HOME TOWN: Minneaplolis, MN
Minnesota can be a weird place to grow up. On the one hand it's a friendly and upstanding place: a state with a reputation for being socially progressive, and home to many, many good Lutheran colleges. But Minnesota is also a cold and lonely borderland on the edge of the Great Plains, a place where the parallel lines of electrical wires take ages to meet the horizon. Kids get bored and restless; they acquire a strange sense of humor. Maybe its not so surprising then that this state has a history of producing great bands Husker Du, Suicide Commandos, The Replacements; hard-working kids who think too much (and drink too much) for their own good. Count Tora! Tora! Torrance! in that group. Hailing from small towns outside the Twin Cities metro (the only place north of Chicago that feels like civilization), the members of !TTT! started playing in punk bands in high school. Coming together in Minneapolis, the group quickly established a signature sound based on spastic hard rock hooks and brash punk attitude. On stage, singer Nick Koenigs lurches about in a mad parody of Mic Jagger's chicken strut, a forest of jagged guitar hooks filling in the space behind him. His lyrics come out in terse spurts, and song structures emerge from a series of musical digressions. One memorable show saw Tora! Tora! Torrance! opening for, of all people, Scottish dance meisters Bis. Imagine: a whole room full of downtown creative types waiting to get their Euro-style swerve on. Then this group of scrappy rock kids gets on stage and unleashes a maelstrom of spastic pop punk, their bodies jerking about in a fit one-eyebrow-raised rawk posturing. Jaws hit the floor, mostly in dismay. A few of us though were jumping up and down and thinking, This is great, and these guys are hilarious. What's wrong with these people?? It's easy to hear a resemblance between Tora! Tora! Torrance!'s feisty and raw rock hooks and the current crop of New York post punk bands, but you get the feeling that these boys aren't pretending when it comes to rock attitude. They're in it more for the free beer than for the art school props. Actually, Bis got all mad at us cuase we drank all their beer, Koenigs remembers with a nervous chuckle. They also ate their cupcakes turns out the drummer from Bis was celebrating his birthday. They go on stage and we're like, good luck and all that. And then we went back stage and saw the beer, and saw there were cupcakes, so we ate them. Forgotten weekends like the band's recent jaunt to South by Southwest (at which most of the audience came to know them as, uh, Soul Asylum) are par-for-the-course. Tora! Tora! Torrance! Aren't punk purists. Gnarly metal riffs, kick drum rolls and chunky, gothic organs parts all figure into their music. But neither do they tip into ironic parody. Their flare for writing clever, hard-rocking tunes is fully in evidence on the band's new full-length, A Cynics Nightmare. Recorded at venerable Pachyderm studios, it bristles with the energy of the band's live show, but also gives them a chance to showcase the subtlety of their song craft. Ass shakers like Yr all on our dance card keep company with the slow burning menace of A cynic's nightmare. Songs build and collapse into a wash of hypnotic guitars, then pick up again, ready to rage anew. It's been a few years now, and the band has gone through some lineup changes, but Tora! Tora! Torance! is still a bunch of hard-working guys who knew each other from back-when: back before moving to the city, back before they made records, back before they started touring the country. It shows in their tight performances, in their all-out punk energy, and their weird sense of humor. The kind that still thrives out where the power lines meet the prairie, where a bunch of guys looking for some fun might as well start a band.