No doubt about it, British popsters The Ting Tings know how to put on an energetic show.
The proof was at Valentine’s on Saturday night, as the duo bounced and clapped their way through a supercharged, nine-song set with plenty of bravado and enthusiasm to spare. One of the newest indie sensations to hit the U.S. from across the pond, The Ting Tings are a Frankenstein’s monster of new wave and punk bands, stitching together the best bits from The B-52s, Blondie, The Ramones, Dick Dale and Devo and turning it all into bubblegum dance pop so sugary and so catchy it could put most TV commercial jingle writers to shame (which explains the use of their song “Shut Up and Let Me Go” in a recent iPod commercial).
“Great DJ,” the second song into the band’s set, was maybe the best example of this, with the motif lyric “the drums” repeated ad nauseam over a slightly queasy guitar line, as frontwoman Katie White hopped and bopped around the small stage, bashing out the song’s two chords on her white Stratocaster. But although the energy level in the small club was high, cracks began to show in the band’s surface after a few subsequent numbers.
Despite her powerful presence as a band leader, White never really impressed with either her singing or guitar playing. Her thin, reedy voice, which had an annoying tendency to squeak in the upper register on songs such as “Fruit Machine,” couldn’t really compete with drummer Jules De Martino’s pounding rhythms. And although virtuoso guitar has never been a hallmark of punk rock, White’s playing fell below even that genre’s modest expectations. It seemed as though anything more complicated than one or two chords strummed in succession was handled either by De Martino or a looping machine playing back pre-programmed guitar and keyboard parts — which leads one to wonder, why bother?
Thankfully, the duo has a musical tour de force in De Martino, who, as stated above, pulled off both guitar and drums at the same time on opener “We Walk” and the highly effective surf rock dirge “Traffic Light,” which provided a nice mid-set breather. To top it all off, De Martino also sang backing on nearly every song, adding a solid backbone to White’s lead.
And in all honesty, the sheer fun of pogoing along to songs such as “That’s Not My Name,” a Devo-esque romp, and “Be the One,” probably the most melodically interesting song the group performed, overshadowed any and all complaints that could be made. Musical virtuosity is not the point with a group like The Ting Tings. The two definitely have something going that, with a little time and a couple more tours, could make them a force to be reckoned with live.
Local indie one-man band Jared Funari opened things up with a musically challenging batch of songs, the highlight being “Stay Awhile.” Using a loop machine, Funari was able to create the aural illusion of a band with an acoustic guitar and a keyboard, although rhythmically the songs all ended up feeling a bit samey. He’ll be one to watch out for, although his Thom Yorke-esque vocals need a bit of work.