Little Joy is pleasant but fleeting
At the Plaza Nightclub on Friday, December 12
I have a theory about the Strokes. I think the band, which has been “on hiatus” since some time in 2006, has actually broken up without telling anyone. How else would Albert Hammond Jr., now on his second album, find so much time to lavish on his solo career? Bassist Nikolai Fraiture likewise has his ridiculously named Nickel Eye project to keep him busy, and drummer Fabrizio Moretti has Little Joy. The illusion that the Strokes are still together is probably just a ruse cooked up to benefit each member’s new ventures. Because, let’s face it, “also of the Strokes” has a lot more cachet than “formerly of the now-defunct Strokes”.
That’s all just speculation, of course, but one thing is certain: Little Joy is an object lesson in the potency of star power. The trio existed for, like, five minutes before it signed with Rough Trade Records, which also happens to be the home of the Strokes (and Hammond, too, for that matter). Much of the still-new group’s blog buzz can be attributed to the presence of one of the dudes from the Strokes.
Mind you, Moretti has what is essentially a supporting role in Little Joy, playing six-string and tenor guitars in accompaniment of frontman Rodrigo Amarante. The band’s third official member, the delightfully monikered Binki Shapiro, also takes the lead on a few songs. For last Friday’s Plaza show, which was Little Joy’s first appearance outside the U.S., the three were backed up by various members of the opening bands, including lank-haired Dead Trees bassist Tad Dahlhoff, who looks like an underfed cross between Frank Zappa and Groucho Marx. At one point there were nine people crowded onto the stage. They probably could have gotten by with four, since most of Little Joy’s catalogue consists of simply constructed pop songs, few clocking in at more than three minutes in length.
And the songs are all kind of nice. If that doesn’t exactly read like a ringing endorsement, it’s because Little Joy fell a tad short of blowing me away. That’s not to say the group is without its merits, though. Amarante (who also leads the Brazilian band Los Hermanos) is an engaging performer, and he ably led his bandmates through a blink-and-you’d-miss-it 40-minute set that ranged from a stomping bar-band version of the Paul McCartney obscurity “Eat at Home” to the ska-tinged original “No One’s Better Sake”. When Shapiro took to the microphone, as on “Don’t Watch Me Dancing”, things tended to take a turn toward the melancholy. She can’t seem to sing more than about three notes, but with her dirty-blond hair piled on top of her head, she had a certain coquettish charm. The dangerously short shift dress she was wearing didn’t hurt, either.
On the whole, it was an unerringly pleasant performance, and, true to the band’s name, everyone on-stage appeared to be having a blast. This was especially true of the unmistakably happy-to-be-there Moretti, who did most of the talking and inexplicably compared the entire audience to Jesus at one point.
The unassuming Little Joy seems unlikely to become anyone’s favourite band, but it’ll do until the Strokes get back together—if that ever happens.