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Issue 571 : September 7-13, 2006

Top live show
THE NEW STANDARDS
Joe’s Pub; Sat 9


To those who came of age in the ’70s or later, a standard isn’t necessarily a perfumed and ribboned love song by Jerome Kern. It might be Beck’s “The New Pollution,” Roxy Music’s “Oh Yeah” or Mott the Hoople’s “All the Young Dudes.” These are some of the chestnuts that warm the brooding hearts of the New Standards, a year-old chamber-punk trio that has fast become one of its native Minnesota’s favorite lounge acts. The group takes songs you may have been too stoned to fully appreciate in the past and lays their poetry bare; the raucousness of the originals is replaced by a stark acoustic setting of piano, vibes and drums.

The three ex-alt-rockers are now grown-up and suited down, but they haven’t lost their punkish belligerence. Mug shots adorn their self-titled, self-released CD. The hulking pianist-singer Chan Poling (formerly of the Suburbs) would have fit right into
GoodFellas; vibist Steve Roehm looks like the office geek with the hidden machine gun; bassist-singer John Munson (of Semisonic) is a looker with haunted eyes. Onstage these men are all business, but in their tales of dimming youth and hope they speak for every modern-day automaton who’s struggling to feel. As Poling sings “Nature Boy” in his Herman Munster tones, the vibes chime metronomically, suggesting time ticking away for anyone too cold “to love and be loved in return.” You still wouldn’t want to meet the New Standards in a dark alley, but in the safety of Joe’s Pub, their Manhattan base, they’ll keep you riveted. — James Gavin