Two Koreas "Withering Heights"

Two Koreas "Withering Heights"
I’ve always felt the Two Koreas were into some risky business. First off, as widely reported in the city of Toronto since their inception, three-fifths of the band are not only well-known music (and film) writers, but they’re all from local alt-weekly Eye Weekly. Secondly, it’s been said many a times that the idea behind the band was to pay tribute to the Fall, but after putting some thought into it they couldn’t decide which era of Mark E. Smith’s shape-shifting career to tackle (a great punch line, I gotta say). And then, for the most part, they turned around and sounded more like the Fall than Pavement, a band unabashed about their "Fall love,” ever did. Talk about leaving yourself open to scenester (and Mark E. Smith’s) disparagement.

Well, that was all over four years ago, and to be fair, the Two Koreas ape more than just Totale’s Turns, but that seems to be the fun of it for them. (Plus, why wouldn’t like-minded, educated music fans unashamedly borrow from their favourites?) Surprisingly for some, they’ve made quite a run out of it too, recording two well-received LPs – 2005’s Main Plates & Classic Pies and last year’s "Altruists” - mashing their collected influences to give us a history lesson covering Krautrock to the aughties’ rock revival.

And now, for the hell of it, they’ve compiled some live off the floor recordings from an appearance on XM Radio’s The Verge 52 for an EP fittingly titled Sessions — complete with artwork paying tongue-in-cheek homage to those timeless Peel Sessions (look closely and you’ll see what I mean). Comprised of cuts from both albums, the Two Koreas truck their way through an eight-song set with both the requisite nonchalance and an unbridled energy. Having seen them on a number of different occasions over the last four years, these recordings show major improvement in their prowess as performers, and growth as both songwriters and piss-takers.

"Withering Heights” is a new and/or unreleased track that encapsulates their personality and tastes. From the wordplay in the title to the band’s effortless ’80s post-punk crawl, hearing the components of this song - the slow-mo rolling rockabilly beat, the ominous bass colliding with the high resonating synth and tinny crunch, and Stuart Berman’s vocal continue to morph away from Mark E.’s grumble – gel further is really developing their "shtick” into something more than what anybody ever expected from them. Just more evidence to make me believe that these Koreas are well on their way to making people forget those tired "editorial” references. Okay, those aren’t going anywhere, likely ever, but hey, at least they can take pride in being the best band I can think of that spends their days critiquing others.

Sessions EP will be released on June 12 through Unfamiliar Records in "glorious vinyl and somewhat-less-glorious-but-wholly-practical mp3 format." A Toronto release party is scheduled for the Beaver Cafe (1192 Queen St. W) on June 12, and the band play the MuseBox's NXNE showcase at the El Mocambo (464 Spadina Ave.) on June 14.

The Two Koreas "Withering Heights”