A band at play is a band apart. Minneapolis duo Strange Names cull material and motivation from all of the expected places; it’s what it morphs into when they’re at play that establishes them as icons in the making. Acerbic, coy lines delivered in call and response lend them a youth and spume that reminds us of the Talking Heads and The Clash, as well-hewn, skronky guitar lines punctuate the playful lyric cadence with an authority that is equally tuneful and memorable. Lead singer Liam Benzvi croons through a vintage RCA microphone like a modern Johnnie Ray, tangoing with himself and the audience, taunting and toying with us while lead-guitarist Francis Jimenez harmonizes with intention. The resulting songs resonate indelibly.
Benzvi and Jimenez met while attending the University of Minnesota in 2010, where they dived headlong into a collaboration that yielded the very well received Five Songs and Strange Names EPs. It was via these EPs that White Iris resident producer Lewis Pesacov fell for the duo and ushered them into our Echo Park, Los Angeles studios to write and record “Once an Ocean” and “Minor Times”. Most elements of creating relevant, critically thorough music can’t be taught, but some can be channeled and re-focused.
What happened in White Iris’ studio is magic. An ingenuousness and purpose permeates the two-song release that is more often than not only found in deeply vested post-punk acts. Minor Times/Once an Ocean sizzles with the wit and resignation of late-Pavement, but adds to it an unquellable desire to appeal to and impress the listener. Fletcher Aleckson and Andre Borka, who now join strange Names’ two founding Lotharios on drums and bass, respectively, round out the feral live act with the same youthful angularity we’ve come to expect from the group. This viciousness and noir with a velvet exterior make Strange Names a band you’ve already slept on for too long.