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Q and Not U

Once heralded as a baby Fugazi, Q and Not U have of late been saddled with the more open-ended responsibility of being DC’s next great punk band. Don’t believe the hype: those insular Dischord kids (hey, they used to all live in the same squat without running water or something, right?) have always kept their goals lofty even if their outlook has tended to be a wee bit provincial. Taken for what it is, though, Power makes a strong case for an evolving Dischord more than capable of meeting the electro-organic challenges of our new musical millennium. And the album is different enough from their early, Ian MacKaye–produced recordings that they might as well have called it "New Directions in HarDCore."

Thank Matt Borlik, who quit, leaving the trio bassless but not without options. Replacing him with nothing but synth bass, the band not only pushed themselves toward leaner grooves but opened the door for all kinds of new-wave moves à la Le Tigre. There’s still more than enough urgent call-and-response vocalizing from guitarists/frontmen Harris Klahr and Chris Richards to keep the Fugazi flame burning, especially when they get all worked up and defensive on the cryptic "X-Polynation," with its skittering drums and skittish guitars — "I’ve got a tongue in my mouth/I’d like to use it/Bit down mid seize/You black-and-bruised it" is the general idea. But Q and Not U, now just a trio with drummer John Davis, do lay out a whole new program for serious dance pop with the falsetto vocals, taut grooves, synth hooks, and scratch-your-backside guitars of Power’s opening number, "Wonderful People," which is pure cynical fun. It’s as if someone had taken Jawbox’s bass away, put them on a diet to create a little breathing room in their claustrophobic corner of punk rock, and given them dance lessons — and not at all like Fugazi. And I mean that in a good way.

(Q and Not U open for Interpol on Wednesday March 9 at the Orpheum, 1 Hamilton Place in Boston; call 617-228-6000.)


Issue Date: February 25 - March 3, 2005
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