Thurs Oct 28, Chop Suey, 9 pm, $10 adv.
Moving Units w/Kill Me Tomorrow, Chinese Stars
Wed Nov 3, Neumo's, 8 pm, $10 adv./ $12 DOS, all ages.
At the heart of every good dance band is a great drummer (or a drum machine) delivering beats to keep motion-friendly crowds moving. In the case of the Fever, that essential organ is Achilles--a purposely erratic pulse-keeper who places an impatient heel on his pedals as a vital member of this hot-blooded system, keeping the adrenaline coursing through even the most ballad-like tracks his band has to offer. On both the Brooklyn group's EP, Pink on Pink, and on their more recent full-length, Red Bedroom, Achilles sets a swift pace off of which the rest of the members launch to shape a rock aesthetic that keeps fans on their toes.
"It's the natural evolution of the band and it has a lot to do with our drummer," frontman Geremy Jasper explains of their sound. "He's the engine of this train and we just kind of follow along. That's how he plays. He's a marvel up there. He just drives us and we all hang on. It's his natural inclination to play like that too. He's a big fan of hiphop and old-school roller-rink dance-type stuff; he's kind of been bred on it so that's his strong suit."
If Achilles is the heart of their operation, Jasper is the Fever's optimal larynx and lungs. When he croons, yells, and yelps, Jasper elevates the band above the commotion of more conventional, more dourly conditioned indie kids on the dance floor--adding a bratty bit of glam to a sound that's like Electric Six without all the shtick. In fact, the only song the Fever have produced with any kitsch value is a cover of Sheila E.'s "Glamorous Life" that the band bent out of shape on Pink--a cover they claim to have retired from their live repertoire.
Usually Jasper has at least one ecstatic tantrum per song, frothing at the mouth over lines like "I ain't wasting no more time, time, time on you" in "Put It On You"--emphasizing the final "you" like it's a spit-trapped insect he's ejecting from the back of his throat in a hefty gob. "Yeah, I guess I'm not very understated at the microphone," Jasper says, laughing. "I don't keep my composure very well--I let it all hang out."
The rest of the band follows suit, with guitarist Sanchez Esquire playing ice-pick licks that burst into brilliant flames, Esquire's brother J on organ for the funk-infused melodies, and bassist Pony adding extra low end to the Fever's sweaty, booty-shaking rhythms. At this past year's SXSW, the Fever were one of the week's biggest hits, closing Vice's final-night dance marathon with skilled party-band panache.
Compare that to the Moving Units, more sedentary L.A. dance punks who've logged tour time with the Fever in the past, but who perform separately in Seattle this week. On Dangerous Dreams, the recent full-length follow-up to the band's 2002 EP, the Units are much too stationary. Their icy post-punk aesthetic sounds outdated even compared to what they released two years ago, which already was riffing off popular dance-punk roots of the moment. The staccato guitar, the moody atmospherics draped over skittish drum beats--it all keeps the Moving Units' music in a chilly climate, especially given the popularity of their general sound. Where the Fever surpass their own boiling point--like a great garage act wrapped in a dance-rock package--Moving Units feel more like the same old skinny-tie shuffle. When frontman Blake Miller sings, "I am filled with righteous anger/you communicate such danger/when you deny my one passion/to proceed in this fashion" ("Available"), he makes a case as convincing as your iMac reading a script and set to "disaffected." While you could do a lot worse than the Moving Units, their embrace is a little too limp to make it long-lasting. Especially when compared to the Fever's frantic bear hugs--which raise the temperature of even their most tepid track enough to burn up the dance floor.