Kindred spirits: The Hollies, Tommy Keene, Big Star
Show: With Rah Rah on Sunday at Iota.
Show starts at 8:30 p.m. 703-522-8340. www.iotaclubandcafe.com. $10.
Only three songs on Two Hours Traffic’s new album, “Foolish Blood,” have “love” in their titles, and that’s counting the one that punningly translates the word into French. But even when the clever Canadian pop-rockers aren’t saying it, they’re thinking it. The metaphors for infatuation in these 11 songs include magic, astronomy and even narcotics (“I had never touched a drug / Until I held onto your hand”).
The quartet’s style, with its choirboy harmonies, twinkling timbres and sunny demeanor, is rooted in mid-’60s folk-rock. But the brisk, fizzy tunes play against the lyrics, which are seldom about being happy together. In “Amour Than Amis,” singer-guitarist Liam Corcoran wants passion, but his beloved prefers friendship. “Last Star” is about a guy who “got your signal” but didn’t “get the timing right.” “Meaning of Love” lists all the enticements that failed: “I even started a band!”
Well, that last one didn’t work out so badly.
With the help of New Pornographers producer Darryl Neudorf, Two Hours Traffic has updated and recharged its sound: The rhythm section packs a funky swagger, and the twin guitars often break into a punky sprint.
Pop music has changed a lot since 1965, but it seems that romantic frustration is as potent a fuel now as then.