Office: Lollapalooza

By • Aug 6th, 2008 • Category: Concert Reviews

Photo courtesy of Nate Lanthrum / Soundcheck Magazine

When visual artist Scott Masson started Office in 2001, he meant for it to use corporate themes such as costumes and props throughout the band’s performances … not for it to parallel homogenized, lifeless, assembly line, conglomerate slog.

Yet that’s exactly what he had when his Chicago ensemble took the PlayStation 3 stage Sunday afternoon during this year’s Lollapalooza. The quintet – which was at one time a trio, and a sextet, and a four-piece, and has featured more than 13 musicians either on the road or in the studio – saw everything wrong with Masson’s fill-in-the-blank approach to band mates actualized during the 1:15 p.m. set.

Much like disgruntled workers, Office cruised through a dozen songs with the same muscle-memory of employees working just hard enough not to get fired, entirely disinterested in forming chemistry. Only guitarist Tom Smith seemed to notice that he was performing in front of a hometown crowd at one of the largest festivals in the world. With his instrument slung low, Smith looked the part while strutting around stage and stretching out over the crowd in between sharing vocal duties. But his co-workers – including front man Masson – might as well have punched a clock before taking the northern stage.

At one point, the band followed suit with many of the weekend’s performers and made a dedication to Barack Obama… but then was unsure which tune was supposed to come next. It didn’t speak well for the members’ interest in their own gig.

The band’s entire song selection was listless and off-putting. Despite still supporting last year’s enjoyable A Night at the Ritz, the band played only four of the album’s cuts – “If You Don’t Know By Now,” “The Ritz,” “Had a Visit”, and “Oh My.” Which would be more palatable if that 2007 release wasn’t the group’s only widely-available LP. The rest, including set opener “Loverdriver,” were from 2003’s hard-to-find debut The Ice Tea Boys and the Lemonade Girls or the like.

The band’s crunching new wave-esque tunes lost all edge. Their catchy power-pop moments didn’t quite hook. Masson’s sincerity from Ritz was replaced with an utter smarminess that resonated through the afternoon show.

Maybe he was like the bulk of the crowd, upset that Canadian troubadours The Weakerthans canceled and Office’s show was moved from 11:30 a.m. But Masson should have been thankful. If he hated working so much at 1:15 p.m., how miserable would he have been a couple hours earlier?

Soundcheck Magazine, August 2008

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