You could call Handsome Furs "Dan-from-Wolf-Parade's other band." But doing so puts you at risk of offending half the band itself, maybe the pride of the whole entity. And Handsome Furs is not a band with which you want to mess.
The Montreal-based husband-and-wife duo sounds ready to bite on Face Control, the tortured, fist-to-heart follow-up to 2007's Plague Park. Written mostly on the road in the wake of the couple's Day of the Dead-themed wedding, the album was recorded and mixed at Mount Zoomer, the studio namesake of Wolf Parade's latest release. Face Control is a finely frenzied collection of songs, visceral in edge and effect, but in execution, controlled almost to an eerie degree.
"There's more immediacy to this record," says Alexei Perry, who admits nerves still shake her every show. "We wanted to make Face Control an album that's easier to play live, to ensure the raw energy of our performance is kept intact."
"Easier to play live," in this case, does not translate to boring. At all. Jagged, two-minute tracks that could suffocate in another context are instead a respite amongst the more substantial cuts, which meld the dingy anxiety of Dan Boeckner's guitar work and vocals with the danceable, calculated coldness of Perry's programmed synthetic sounds.
Like most relationship rock, Handsome Furs formed out of convenience -- Boeckner needed an extra set of hands and Perry, a fiction writer with some piano-playing chops, has hands. But it's turned into something more significant than either spouse initially imagined. After years of blog attention, Handsome Furs is now getting noticed by the likes of Rolling Stone and Spin, the kind of hard press required for Canadian musicians' work permits and visas.
The band faced some issues early on involving touring and the law (Perry ended up in jail for nine hours and Boeckner was threatened with an illegal-alien-smuggling charge). But Handsome Furs is now "totally legit," in Perry's words. They've been touring constantly for Face Control, playing everywhere from their hometown of Montreal to SXSW to parts of Eastern Europe that rarely get hit by North American acts.
And yet there's still that "other band" status.
"Personally, I hate it," Perry says. "It's insulting to me and to Dan. Because this isn't my side project, and for him, it's like saying that because he's famous or had public notoriety prior, that this other band is less serious, which is not the case."
Ever the thoughtful writer-type rather than the vitriolic rocker, though, Perry muses: "Only in music does it have a negative connotation to work on different projects. I don't see it in other fields. Take an artist who's both a painter and a sculptor: You don't call one a hobby. They're just an artist exorcising their demons in different ways."
Handsome Furs with the Cinnamon Band. 10 p.m. Tue., March 31 (doors at 9:30 p.m.). Brillobox, 4104 Penn Ave., Bloomfield. $8 ($10 day of show). 412-621-4900 or www.brillobox.net
- Relationship rock: Handsome Furs