The 30-year story of the New Jersey band Speed the Plough reads like Faulkner’s account of Hoboken. The band’s history runs parallel to that of the quintessential Hoboken band the Feelies, seemingly including every member of the Feelies at one time or another and now at least one of their offspring. There are no Snopeses in this story, however, as harmony and peaceable familial relations seem to prevail all round. Still, the door revolves continuously. Those who have left Speed the Plough don’t seem to leave for long, and usually it is for the Feelies that they leave and from the Feelies that they return.
It is thus pleasantly surprising how unlike the Feelies Speed the Plough is in sound and temperament (not that there is anything wrong with the Feelies – just that we already have them!). Certainly, the plainspoken, VU-derived naturalism of the Feelies is present here as well – that’s just the Hoboken thing – but Speed the Plough is bright, tender, sunny, sad, Celtic and glistening in all the ways that the Feelies tend toward the sharp, serrated, urban and subversive. At the heart of Speed the Plough is the brisk, melancholic psych/pop songwriting of John Baumgartner and the remarkably unaffected, melody-delivery-system singing of Toni Baumgartner. Around that core, it is the great rainbow of jangle, executed with egoless taste and unmistakable joy by a collective of players who all seem to share the same values: Hoboken family values.
Speed the Plough released an excellent new album, Shine, in 2011, and a scintillating career retrospective, The Plough & The Stars, in 2013. Track them down and prepare to be wowed by a band possessed both of a light-touch magic and of a rather astounding consistency. On Saturday, November 8, Speed the Plough are joined at Quinn’s in Beacon by their recent-signee Bar/None label mates and New Paltz’s flagship indie band Breakfast In Fur, whose own euphonious sonic garden, inspired tunesmithery, and willful musical naiveté should make for a splendid match and a natural lineage with their Bar/None elders.
Speed the Plough & Breakfast in Fur, Saturday, November 8, 8:30 p.m., Quinn’s, 330 Main Street, Beacon.