Fleetwood Mac in Reverse 

Behold Mates of State, patron saints of indie-rock lovey-doveyness.

The most mind-blowingly intense rock 'n' roll performance of the modern era was delivered by Fleetwood Mac. The specific song in question: "Silver Springs," a no-account Rumours outtake largely unheralded until the Mac reunited briefly in 1997 for a few shows designed to bulk up Stevie Nicks' cocaine-blown-up-my-ass fund and afford drummer Mick Fleetwood more opportunity to act like a deranged overcaffeinated dunce onstage.

We can mock and tear down Fleetwood Mac this way because they've proven so adept at mocking and tearing down each other -- the exact reason they delivered the most mind-blowingly intense rock 'n' roll performance of the modern era. They created (or at least perfected) the Sleeping with Your Bandmates Will Only Portend the Apocalypse archetype, crafting a vituperative catalog of extremely angry songs directed at each other.

So there's a reunited Mac onstage at Warner Bros. Studios for a live CD/DVD hootenanny, clearly uncomfortable but enduring decades of intra-band friction just to have a few yuks and grab some cash. And Nicks revs up "Silver Springs," a typical slow-burn soft rock tune you'd hear at the dentist's. Typical maudlin lyrics: "Time casts a spell on you/But you won't forget me/I know I could've loved you/But you would not let me. "

But what makes it so insane is that the dude Stevie's whining to, famed star-crossed lover Lindsey Buckingham, is singin' harmony and bustin' out a guitar solo immediately to her left. Insane. And as the coda's intensity builds -- "You'll never get away from the sound of the woman who loves you" -- Stevie stares Lindsey down and starts howling "Nevvvver get away! Nevvvvvvver get away! Nevvvvvvvvvvver get away!"

Just psychotic. Death metal has nothing on this.

Yes, intra-band luv -- past or present, real or imagined -- is the simplest way to ensure that drooling chumps (like this one) endlessly obsess over your personal life and ignore the damn tunes. Ask the White Stripes: Everyone else has. But if Fleetwood Mac represents the benchmark for post-relationship acrimony, famed and former (they recently fled to New England) Bay Area duo Mates of State sets the gold-standard for lovey-doveyness.

Mates of State comprises organist Kori Gardner and drummer Jason Hammel, a married couple now three albums deep into a career crafting unbelievably bouncy indie pop tunes in which they giddily shout two-part harmonies over cryptic lyrics: "This is the blood that we're made of/So tell it like a chronicle/Who's dancing all around?/Let's give it to me, give it to me now." Onstage -- as they were last week for a two-night stand at Bottom of the Hill -- Gardner and Hammel set up directly across from each other, swapping loving stares and goofy glances between bouts of cutesy, corny stage banter.

"She just got her wisdom teeth out today. She can't really talk."

"He's totally lying."

If you'd just suffered through a lousy day -- lost your job, pissed off your mate, wrecked your car, and trudged homeward to find your dog had burned down your house and then shot himself -- Mates of State is the worst possible band you could possibly see afterward: sickeningly, pervasively, pulverizingly cute. You would tear the club limb from limb.

For the more mentally balanced among us, it's weirdly fascinating.

Mates of State has most assuredly tired of this angle -- adorable indie rockers in love -- but it still defines them. The band's latest CD, Team Boo, is lushly loaded with blissful band portraits, including a shot of the couple holding hands in silhouette on a tree-lined suburban front lawn, picket fence and all. Delightful.

Perhaps this is a seasonal thing: Some intriguing bands-focused-on-the-band's-love-life have emerged lately. Take Oakland's Lovemakers, shamelessly poppy electro-sleaze rockers who grind and disrobe and make out onstage. The Lovemakers recently shared Bottom of the Hill's very stage with the Kills, a male/female garage rock duo that, despite a murkier and less publicly flaunted connection between them, nonetheless spent large portions of the show brandishing guitars and menacing each other toe-to-toe. SF duo the Caseworker just released These Weeks Should Be Remembered, an ethereal pop record framed, if not dominated, by their recently dissolved relationship. They join an already colorful cast of belovedly bitter divorcees (Quasi, themselves Tuesday night Bottom of the Hill visitors to whom Mates of State are exhaustively compared), poetry-spouting ex-lovers (Rainer Maria), and jailbaiting Russian quasi-lesbians (T.A.T.U., God bless 'em).

Mates of State transcends all of this, however, with pure ... happiness. Opening Thursday's show with a perfect, sweet cover of Nico's "These Days," they thoroughly charmed a traditionally dour lot -- the crammed-together indie rock packed house -- with quiet musical excellence and blatant personal exuberance. "I am right all the time," Gardner sang over and over, pounding eight organs' worth of Candyland melodies with just two hands. Every tune shrapneled off into two or three separate melodies, delivered in a marital singsong repertoire that's intense without being hokey or contrived.

It sounds ridiculous on paper or in theory, but ridiculously infectious in practice. Just like love, or indie rock love, at least. Stevie and Lindsey might give away all their fame to feel the way these kids evidently do: Even for those skeptical of Mates of State, time casts a spell on you, and you won't forget 'em.


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