Live Last Night: The Muslims

The Muslims, much more than just an attention-getting name.

The Muslims want attention. Er, lemme try that again.

Seeing the Muslims gave me flashbacks to 2001. Damn, strike two.

A San Diego group called the Muslims (four white dudes, natch) played 40 minutes of brash, swaggering rock-and-roll at DC9 last night, and it really couldn't have been any better. They played music that appeals to the lower half of the body. There's nothing to think about, there's nothing to get emotional about. It's simply propulsive guitar rock that swings just a bit, enough to get your hips shaking and your toes tapping.

The band's name ensures that people will pay at least a bit of attention and it's a good way for the quartet to separate itself from the masses. With a name like that, a purposefully hard-to-find, self-released album and a lack of press that seems almost impossible in this overblogged age, the Muslims are clearly cultivating some sort of mystery. But the band's sound is enough to distinguish it from the pack. Seven years ago, that might not have been the case. The Muslims sound a lot like the Strokes. The best Muslims song, "Right or Wrong" (download), which was a powerhouse of sharp power chords and driving bass at DC9, may as well be called "The Night Before Last Night." But ripping off the Strokes - and it's not really ripping off the Strokes, it's just playing old-fashioned rock-and-roll - is kind of refreshing right now. Indie rock could use a good jolt.

You could tell it was going to be a winning performance just a few minutes into opening number "Call It a Day." Singer/guitarist Matt Lamkin has the perfect disaffected vocal delivery, not worrying about meaningful lyrics but instead tossing out catchy, meaningless lines like, "Hey all you losers, hey hey / Why don't you OK go away." Is it that a shot at the treadmill-video superstars? Maybe, maybe not. It's just another element of the band's winking aloofness. Lamkin may not have much vocal range but he can certainly carry a melody. Guitarist Matt McLoughlin doesn't play anything dazzling, but he plays with a certain precision and rhythm. And rhythm is the key to the Muslims' success. Every element interlocks perfectly, so the songs both rock and groove. It sounds simple, but it's been a while since a band has pulled it off so effortlessly.

The band ran through most of the excellent, punchy tracks from their album - and as if they hadn't already won me over completely, they ended the set with a heavy, pounding version of Spacemen 3's drone-rock anthem "Losing Touch With My Mind," as if to say, yeah, we know our history, too.

By David Malitz |  June 19, 2008; 2:46 PM ET Live Last Night
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Man, can't believe I missed this show. Meant to go.

Posted by: Steve | June 22, 2008 12:21 AM

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