Local music review: This Is My Suitcase

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Few bands are as distinct as This Is My Suitcase because few performers pour themselves into their music like Joe Camerlengo. Though the band has become more collaborative over the years, their maniacal indie-pop is still essentially the musical manifestation of Camerlengo's beaming heart and tortured soul.

While everything they do bears their frontman's unique stamp, there's a huge disparity between the This Is My Suitcase you'll encounter at your music retailer and the This Is My Suitcase that appears on Columbus stages.

The band slaves over albums for years before reluctantly declaring them finished and thrusting them into the public consciousness. On stage, though, they're as haphazard a unit as you'll find, slapdash and scatterbrained to an almost cartoonish extent.

That's no indictment of their shows - the musical portion, at least. When Camerlengo and company are cooking, it's one of the city's most thrilling experiences, one dearly missed during a yearlong hiatus from live shows that ended last Tuesday at Carabar.

Trimmed to a quartet since the departure of guitarist Joe Fitzgerald, This Is My Suitcase careened through each tune as if unleashing this music was a job too urgent for precision. Camerlengo's gnarly guitar lines showed his obsession with George Harrison is paying dividends, while the backing players kept up admirably as his uncorked energy threatened to steer off the rails.

It was more punk than pop, a remarkable thing to say about a band more likely to appear in Alternative Press than Maximum Rocknroll. They even had the gall to remake Jackson Browne's "These Days" in their own neurotic image, a move devotees of Browne's and Nico's versions might rightfully decry as heresy.

Most of the songs were new, destined for upcoming releases Camerlengo referenced with meticulous detail in lengthy monologues between songs. That was the problem with this set, and holy hell was it a problem: Camerlengo squandered momentum and good will with each cutesy soliloquy.

I don't give a damn that this next song is the third track on some EP that hasn't been recorded yet, but when it's as rousing and fearless as most of This Is My Suitcase's latest work, I want to hear them bash it out post-haste.

This Is My Suitcase