Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Concert Review: Cementhead at Mercury Lounge, NYC 11/9/08

It wouldn’t be accurate to call this Brooklyn indie rock vets Cementhead’s best-ever show – technical difficulties put an end to that possibility early on – but they’ve definitely never had better songs. Their accurately titled new cd Dementia is a career-defining moment, but ultimately this is a band that’s best enjoyed live. Frontman Gordon Smethurst threw flickering embers and flames from his battered Gibson SG guitar all night while the rhythm section behind him was tight and inspired, whether that meant giving him a pummeling punk stomp or a casual backbeat, the bassist contributing spot-on high harmonies whenever the songs would hit a crescendo.

 

The bass cut out during the band’s first song, and despite the soundman’s impressively strenuous efforts (getting it unplugged and plugged back in with a new cable in seconds flat), it took a couple more numbers before the sonics were finally ironed out. Despite his indie background, Smethurst is a terrifically innovative guitarist, fond of noisy, upper register fills against an open string, raga-style, flinging bits and pieces of melody against an acid wash of sound. Much of this band’s most recent material has the same kind of tongue-in-cheek humor (and creepy stop-and-start melodicism) of early Wire, but without the Anglicisms. Virtually everything they played tonight had some kind of immensely memorable hook, whether that meant the ominous, inescapable descending series of notes on Exquisite, the eerily counterintuitive harmonies on Wintertime or the determinedly blazing minor-key melody of the remarkably complex midtempo ballad Lay Low, which they ended with a mighty and marvelously satisfying heavy metal outro. The highlight of the night, also from the new cd, was Elevator, a ferocious, garage-fueled anthem, Smethurst’s Fender Twin amp roaring evilly as the band methodically burned through its catchy changes all the way to another completely over-the-top ending.

 

Mid-set, Smethurst revealed what he does before gigs – this one, anyway. “Killing time. Went to Toys in Babeland. Every kind of dildo you could imagine.” He made a face. “It was sensitive.” He paused. “Fuck that!” Which pretty much sums up what this band is about: sardonic, defiant and funny at the same time. Catch them next time around when the sound is bound to be better.

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November 11, 2008 - Posted by | Live Events, Music, New York City, Reviews | , , , ,

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