Late last year, I first clicked on a Youtube link for “Punching in a Dream” while working down my list of SXSW bands. Frankly, most bands I ran through fell somewhere between boring and predictable, but within seconds of listening to The Naked and Famous I knew I was on to something. I immediately started spreading the word amongst my music friends all of whom were digging what they heard. Fast-forward nine months. I go online to purchase tickets to their headlining show at Dallas’ Granada Theater only to see “sold out” in big red letters over the band’s picture. Even more perplexing, the show was over a month out at the time.
Somewhere in the last couple of months, The Naked and Famous are legitimately a mainstream band Stateside. From a noon show in Waterloo Records’ parking lot during SXSW, the band has truly come a long way since I started my coverage. The wave crested even earlier in Europe. Videos from major festivals throughout the continent show audiences ecstatically clapping and bouncing along as the downbeat in “Young Blood” first kicks in. In a half year full of revelatory moments, this was the point when I saw The Naked and Famous turn a corner into a international headlining act.
The Naked and Famous are certainly known best for “Young Blood”, which has increasingly gained spins on mainstream radio both domestically and abroad. No doubt, it’s a hell of a song. Equally electronic dance and driving rock, it even has an interesting break to cool off for a couple of seconds before they explode back into the wordless chorus. On the other hand, the real power in The Naked and Famous lies in their deeper cuts, layered in experimental tones and melodies. From the ambient drone that anchors “The Sun” to the frantic builds in “A Wolf in Geek’s Clothing”, the band has shown a true penchant for diversity that speaks really well for the future. Frontman Thom Powers recently expressed his excitement to write “the next ‘Young Blood’”, but I personally am more excited for them to explore some of the out-there sounds they established with “Frayed” and “Eyes”. After catching a headlining show (my buddy ended up with an extra ticket for last month’s Granada gig), the show-closing “Young Blood” seemed almost like an afterthought given the breadth of material that anchored the middle of the set.
Of all the bands we’ve covered through “The 12”, I have the hardest time with The Naked and Famous in terms of where I think they’ll go next. The band shuns the idea of actually being famous, but if they keep pushing the electronic rock genre as they have done, there could be some pretty big doors opening up for the young band. For some reason, I keep drawing back to Pablo Honey-era Radiohead when I think of The Naked and Famous. Not exactly musically (though it is pretty obvious the band has drawn some influence from post-Kid A material), but more that I can hear moments of the band trying to make something new and different. The Naked and Famous is a band completely set up with the ability to evolve, a trait that so many great bands struggle to get a grasp on throughout a career. I know there will be fans skipping around their sophomore disc down the road looking for the next pop hit, but I’ll searching for something deeper, darker and most importantly interesting. It’s been a fun ride following along with The Naked and Famous and they are definitely another band I don’t hesitate to throw a check in the “made it” box.