything into Kelly Simmons' bass. I'm lulled into a groovy stupor.

But the set gets more energetic with the very next song -- and doesn't stray too far thereafter. Playing stripped-down psychedelia with singalong choruses at a good clip, Simmons and Morrissey creak out some pretty nice harmonies. I look forward, however, to some three-part harmonies including new keyboard player/utility musician Sheridan; I'm sure she could fit it in between cycling moog-bloops, chord-beds and thrashing out occasional backing guitars.

Man of the Year doesn't get quite as overwhelming as I like my psychedelic tunes to be, preferring to tread lighter, catchier grounds. They keep you at a low boil -- adherence to true pop form holding back most of the roiling you'd expect from a band on Loveless Records, the shoe-gazers paradise. But if that's what a well-written pop song does to acid-rock, then it's worth it.

Voyager One, however, does whatever it takes to obliterate any semblance of reality other than its own. The stereotypical opening gambit of twin-guitar noise-attack almost instantly wipes out everything in the room with its gargantuan size. As they settle into a Cocteaus-Valentine-Loop-inspired groove. I give thanks.

Gigantic space-sounds tower o'er me, the twin-wah affront during an instrumental break sends solar flares out toward the crowd. The group's menacing, trip-inducing cover of the Velvet's "What Goes On" surpasses the original in disorientation, while maintaining the intent. Sadly, the band chooses to go out in a whimper this night, with a slow, quiet, ethereal Beatles cover -- and loses audience attention. Good tune, bad placement. Especially considering the number of Voyager's own powerful tunes available as a closer.

Voyager One and Man of the Year represent two ends of a spectrum: narcotic sensualism to Cap'n Crunch bop. Do I know what I'm saying anymore? Not sure, really. It's time to get out of the smoke and let the white noise in my ears form its own songs for awhile. If you like to listen to the noise inside your ears, too, you'll find something to love from these Loveless bands.

See Man of the Year in Portland:
• June 8: Ash Street Saloon (w/Sugarboom)
• July 23-Aug. 1: The band plays several California dates

E-mail Kurt at orangeandorange@msn.com, and don't miss his previous reports.

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