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Vue



San Francisco's Vue may be poised to become the newest darlings of the retro rock revival, but their success has been a long time in the making. In fact it goes all the way back to the early '90s, when the band's key members, then teens living in the coastal enclave of Half Moon Bay (about an hour south of San Francisco on the 1), pursued a decidedly different sound than the raunchy, bluesy, Stones-inflected garage rock they now favor. In this earliest incarnation the band called itself Portraits of Past, featured future Vue vocalist Rex Shelverton, guitarist Jonah Buffa, and bassist Jeremy Bringetto, and played raging hardcore.

But boys grow up, and sometimes when they do, they discover makeup and platform shoes, and for Portraits of Past this spelled the end. By 1996 the three friends were playing in a band called The Audience, loosely based in Santa Cruz, where Buffa and Bringetto attended school and met keyboardist Jessica Graves. Within a few years The Audience had migrated to San Francisco, where they performed as a six-piece, quickly earning accolades for their frenetic live shows, which typically saw Shelverton writhing on the floor by the end of the first song. Punk was still very much in their blood, but glam had captured their hearts, as evidenced by their signature single, "Young Soul," a classic of the late '90s Bay Area rock scene, which saw release on a seven-inch on GSL Records and caught the interest of Sub Pop Records, which offered to put out the band's debut LP.

Before that could happen however, The Audience received a cease-and-desist order from an identically named British band, prompting them to become Vue. They released one more record on GSL, the five-song Death of a Girl EP, in late 2000, and shortly thereafter put out their self-titled debut LP on Sub Pop. The album, the first to feature Vue's present lineup (Shelverton, Buffa, Bringetto, Graves, and drummer Rafael Orlin), found the band in transition, ready to put their hardcore youth behind them, but not entirely certain of their new direction, producing a raw, dirtied-up glam sound that stopped just short of being satisfying. Still it was evident that the years of effort and touring had made Vue's members talented rock and roll musicians who now formed a cohesive unit, as their increasingly dynamic live shows proved.

And that all came out on their 2001 follow-up Find Your Home. The references here are clear: the New York Dolls, The Pretty Things, and especially the Rolling Stones, but the passion belongs to Vue. There's lots of the "young soul" Shelverton used to sing about, as his incomprehensible shriek of yesteryear has evolved into a emotive Jagger-esque rock and roll wail, while Buffa's harmonica riffs and white-hot blues guitar progressions now give the Vue's rock a touch of that classic Chicago electric blues flavor. There's more space and texture here than ever before; the band has clearly become adept at shaping their songs rather than just letting them fly and fall how they may.

RCA was impressed by the band's ability to summon the classic, raw, swaggering, chicks 'n' booze sound and signed them in 2002. The Babies Are for Petting EP followed early the next year, while their major label debut, Down for Whatever comes out in October 2003.