The year 2005 found Kate and I about 10 minutes behind schedule, counting down with my favorite Twin Cities band, in otherwise-dead downtown St. Paul (they’d been sound-checking at actual midnight, but Kate observed that time is arbitrary anyway, valued only instrumentally as we grant it the power to measure). Olympic Hopefuls are undeniably great, plus whip-smart and catchy as hell, becoming an irresistable musical force something like the Cars crashing into Weezer’s Blue Album.
After seeing the Hopefuls a few months ago with the Transit Librarian, I brought expectations generated by the first show to New Year’s Eve and left happy. Live, the band understates everything save their music itself. Showmanship is limited to their matching red polyesther track suits, and stage banter is one notch above nonexistent. Playing and singing away on original hooks and huge choruses, properly sloppier than on record, is enough to satisfy both band and fans. The Fuses Refuse To Burn, tastily layered and perfectly warm-sounding, is the essential album of my first six months in the Twin Cities scene. The show included three cuts that aren’t included on the record (I’m guessing on the titles): “She’ll Get What She Wants”, “On The Edge of Medicine”, and “She (something else I can’t remember)”.
Olympic Hopefuls’ side-project status is almost revealed in their unification of wounded self-deprication (“Shy”, “Whisper”) and optimism of a delerious sort. This collision is seen most clearly in the face of terrible circumstances; “Imaginary” – an ode to a ficticious lover, or “Motobike” in which our protagonist crashes repeatedly, only to ride again faster and faster, singing “I’ll never slow down!” Only musicians with nothing to lose can create such intelligent, fearless pop. Dual songwriters Erik Appelwick (of Vicious Vicious) and Darren Jackson (Kid Dakota) are obviously having a great time being away from their real (?) selves. Their joy from rocking with abandon, and pain from knowing that fulfilling their world-class hopes for love and motobiking skills are one-in-a-million at best, is entirely infectious. I feel both with an authenticity and depth that seems surprising given the bright bounce of the Hopefuls’ music; their freeing lack of gravitas becomes in me enlightened innocence, more poignant by accident than greater effort would ever achieve.
Sometimes the more you tighten your grip, the more star systems slip through your fingers.