Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

CD Review: The Sick Debut Album by Woman

There are four people in Woman and they’re all guys. It’s not known what if anything the band name connotes, but it’s definitely not girly. Woman play dark, confrontational, in-your-face noise-rock that sounds straight out of the Lower East Side, 1993. What sets it apart from its antecedents is how tuneful it is. All of the songs here have layers and layers of guitar, howling, screaming, roaring, veering wildly in and out of focus, but the parts all manage to be in the right place at the right time. Since this band is actually very tight, the out-of-control freakouts become all the more intense. This album is like a splatter film that’s at least half suspense: there’s lots of gore, but they save it for when they need it. And then you get buckets. The tunes are always front and center when necessary; ditto the unrestrained savagery. Heavy drums and equally heavy, distorted bass add a shot of molten lead to an already unsteady vehicle.

There are eight tracks on the album to annoy your neighbors with in the wee hours. The first, When The Wheel’s Red layers a firestorm of metallic noise behind a simple catchy warped blues tune, like the Chrome Cranks as done by Sonic Youth circa Daydream Nation with some death metal dude on vocals. Track two, Gaol In My Heart is a stomping dirge, very Honeymoon Killers with a little Syd Barrett thrown in – the band pulses and sputters and finally the flames emerge from within the stinky smoke cloud, then it goes into a circular Doors-ish motif that they run over and over behind the squall. The Perfect Night captures swaying neo-boogie blues through the warped prism of a cheap whiskey bottle and ends cold as if they had to cut something off, or the tape ran out

The fourth cut, E-A-T-D-N-A picks up the pace with some unhinged chord-chopping and a wicked hook at the end of the verse that sounds a lot like the late great Live Skull (it figures: indie legend Martin Bisi engineered the album, maxing out the menace in his signature style). Like the previous cut, it stops dead in its tracks. After that, Phosphorescent Glow welds a catchy garage rock hook to ugly Melvins stomp and some charbroiled Ron Asheton licks. The most accessible song on the cd, Fall Into The Fall motors along on a catchy, mean chromatic hook with a Silver Rocket vibe, saving most of the guitar torture for the end. Heavy Water is aptly titled, like early Sabbath with a feedback fixation. The cd ends with the sarcastically titled torturefest Icy Drone, which reminds a lot of Live Skull’s classic cover of the Curtis Mayfield hit Pusherman. Damn, there hasn’t been a band this twistedly good around here in a long, long time. Could somebody please get their labelmates the Chrome Cranks together again for another tour and put them on the road with these guys. Woops…with this Woman. As a special bonus, Bang Records has pressed a limited edition run of 500 vinyl albums in addition to the cd.

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September 3, 2009 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: The Friggs and the Chrome Cranks at Santos Party House, NYC 5/8/09

Two very different bands with a long history together delivering the same good news, twice: they’re back. Well-loved, all-female garage rock revivalists the Friggs are the kind of band that always seemed up for a reunion show, and word on the street is they’ll be around for the occasional doublebill like this in the coming months even while lead player Palmyra Delran continues her excellent solo career. The Chrome Cranks? Same deal, a prospect that seemed something beyond impossible when the LES legends imploded in the mid-90s. More about them later.

With two Fender Jaguars and a Mustang bass, Delran, Jezebel, drummer Kitten LaChaCha and bassist Ruby Garnett – a distant relative of the Boston Celtics superstar who moonlights as a very compelling keyboardist/chanteuse under the name Rachelle Garniez – drew the crowd in. “Come up here, motherfuckers!” Delran cajoled, and nobody could resist. Over the course of a too-brief twelve-song set and a lone encore, the Friggs gave a clinic in good chord changes and good fun. The charm of the Friggs – beyond the obvious – is their raw edge: the band has just enough looseness to give their catchy, upbeat, jangly riff-rock a little bit of unease. The women smile and pogo and scooch across the stage, but mess with them and you’re liable to get hurt. They opened with Shake, sounding like the Go Go’s doing Link Wray (wouldn’t he have loved that), the fast, funny rockabilly-inflected Mama Blew a Hoody, the stomping, Cramps-ish I Cringe, which Delran prefaced with “This is not a love song, feels like one, but it’s not.” The surfy Friggs Theme had both guitarists playing harmonies on the central hook, almost a Hotel California spoof; after a Kinks-ish riff-rocker, the gorgeously clanging, tongue-in-cheek Kill Yourself and a guest vocalist roaring through a cover of Sam the Sham’s Deputy Dog, they closed with the defiant Bad Word for a Good Thing, Delran – who’d been unabashedly and gleefully showboating all night – straddling the monitors as she delivered yet another offhandedly savage, blissful solo.

Of all the Lower East Side bands of the early to mid 1990s, noisy bluespunks the Chrome Cranks were the best, an underground legend in the making, and maybe they knew it all along. Uncompromisingly abrasive, ferociously intense, caustic yet charismatic, they were an amazing live act whether they were on top of their game or the show was a complete trainwreck. Which was always a crapshoot. Now back together for the first time in twelve years with all the original members – guitarist/frontman Peter Aaron, lead player William G. Weber, bassist Jerry Teel (now doing his own noir rock thing leading the excellent New York City Stompers) and former Sonic Youth drummer Bob Bert – they’re better than ever, a scenario that hardly seems possible, especially considering that their blistering, assaultive show was fueled by nothing stronger than water. With songs like Slow Crash, Desperate Friend and Lost Time Blues (the latter two which they played), their inspiration was no secret. The Chrome Cranks’ music, both on album and onstage was seemingly created for the early morning hours, for a condition where sanity and madness have become one and the same, where everything is so impossibly faraway that’s too close for comfort. A cynic could say that they sound an awful lot like the Stooges, but for them it’s the Fun House era Stooges, 1970.

By the time the band was ready to go, the dj’s music was still playing over the PA. Aaron stepped over the monitors, fixing a glare on his target. “CHECK,” he spat. And then spat on the stage and with that, feedback screaming from his battered Strat, they launched into one pummeling stomp after another. As one of the cognoscenti in the crowd said afterward, it was like being in a movie. Desperate Friend gave Weber a chance to go off into savage Ron Asheton territory for a few bars. Teel stood impassive, stage left, cooly providing an eardrum-blasting low end, occasionally with chords. About eight songs into the set, Aaron finally peeled off his coat, soaked in sweat. On a few songs, notably an absolutely hypnotic version of Eight Track Mind, he hit his vintage repeater pedal, adding an even darker edge to the songs’ careening menace. Although Aaron was roaring at full voice, it would get lost in the maelstrom of guitars. Fragments of lyrics emerged: “You’ll fall down..I don’t wanna know you…I just want you dead.” At the end of the set, he and Teel both stuck their guitars in front of their amps, leaving the PA howling with feedback until Weber made his way over to the middle of the stage and gingerly clicked off Aaron’s Fender Twin. The crowd was stunned, both the young in front who’d obviously never seen the band before, and the oldsters in the back who had. Nobody had the energy to scream for an encore until the band had already played them.

With a new compilation, The Murder of Time (1993-1996) due out on Bang! Records, one can only hope for a tour in the wake of a series of New York area shows. For those kicking themselves because they missed this one, they’ll be at Glasslands on May 15, probably around 10 with a bunch of other bands on the bill.

May 9, 2009 Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment