Apples in Stereo, Casper and the Cookies, Proper Nouns at Little Brother's

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

If ever there were bands meant to play together, these were they.

Athens, Georgia's Apples in Stereo came to town last night, bringing their easily digestible power pop with them. Joining them were touring partners Casper and the Cookies and like-minded locals the Proper Nouns.

I've never been a huge Apples fan, largely because the band played too long, too loud and too samey as the opening act for Clinic back in 2002 at the Wexner Center. Of course, Clinic was awful that night too, but that's another story. Regardless, Robert Schneider is an expert at writing unabashedly retro fun-time pop. He just doesn't have that many tricks up his sleeve. Most of the tunes last night were mid-tempo romps that showed little of the versatility of Schneider's Liverpudlian heroes. The Apples' cookie cutter sound works wonders on the ears in small doses, but eventually all that stuff starts to sound the same. One moment of reprieve from the excessive Beatlemania was a slow, trippy anthem that recalled Brian Jonestown Massacre in the middle of the main set. The bouncing, two-man tambourine corps added to the song's sticky haze. Otherwise, the Apples were wholly competent and often enjoyable but rarely exciting.

As mentioned above, the Apples' hometown buddies Casper and the Cookies made an appearance too. The Cookies took the Athens scene's British Invasion retread to a further extreme than the Apples, dressing up in retro costumes and throwing tricks like coordinated head-banging into their set. Whatever good will the band established with its catchy tunes, it squandered with a campy, smiley stage show that lasted far longer than an opening band should play. The performance sometimes seemed like children's theater, and the four of them just seemed like phonies. Casper (of Cookies fame) cut his teeth in Of Montreal, whose theatrics seem more appropriate because of the music's corresponding grandeur. I guess I apply a sliding scale: The more outrageous your music, the more outrageous your shtick can be.

Our other openers, the Proper Nouns, have been stepping it up a notch lately. The last two Nouns shows I've seen have been their best. Matt Ogborn and company are still not the kings of stage presence, but they're getting more and more engaging, and they continue to crank out quality (surprise) punky power-pop. If these guys would cut loose a little more, they could put on quite a show. Then again, as the Cookies proved, you can't force that stuff. However, in terms of stage presence, the Apples seemed like consummate pros, striking just the right balance of organic excitement. So, to sum up my advice for these bands:

Nouns: Rock out.

Cookies: Keep it real.

Apples: Mix it up.