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No Cure in sight 

VHS or Beta's new album looks to blast away a lingering comparison

click to enlarge Hey, the boys dont look that busy. Actually, they sorta - look like theyre waiting for a frat party ...
  • Hey, the boys dont look that busy. Actually, they sorta look like theyre waiting for a frat party ...

I catch bassist Mark Palgy at a hectic interview time.

It's four days before his band, VHS or Beta, releases its new album, Bring on the Comets, and goes on tour. That night, he's attending a CD release party in the band's hometown of Louisville, Ky. Already he has a lot on his mind.

The buzz generated through tracks released on MySpace and in Webisodes released on the band's site indicate that Bring on the Comets will depart from the neo-contemporary, '80s dance/pop, Duran Duran-style sound that VHS or Beta had on its last release, Night on Fire.

It's supposed to drift more toward rock, to move away from dance, to appeal to a wider audience. That's to be expected when a band signs with a major label.

What I didn't expect: another factor in the shift.

"It was the constant Cure thing we didn't like," Palgy says. "Because, I guess, [lead singer] Craig [Pfunder]'s voice has a certain timbre, it kind of resembles Robert Smith's voice. Apparently everyone and their mother thinks it does. It's crazy.

"Maybe because he's my best friend, but personally I just don't hear it," he adds. "And I don't think Craig does, either."

For what it's worth, I tell him, I hear it, too. And, I add, he certainly could do worse.

"[It's] just because it happened so much," Palgy replies. "Certain journalists, it almost seemed kind of lazy to me, because there was so much more going on other than just the vocals. I don't think the music sounded like The Cure or Robert Smith. But time after time, it was, "They're a Cure band.'"

VHS or Beta has been around since 1998's On and On EP, but reached wider acceptance with its French dance throwback, Le Funk, in 2002. It moved toward an '80s rock/dance sound when it signed with dance-loving label Astralwerks and released Night on Fire.

It's hard to say whether Cure comparisons will fade after the new album; Pfunder's voice does sound the same.

To be honest, there's still plenty to dance to on the band's new album, and there's still a distinct '80s influence. The departure, if anywhere, is within the evolution typical of any band that wants to offer something new with each album.

By its own admission, VHS or Beta is evolving in a way that should appeal to a wider audience. Just one example: Drummer Mark Guidry used real drums rather than electronic drums on this recording. Throughout, the electronic element is less pervasive.

"I wouldn't say it's a determined shift," Palgy says. "I don't want to give a negative connotation to dance. This record is a little more rock and less dance, but there's still a lot of stuff you can dance to."

Though the result isn't exactly Top 40 fare, it is an indication of where the band is heading.

"We wanted to try and have our own sound," Palgy says, "and not try to reinvent anything. We're not inventing a new thing. We've been compared to so many people, it's just harder to compare us to a certain thing or a couple things now."

scene@csindy.com


VHS or Beta with Walter Meego

Larimer Lounge, 2721 Larimer St., Denver

Friday, Sept. 7, 8 p.m.

Tickets: $12 in advance, $14 day-of-show, 21-plus; visit bigmarkstickets.com.

  • VHS or Beta's new album looks to blast away a lingering comparison

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