Lucid Culture


Concert Review: The New Collisions at Arlene Grocery, NYC 4/23/09

The night began auspiciously. Boston new wave revivalists the New Collisions just get better and better. In the studio, platinum-haired frontwoman Sarah Guild sings with a provocative chirp but in concert she turns on the big, ferocious, Martha Davis-style wail. If their upcoming cd is anything like their live show, it’s going to be amazing. Seven PM being an uncharacteristically early hour for them, they made it seem like it was midnight, burning through one sharply danceable, catchy song to the next, many of them segues that took the crowd by surprise. With their busy basslines, swooping 80s-style synth, guitarist Scott Guild’s slashing, trebly chordal style, they’re something akin to Missing Persons with a college degree and an ever-present sense of unease – almost all of their three-minute dance songs have a dark side. The persistent restlessness in the lyrics is anything but a pose: it’s almost as if this band is offering a new look at the real side of the 80s, the one that John Hughes never would have. Even though the band looks like they weren’t even born until late in the decade.


From the first notes of the calypso-inflected intro to No Free Ride, Scott Guild was pogoing. They segued from that one into the lost-kids anthem In a Shadow, Sarah Guild belting wildly into the chorus: “In a shadow is all I know.” On Caged Us Kids, she finally took off her leather coat, revealing an irridescent red dress. “They caged us kids and stole from us,” she wailed over the song’s catchy four-chord, darkly minor-key hook. And then segued into a particularly ferocious version of their nonconformist anthem Ones to Wander: “We were the ones to wander, not like you…between the lights, oh my eyes!” It was transcendent, powerpop heaven, like being at a CBGB of the mind, 1976.


Beautiful and Numb began as an uncharacteristically warm, atmospheric ballad, with synth washes building to a stinging, anthemic chorus: “Isn’t it true, this is how the world ends…they took away the danger and they taught us how to sing,” Sarah Guild lamented, a stark contrast with the American Idol types she was disparaging. Then the keyboardist took a nimble electric piano solo that wouldn’t have been out of place on a Radio Birdman song.


“I could not escape what was mine…in the night there is no silence,” went the verse on a the new, somewhat New Order-tinged ballad Constellations. They closed the set with a ferocious new one building from a stark piano outro, Sarah Guild’s outraged wail telling how, “somehow when I sleep we were maimed, we were changed.” Since the band has been rehearsing with two drummers, they’d depleted all the songs the guy they brought along with them knew (this guy is a keeper!) so they did Caged Us Kids again as an encore. Next time around the club ought to put them on later: a lot of their fan base were AWOL, no doubt still at work or on the way home. They’re back in NYC at the Delancey on May 21 at 9.

April 25, 2009 Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CD Review: Steve Kilbey – Painkiller

His best solo album. Steve Kilbey, visionary frontman and main songwriter of legendary Australian art rockers the Church, usually saves his best material for the band. Some of the lush, intricately crafted songs here have the percussive insistence that characterized much of the band’s 1984 Remote Luxury album, others sound an awful lot like the neo-psychedelia of Brian Jonestown Massacre, which makes sense since Ricky Rene Maymi of that band is on this cd. Kilbey’s infrequent solo albums (this is his first in eight years) typically have a lo-fi charm, a mix of what often sound like sketches and outtakes, many of them acoustic, Kilbey playing most if not all of the instruments. But this is a full-band album, eight of its eleven tracks credited to the group Kilbey assembled for it (along with Maymi there’s Scott Von Ryper of the Black Ryder and Morning After Girls and William Bowden on electronics as well as Tim Powles from the Church on drums). While Kilbey’s signature sound has always been atmospheric, this is a new direction for him, equal parts retro and futurist and it works extremely well. As Kilbey calls it on his myspace, it’s “space rock,” richly layered with oscillating keyboards and what sound like a small city worth of guitar tracks fading in and out of the mix.


The cd begins with the fast, driving Outbound, Kilbey’s vocals impressively strong, even aggressive, what seems to be an escape anthem. He’s quick to insist that he’s “not what the man in the street supposes…not a real time being, it’s the shadow you’re seeing.” There’s an eerie, minimalist guitar solo with a Middle Eastern tinge. The next two tracks share the same fast 80s beat, Wolfe (with what sound like sarcastic faux Sonic Youth vocals) seemingly a slap at a monkey on the back (LOTS of drug references here), Celestial maintaining the sarcastic feel with watery late 80s Robert Smith style guitar.


Song for the Masking (a pun on Song for the Asking, a beautiful ballad from the 2001 Church album After Everything Now This) builds from insistent downstroke acoustic guitar, getting darker and murkier with umpteen layers of effects and…of course…backward masking. “Come on,” Kilbey gleefully intones as the next cut, Look Homeward Angel gets underway, basically a swirling one-chord jam: “Got a heart like mercury…got a silver lining hanging over me.” The wooziest and the most overtly retro, BJM-influenced of all the songs here, Spirit in Flame pounds along, slow and hypnotic. 


The best song on the album, the fleetingly gorgeous Forever Lasts for Nothing comes toward the end, a Kilbey classic that in a lot of ways sounds like a rewrite of Bel Air from the Church’s first album, Of Skins and Heart. Dating from the waning days of the Bush regime, it’s a call to arms, not something you’d expect here – to say that it packs a punch would be an understatement:


Standing at the junction of two great highways, post-industrial breeze

No one fucking cares about your broken heart, or your slow release…

I got a little plan, I’ll start acting like a man, you can act like me…

Just like a welcome mat you lay down on the floor

Just like the love for rich and fist for the poor…


There are also a couple of one-chord stoner jams including one really long one to close the album, ending with samples of a thunderstorm and what sound like whale songs. Fans of any kind of psychedelia from throughout the ages should get this; for Church fans, it’s a must-own. Kilbey’s blog is also worth bookmarking: his prose poems are often as insightful and savagely amusing as his song lyrics.      

April 25, 2009 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment