At a time when so much New Wave music has lapsed into callow trendiness, the Human Switchboard blew into the 9:30 club Saturday night like a breath of fresh air. This Cleveland quartet played jagged, relentless songs that always challenged but never distanced the listener. Instead, Ron Metz's quick dance drumming, Myrna Marcarian's heart-throbbing organ and Robert Pfeifer's prodding guitar made common cause with the audience; the band offered conciliation even as they angrily attacked our illusions.
Bassist Steve Calabria recently joined this trio to solidify the pounding dance beat behind the twisting-knife lyrics of Pfeifer and Marcarian. These prolific writers sang many songs penned since their recent debut album was released. Pfeifer's biting snarl complemented Marcarian's understated plaint. Their one cover was Petula Clark's "Downtown," which they drenched in irony to fit the depressed state of the Frost Belt. When Marcarian sang, "Go downtown; everything's waiting for you," it was both a warning and a desperate hope.
Rhode Island's Rubber Rodeo opened the show with a New Wave parody of country music. Like the B-52s, whom they resembled visually and musically, Rubber Rodeo was amusing but ultimately trivial.