New York’s Longwave had the good fortune of being at the right place at the right time, opening shows for the Strokes before being signed to a major label. On their RCA debut “The Strangest Things,” band boasts a 1980s-influenced sound, full of eerie keyboards and a big guitar, that proved surprisingly strong when played live to a packed Troubadour with emotive vocals and sheets of guitar sonics.
After a notably strange opener featuring frontman Steve Schiltz on ukelele, the band tore into power-pop singles “Everywhere You Turn” and “Tidal Wave” with a memorable one-two punch. Propulsive beats and steady, prominent basslines set the stage for the band’s true strength to shine through: the interplay between guitarists Schiltz and Shannon Ferguson. Ferguson lays the groundwork with high-pitched, multi-effected guitar lines while Schiltz croons away, coming in with monster power-chords in that formulaic but effective soft-verse, loud-chorus dynamic.
They later shifted the focus to more subdued cuts displaying an obvious influence from British shoegazer bands, even prompting one aud member to shout “Long live shoegaze!” The band utilized an expansive array of guitar effects, most notably the delayed chiming guitar sound popularized by U2’s the Edge.
Before they got too hypnotic, the band smartly charged things up with the dazzling “All Sewn Up,” a sterling example of the fuzzed-out melancholia on their album. The song is predictable but powerful, moving from a softly plucked guitar figure to a cymbal- crashing, guitar-blasting chorus. Instead of alienating the audience with noise, Longwave aims to underscore the drama present in Schiltz lyrics, creating melodic sound explosions at the chorus to accentuate his desperate revelations and atonal clashes in the end to hint at a lack of resolution.
A hindrance was Schiltz’s voice, which bellowed a warm, nasally tenor, but never really soared the way one would hope when the band hit those earsplitting choruses. The band members were in their best form when they let the guitars do the talking.
Openers Sunstorm mined similar territory with lush arrangements, but they sadly did not elevate their sound beyond a sleepy reverie of simple arrangements punctuated by warm keyboards and barely there vocals. Stellastarr* faired better with energetic pop-rock structure and throaty voiced male/female vocal interplay, summoning a less deranged Pixies.
Longwave plays Maxwell’s in Hoboken, N.J., on Aug. 2.