Brooklyn garage-rock duo Crushed Out is 1) adorable, 2) nearly impossible not to dance to and 3) one of all-time best bands to review. That last point is completely inarguable because guitarist/vocalist Frank Hoier introduces almost every single song with a title and an story. And the songs that he doesn’t introduce, he announces after the fact.
Opening for semi-Asheville-based indie-pop outfit Darwin Deez at the Grey Eagle last weekend, Crushed Out kicked off an energetic set with “Want to Give,” the first song off last fall’s album of the same name. Frank’s bandmate (and wife) Moselle Spiller is the drummer and backup singer; she plays the kit like a jazz percussionist with lots of wrist flicks and elegant gestures, her constant smile belying the complexity of her performance.
“Push Down & Twist,” their “dance craze song” had a definite ‘60s-era Corny Collins show feel, with a garage edge. The guitar tone was deep and mechanical, equal parts stringed instrument and chain saw. The drums were insistent, pushing the front row of the audience to dance, though Moselle played through the push and kick with a light bounce, her long hair shimmying in time to the heavy beat.
That Frank and Moselle look they just arrived via time machine from “That ‘70s Show” (he with a surfer blond shag, she a brunette Marsha Brady in a purple and green leotard) adds to the ambiance they create. But there’s also a sincerity to each song; the sense that this is not a throw-back act. They might be drawing on the dance-pop and surf-rock of the ‘60s, but it’s filtered through later eras of grit and rock. “Black & Purple” (a song inspired by Frank’s mom and her Black Sabbath album), played later in the set, was a slow song that picked up in the chorus and recalled The Ramones — the way the Ramones tapped ‘50s and ‘60s rock and pop and gave it a punk edge.
“Temper Tantrum,” which began with Frank pushing his raspy tenor to its high edge, contained as much menace as whimsy. “Weigh You Down” (released as a free download last fall) was less melodic, more repetitive and underscored by surf guitar.
“Sharkbite,” another surf-rocker, moved fast and deliberate, with Moselle driving the beat and whipping her hair. And while the duo could probably stick to the addictive and retro-cool surf licks, their repertoire included the rhythmically-complex “Firelight” and a pitch-perfect cover of the Marvelettes’ “Wait a Minute Mister Postman.” On that song, Moselle added a sweet and dusky vocal (part background, part harmony). Frank sang the lead, sticking with the “boyfriend” reference, which added to the song’s charm. (The band’s versatility is not limited to ‘60s rock motifs, either: Moselle also makes all of their merch.)
Crushed Out wrapped with “Ghost of Bo Diddley” from 2010’s Show Pony. Frank danced while he played and Moselle stood at the drum kit on the slowed choruses until the last minute or so of the song, when she leaped off the stage, danced through the audience with a tambourine, then climbed back on stage and flung the tambourine into the crowd while sliding back behind the kit in a fluid motion.
Photos from the band’s website.