Thursday, February 26, 2004

Burst—Prey on Life (Relapse)
My first couple listens to this Swedish band’s latest album left me non-committal, but Prey on Life has grown on me tremendously since then. Burst’s sound isn’t very welcoming. It’s an interesting blend of styles—art-damaged hardcore like Neurosis and their brethren Isis, mixed with some Swedish speed metal in the vein of At the Gates. The vocals rarely vary from a hardcore scream with the panic meter constantly in the red. I prefer to hear vocalists mix it up a little. I guess it’s an appropriate style to deliver lines like “rolling waves of nausea/seeping through/my mind/darkest abyss of conscience/time will swallow/all.” Not until the seventh track, “Crystal Asunder,” does that voice make way for some more melodic singing, plaintive and processed. All in all I considered it a bleak listen that didn't distinguish itself from many other hardcore bands I’ve heard. “Undoing (Prey on Life)” is an intriguing little opener, moving as it does through powerchord bombast and cacophony to a brief acoustic guitar break, more cacophony, with a percussion fusillade at the finish. But the true genius of the album emerges by the fourth track, “Rain,” where the intricacy of the song structures and the tight playing really becomes apparent. Burst doesn’t emphasize atmosphere and repetition like Neurosis and their ilk. The songs on Prey on Life are relatively short, and never stay in one place for too long. Nor does Burst revel in disorientation and randomness. The transitions between sections are so smooth that they don’t call attention to themselves, unlike the exercises in cut-and-paste that dozens of other noisecore bands consider songwriting. This is a very clever album that fully deserved its place near the top of many “best-of-2003” lists last December.

Saturday, February 21, 2004

While flipping through the bargain bins at Neptoon today, I realized that 65% of albums released between 1972 and 1979 were by Jean-Luc Ponty.

I got
Song for America
Love those covers.

Monday, February 16, 2004

Deep Purple and Thin Lizzy, Feb. 8, 2004 at the Orpheum Theatre
Thin Lizzy came on with lights flashing and sirens wailing—tonight there would be a jailbreak, apparently. The sound was shatteringly loud, and the kick drums were distorting a bit. Thin Lizzy were basically a cover band, albeit one with a pedigree. John Sykes, who handled guitar and vocals (sounding not unlike Phil Lynott), was only with Lizzy for one album in ’83. Scott Gorham, the other guitarist, hailed from the band’s glory days. The bass player was a generic Richie Sambora type. The drummer, Michael Lee, had double bass drums just like Brian Downey, and a big cooling fan blowing in his face. Very rock. The set list was basically one half of the Live and Dangerous album (“Don’t Believe a Word,” “Rosalie,” “The Cowboy Song”, “Still in Love With You,” and so on), with a couple songs from the ’80s thrown in, like “Chinatown” and “Cold Sweat.” They didn’t play “Emerald,” unfortunately, which is one of those songs I’m always in the mood to hear. The set was over in a flash, way too short to do justice to the Lizzy back catalogue. After 45 minutes, they gave the crowd the beer-commercial-tainted “The Boys Are Back in Town” (cue Fancylady’s dash for a slash) then left the stage.

Intermission and time to survey the crowd. Lots of normal folks, and more aging rockers than you can shake a Thai stick at. Families occupied whole rows, the dads anxious to show Puddle of Mudd-loving offspring how the guitar ought to be played. And a lone hipster in a trucker hat featuring the word “BUDGIE” chicken-scratched above the brim with a Sharpie. Sure, he may like one of the most rocking bands in history, but he wasn’t going to shuck off the irony and expend some effort replicating their logo. Come on, Roger Dean designed it—it’s nearly as cool as the Yes logo!

Deep Purple were everything I expected them to be—poised, well seasoned, and masterful. They make it look so easy. After opening with a new song off Bananas, they went into “Woman From Tokyo,” and the gig took flight. I’ve always thought this was a semi-silly song, but man, did it ever work on stage. Purple are masters of the sustaining tension and delaying the payoff, and the long, trippy “So far away” section in "Woman From Tokyo" was a perfect example. Then they crashed into the main riff again and Don Airey raced through that piano solo and it doesn’t get any better than that. The first half of the set was 50/50 old/new, and included “Strange Kind of Woman” (I like a shuffle), “Perfect Strangers,” and “Knockin’ at Your Back Door”. The new songs from Bananas were all very classy, tight, a little busy and proggish. I get the impression that they can toss this stuff off effortlessly after all these years. Having Steve Morse in the band must help, because that guy is a music machine. He probably writes 15 riffs before breakfast.

Ian Gillan looked comfortable in baggy white togs and bare feet. His voice is a well-worn instrument these days, upper range mostly gone, but everything else hanging in there. Ian Paice (hero!) played like Ian Paice behind his Ian Paice drum kit. Looks like fun. Roger Glover (wearing the aging rocker head scarf favoured by Ian Anderson and most of Fleetwood Mac) is hard to pin down as a bassist. He’s not an introverted genius virtuoso like John Paul Jones or Entwistle, nor is he the embodiment of low-end simplicity like a Cliff Williams. Not to slight him, but Glover just does the job, and he sounds great.

They devoted the last half of the show to Machine Head, playing all tracks in order, slipping “When a Blind Man Cries” (a b-side you’ll find on the CD reissue) between “Lazy” and “Space Truckin’.” Gillan had some serious trouble with the album's opening and closing tunes, but handled the rest of the songs okay. During this segment of the show, the bananas backdrop disappeared in favour of film clips related to the early seventies—Janis and Jimi, Nixon and ’Nam, protesters and pot leaves. This was a bit forced, distracting and unnecessary. The songs didn’t need that kind of visual buttressing, and Deep Purple's music, to me at least, stands apart from that sort of clichéd nostalgia. Machine Head certainly still holds up today—I play it several times a year. It’s a helluva lot more than a period piece.

After a short break, they came back and played “Hush” and “Black Night” for the encore. It was all good, though I was hankering for something from In Rock. However, Sox tells me that “Child in Time” hasn’t been in the set since ’87, and most of the other songs on that album are probably out of Gillan’s range, too. Whatever—the crowd did a soccer chant along with the “Black Night” riff, the Gimli-like figure of Gerald the Rattlehead was bouncing up and down the aisle, and even though the gig would end in a couple minutes, everything was just about perfect.

Friday, February 13, 2004

I've become obsessed with Strangers With Candy. Jerri Blank is the best comic invention since Alan Partridge. Like old "Cook Pass" Partridge, Jerri is sometimes difficult to watch, and her general ookiness makes me squirm. On the other hand, I'm rooting for her unequivocally, the same as I do with Alan. I don't know how Amy Sedaris is able to pull this off, but she does it. Genius.

I'm heading into the last third of season one, and season two awaits.
A Deep Purple concert review is in the works. I'll put it up after I massage most of the gayness out of it. That takes some doing.

Monday, February 02, 2004

Everyone at the Sox house on Sunday was impressed with the cover of the Georgia Straight this week: a recreation of the cover photo of The Subhumans' Incorrect Thoughts for a feature story on Nardwuar and The Evaporators.

Rebecca Blissett did an amazing job of duplicating the composition and look of the original picture. It’s a well-crafted, clever nod to Vancouver's punk past and to Nardwuar's obsession with the history of Canadian rock 'n' roll.

And I’m pretty sure that's all we're to infer from the picture. You can't compare the two bands, really. Subhumans bassist Gerry Hannah used to help firebomb Red Hot Video stores, whereas Nardwuar merrily interrogates Ron Jeremy every time he rolls into town. Different strokes...