Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Concert Review: Rawles Balls at Otto’s, NYC 10/1/08

By showtime, 9 PM, Rawles Balls were already into their set. You can’t say that this band doesn’t love to  be onstage. From time to time, they actually sounded pretty good.

 

That’s a problem.

 

Rawles Balls’ shtick is that they’re the cover band from hell, taking great relish in butchering both pop hits and obscurities from across the decades. If their sound isn’t quite punk, their spirit is, snotty, sarcastic and often devastatingly funny, as they mock the so-called stars the big corporations have given us over the years. Their repertoire is jaw-droppingly extensive, even if they only know how to play a small fraction of the material all the way through, and with the right changes. Rawles Balls may also own the alltime record for number of cds released (over fifty at last count). Trouble is, if your goal is to be a human jukebox and play shows constantly, something happens to you.

 

 

You get good.

 

 

That right there eliminates part of what has made Rawles Balls’ shows so funny in the five or six years they’ve been playing: their complete ineptitude. Frontman Nigel Rawles (who was the drummer in the late, lamented Scout) has always been a far better guitarist than he lets on in this group, but Wednesday night he took a couple of solos and not only nailed them but managed to make them terse and intelligent. Which goes completely against the grain of what this band has been doing up to now. If this show is any indication, you can tell which songs the band likes from the ones they don’t by how well they play them. The Cramps’ Human Fly was actually inspired and pretty spot-on, drummer Monica Castellanos (who’s been by far the best musician of this crew until recently) actually doing a better job than Nick Knox did on the original. But the Smashing Pumpkins’ 1979 was a trainwreck, Rawles calling it quits mid-song when it became apparent that his bandmates weren’t up to the task (who would be? The song is awful). Ditto the Dolls’ Personality Crisis and Roy Orbison’s Pretty Woman, wherein bassist Patrick Glynn seemed to be feigning ignorance of the hook that every single male bassist keeps close at hand, waiting for the opportunity to slip it in somewhere.

 

 

Their version of 20 Flight Rock was actually serviceable, although their new lead player (who didn’t seem to have been given the chance to rehearse) sang it off-mic. Here Comes Your Man by the Pixies is pretty simple, and the band managed to get their fingers around that one pretty much, too. Then they did Creedence’s Have You Ever Seen the Rain, the lead player finally figuring out the song’s big hook too late as Rawles segued into another song with the same chord progression (he’s encyclopedic like that), and then into Down on the Corner, which he quickly gave up on in disgust. “Let’s do something that sounds good,” he told the band. High point of the night was, as usual, the Shangri-La’s Great Big Kiss, featuring a great big MWAH on the chorus from Rawles and his dead-serious backup singer Michelle, who unlike the rest of the band actually knows the words to the songs.

 

When they came to the song’s bridge, Michelle had a question for Rawles: “How does she make love?”

 

“Like the way Patrick plays bass. Loud and sloppy.”

 

Meanwhile, Rawles’ ex-bandmate A.K. Healey, whose long-awaited solo debut cd is finally close to completion, wandered around the room making video clips. Wherever their always-expanding repertoire and newfound chops may take them, Rawles Balls do it star style: there’s an official Rawles Balls fan club, and a new Rawles Balls fanzine in the works as well. Who knows, maybe you’ll see them on Comedy Central someday. Check the Lucid Culture concert calendar for updates on upcoming Rawles Balls’ shows.

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October 5, 2008 Posted by | Live Events, Music, New York City, Reviews | , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 10/5/08

Counting ’em down all the way to #1…today’s is:

 

660. Black Sabbath – Electric Funeral

Dismiss this song as part of the soundtrack of every 13-year-old stoner’s life and miss out on the fun. Sure, Geezer Butler’s lyrics aren’t exactly poetic, but they make a point – this is an antiwar song! The various parts of the suite are loaded with those eerie chromatics that early Sabbath loved so much. Sure, there’s that brain-dead guy from that reality show singing, but this song came out thirty years before he became synonymous with dubious tv instead of dubious music. And as just about anyone who’s ever been in a band knows, this song is a blast to play (and just about everyone can – that’s what makes it so much fun).

October 5, 2008 Posted by | Music | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment