The Crash of Crush

Does he or doesn't he? Chances are he does, and then some. Dig her, that is. The real question then: Does she dig him? Probably. But she's not sure. She is damn certain of one thing: He's no good for her. No damn good at all. And he knows it, too, to his very bitter core.

But what's a spurned and yearning young man to do when the girl of his dreams deems him unfit? Why, take offense, of course, preferably in song.

"Kid Gloves," the buzz song by the Austin-based quintet Voxtrot, is the strum of a soul at odds with the world and determined to get even, even if he's gotta take himself out in the process. It's at once passive and aggressive -- the black and white of either/or delivered in shades of liberating gray, where who said what to whom is of much less importance than what's remembered, what's revealed, and what's reckoned.

It also happens to be the kind of track of which movies are made. One can picture Zach Braff being charmed enough to include it in his next big-screen gem. It's the story of love and loss and longing, dig?

We're talkin' 'bout heartache here, the shake and the break that binds us together and tears us apart. That certain unmitigated something that stirs us to cross ponds, traverse depths, and leap outta tall buildings in a single bound. That the cad behind this particular song can do so in such a simple sing-along only makes its essence that much more lonely.

Which is probably why I'm not alone in digging the swing that is Voxtrot. Call me a little late for all the hype and the hoopla, but I got to the band because of "Kid Gloves." More specifically, the song's bridge:

Cheer me up, cheer me up, I'm a miserable fuck.
Cheer me up, cheer me up, I'm a tireless bore.
Cheer me up, cheer me up, I'm invisibly stuck all in myself.
Yes I'm a vanity whore.

Self-absorbed and self-aware, resolutely irreverent yet unafraid to feel, these could be the lyrics of my so-called life. Really. Nothing sways the savage beast like a knowing, similar mind, right?

And if the blogs are to be believed, a lot of like minds are swaying to the sound of Voxtrot. From the issuance of the first self-made CD-R, through its three über-indie EP followups, the band lit up the blogosphere, garnering accolades from cyberspace's most discerning ear-ringers. In turn the group earned Pitchfork's coveted seal of approval and nabbed Artist of the Day on Spin magazine's Web site. The bandmates got themselves signed among the class acts at Beggars Group and became the kind of overnight sensations years take to make.

But though indie cred might get a band booked in Brooklyn, it sure as hell won't help 'em break the bank in Boise. For that an act needs songs, lots and lots of songs, and the right type of singer to sling 'em.

Enter Ramesh Srivastava, frontman of the group in question. A snide and sensitive sort, Srivastava makes mincemeat of mopery, or rather he uses mopery to make mincemeat of the melancholy that so burdens his being.

It seems misery has long been Srivastava's own best company. The 2004 single "The Start of Something" was the kind of "if I die tonight" wallow made wettest by Morrissey. "They Never Mean What They Say" (the 2005 b-side to "Raised by Wolves") was almost too "tired and battered" for even the Cure. Later, when Voxtrot weeped out the piano-driven "Soft and Warm" (from 2006's Mothers, Sisters, Daughters & Wives EP), the Brit drip got dropped in favor of a road only Rufus Wainwright could cry alongside.

Yet even amid the cycles of sad songs, the boys of Voxtrot were no crybabies, and the sulk and the sullen always seemed to come shrink-wrapped in a smile that belied its truth.

Better yet, with their eponymous LP, released last month on Play Louder, things no longer "always end in tears." If "Kid Gloves" turns the tables in the room of one's own doing, counterparts such as "Firecracker" and "Blood Red Blood" are upendings of every stick of furniture in the whole house of love gone wrong. They are brilliant, boisterous, and unbending affairs of hearts made strong by weakening, and made even stronger by reckoning to be.

First crush, last crush, next crush -- Voxtrot is gonna be your kinda crash. They are that smashing.

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John Hood