A Big Yes and a Small No

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Photograph: Rose Callahan

Union Hall; Thu 22

A too-clever moniker is a red flag for overliterate art rock. A Big Yes and a Small No? You’d better believe it’s all about jazzy vibe flourishes and darkly comic, deadpan lyrics. A vehicle for wordy relationship musings by multi-instrumentalist Kevin Kendrick, the Brooklyn group enjoys contributions from a loose cast of minor jam-band associates, including drummer Joe Russo (Benevento/Russo Duo), bassist Dave Dreiwitz (Ween), guitarist Scott Metzger (Rana, American Babies) and a handful of others. So it’s also no wonder that the songs on the band’s debut album, Jesus That Looks Terrible on You, are reminiscent of Phish’s poppier material: goofy, intricate and intriguing.

That’s not to say that Big Yes will play until dawn, noodling ad nauseam. The band might draw players and ideas from the improvisational jazz-rock scene, but its material is mostly through-composed pop. So there will be three-minute retro rockers like “Faded Away” and slow-burning breakup songs like “What a Fucking Mess This Turned Out to Be.” Kendrick’s intentionally dorky, desperate vocals (think Spring Awakening) preside over all, as he spits out matter-of-fact lines about how love makes you crazy. “Yesterday, I robbed a bank and blew it all on flowers,” he sings on “I’m Always Manic (When I’m Around You).” Bat-shit insanity never sounded so romantic.

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