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Francis and the Lights: Nervous Relaxing Favorites in a Future Retro Style

November 12th, 2007 by Jeff Simmermon

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You think you know what’s right and what’s wrong, think you got it all figured out when it comes to video game etiquette and music and style, and then one night winds everything up like a tangled nest of clock springs and throws all your tools right off the bench.

I was teaching some friends the finer points of Big Buck Hunter II at the East River on Saturday night. The bar was packed and the game was old and fast, blurry deer rocketing around the screen which would’ve been hard enough except we’d been impairing our hand-eye coordination around the corner for a few hours, too.

You’ve got to stand back a bit from the machine just to give it a fair go, and it was right as I was trying to explain that the bucks usually hide behind the does and sometimes you’ve gotta give a blast into the air to get things moving that this dude tried to walk between the machine and the little neon plastic shotgun.

I mean, you just don’t DO that. He was like,

“I’m just going to step through here now,”

which, to my ears at the time might as well have been

“excuse me, fellow subway rider, I’m just going to slip my hand down the back of your pants for a moment. Hope you don’t mind.”

So I said

“Look, just please go around, man.”

He didn’t. He insisted on walking through. I argued. I may have put my arm up to box the guy out. This may have not been my finest moment, but I thought I had right on my side.

“Look, man, in the time that we’ve been arguing about this, I could have just gone ahead and gone through,”

he said, which may have been technically correct. But of course, my mouth had to go and say

“In the time it took you to walk up here you could have figured out that we’re playing the game and just gone around in the first place.”

“BURN,” I thought at the time,”OOOO, FACE,” good show, the board lights up and I win!

“Whatever,” he said, and pushed through.

We finished the game before he emerged from the bathroom and elbow up front to check out the band … and I am not lying when I say that they blew my mind.

Francis and the Lights were like nothing I’ve ever seen before, a funky, jerky, percussive mix of early Peter Gabriel and Prince that’s simultaneously nervous and edgy and light and refreshing. They’re the musical equivalent of doing coke and drinking Fresca on the back of a yacht while wearing a white linen jacket.

The rhythm section is tight like the L train on a Monday morning, both drummers locked into each other perfectly with no room for error and every beat in the exact right place. Spare dual keyboards flow over and through the silky rhythms like robot bees flying over plastic flowers, and the singer’s high voice and ostentatious dance moves — delivered with occasional popped collar or shirtlessness — perfectly interact with the music to create something that is both self-consciously retro and very, very heartfelt.

The best bands leave you spinning, not knowing *what* to think but needing to hear more — and that’s what Francis and the Lights did on Friday. Everything I thought I knew and liked about music flew right out the window within the first 30 seconds of their set, and I need more, now.

And while I stand by my original belief that you don’t just walk right in front of someone playing Big Buck Hunter, I do wish I’d spoken to Francis a little more politely. There’s no better way to win an argument with some drunken asshole in a bar than to get on stage and rock the house for an full hour.

Francis and the Lights are playing at Galapagos in williamsburg this Thursday night. There’s not much about them online — their Myspace page is hard to find, and only had 8 friends listed which is fine for a person but low for a great band. FreeWilliamsburg has a little something about them today, though, and I took a couple photos on Saturday, too.

If you go to their website, you can download their entire EP for free.

This lone video is the only thing of theirs I could find on YouTube, but I have a feeling that’s about to change. Check it out — it’s good enough that you’ll forgive the popped collar:

6 Responses

  1. marc b. Says:

    Sounds like just what you’ve been looking for lately. And I agree with you on the videogame front. Anyone under 46 knows he shouldn’t get in the way of a man and his Atari (coleco, nintendo, sega, whatever).

  2. Robin Says:

    And here I assumed you meant Williamsburg, Virginia. Still absorbing the ide aof coke and Fresca on a yacht with a white linen jacket. So for me it’d be the female equivalent. Still. While he was rude, suppose he DID win that one.

  3. Kim Holleman Says:

    WOW and holy shit, how can I NOT go!?
    Thanks Jeff, hookin me up yet again with the culture and the stuff.

  4. Misty Says:

    Wish I lived in NY, or near by. Would love to see these guys, I love their music. I .want. more. And I do believe he won that argument, but what a great F-ing story!

  5. Ian C Says:

    I saw Francis and The Lights when I visited New York in January, at the Mercury Lounge, and was similarly affected, nay, hooked, nay, totally and utterly addicted. Great tunes and a voice that demonstrates the range of a soul great but with a biting, heartbreaking edge, like the singer from the Blue Nile. And as for the dancing, he even blows Dave Gahan off the stage. How could anyone NOT love this band? I sincerely hope that they’ll get a chance to come to the UK sometime, especially Cambridge, maybe play some of the University Colleges here.

  6. Malcolm Says:

    Cool sounds. Goes with my Paris sensibilities.

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