On the long, long list of ordinary indie-rock bands, the Long Winters rank just about smack dab in the middle. Of course, ordinariness isn't much to recommend a band, but it's better than being awful or incompetent. The Seattle band is neither, but it's also not especially bold, clever or interesting -- even if it thinks it is.
It probably didn't help that the trio spent the first 10 minutes of its brief opening set at the 9:30 club Monday night conducting a sound check. Listening to frontman John Roderick and bassist Eric Corson barking "one two, one two" might have fascinated a few fans in the half-full club, but technical details are best worked out well before showtime.
Once they got started, these specialists in mid-tempo, wistful rock played the sort of yearning, heart-on-sleeve songs that may each sound fine but start to feel a bit repetitive and formulaic as a collection. "We're going to do a few more sappy songs about relationships that didn't work out," Roderick told the crowd late in the show. He said it with a knowing smirk, but his description wasn't far off as the band visited much of the sad and sappy material from its first two albums, last year's "When I Pretend to Fall" and 2002's "The Worst You Can Do Is Harm."
At their best -- "Shapes," "Scared Straight," "Cinnamon" -- the Long Winters make a bright and beguiling sound. But many of the group's other songs, and Roderick's self-indulgent banter, reinforce an unfortunate impression of aren't-we-smart preciousness that lingered well after the last note was played.
-- Joe Heim