The Cute Lepers
@ The M Room
August 19th, 2008
Can’t Stand Modern Music, the title of the debut LP from power-pop outfit The Cute Lepers, couldn’t be more suitable to describe their August 19th gig in the heart of Fishtown, Philadelphia’s hippest locale and the regular stomping ground of over-hyped, underimpressive Phooklyn acts like Vampire Weekend and the Dirty Projectors. While the New York Dolls-inspired Seattle six-piece, lead by Steve E. Nix of the Briefs, only attracted about two dozen, it was certainly the most badass gathering in the City of Sisterly Affection since David Johansen and Sylvain Sylvain hosted the city’s most decadent Valentine’s Day celebration. The band, crowded onto the not-exactly-spacious stage, proved to be a glamorously sleazy oasis of Rock N Roll in the middle of a neighborhood comprised of Vice magazine’s target audience and American Apparel employees.
The band’s last trip to Philly paired them with Pop Psychobilly favorites the Horrorpops, where they enthralled and impressed a crowd unfortunately lacking the necessary age to gain admittance to their latest outing. Those few in attendance at the M Room, not straying far from the fashion palate of the band, were reminiscent of those who would’ve attended a Sailor Jerry party at Max’s Kansas City. This gig was clearly going to bear little resemblance to their last, at the 1200 capacity Trocadero Theater.
The group’s set consisted of a large chunk of their debut, which sounds more or less like The Eyeliners as a tribute to the Stones, along with some punk standards and a few new songs, like “Fall to Pieces.” Songs like “Modern Pests,” “(I’m) Out of Order,” and “Prove It,” filled with girl group harmonies, hand-claps, and infectious choruses of bubblegum-coated teenage angst comprised the tightest and purest set of Rock N Roll the city has seen all summer.
The evening’s greatest moment was a toss-up between that when the most fashionably exceptional members of the crowd were pulled onstage to round out the backing vocals and when the whole of the audience shouted along with “Cool City”‘s beautifully juvenile “The girls and guys in bands get up late, the suits sit in traffic on their way to get paid,” giving promise that those few local badasses who realize that the original Heartbreakers are not Tom Petty’s backing band, like Love City and the Tough Shits, may stand a fighting chance after all.
A room full of guys in black blazers and skintight black cigarette pants pumped their fists and chugged their PBR alongside girls in mini black dresses and more ink than a printing press as the band shouted “I can feel the new sensation, I can see the new generation” in their last number, “Opening Up,” giving a glimmer of hope that real Rock N Roll might not be dead and that future generations of kids may yearn for more than asymmetrical haircuts, tennis headbands, and Christian Hardcore. — Izzy Cihak