Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

New Model Army Rock the Bell House

Imagine if the Clash never broke up and that Joe Strummer was still alive. That’s a fair if not completely accurate approximation of what New Model Army sounded like at the Bell House last night. They’re playing two sets again tonight starting at 9. Thirty years after the British rockers began, they roared through two hours of fiery, politically charged anthems, a mix of hits from the 80s and 90s alongside newer material which is just as relevant and memorable as their best-known songs. Frontman Justin Sullivan started the show playing acoustic, joined by lead guitarist Dean White, who often switched to organ on some of the early numbers and then stayed on keys for the second set. Twenty minutes into the first set, the rest of the band was up onstage, and they were on their game. Even the quieter, more folk-oriented numbers took on an anthemic grandeur, aloft on the roar of the guitars and the swooping organ. With its Atrocity Exhibition drum rumble, Drummy B became more of a funeral march than an elegy for a friendship gone sour. The 1987 Orwellian nightmare scenario Courage, and Fate, from the 1993 Love of Hopeless Causes album, were especially amped, as was a ferocious version of Today Is a Good Day, a sardonic response to the 2008 global market crash: “And the birds of prey love September, flying like the harbingers of the winter,” Sullivan snarled.

The second set concentrated on the hits. NMA’s game plan for their 30th anniversary tour has been to do two stands in each city, two sets a night, neither repeating any of the previous night’s material – which they can do since their back catalog is so vast – and so strong. They dedicated a roaring, punked-out version of 51st State (as in “51st state of America”) to Brooklyn, stomped through the hypnotic, swirling biotech-apocalypse scenario White Coats, a characteristically sarcastic take of the 1981 hit A Liberal Education and ferocious versions of Vengeance and White Light, with its nimble bass riffage. The biggest crowd-pleaser was a surprise, the wistful, folk-tinged Green and Grey: referring to the cities to the south that lure kids from their northern England homes, Sullivan changed the lyric to “the land of unemployment that beckons to us all.” As the second verse began, he turned the mic over to the audience, who by now were well-oiled, knew all the words and were only too glad to join in. Whether critiquing the wave of destruction unleashed by Margaret Thatcher and her cronies, the evils of globalization or just fondly remembering the woods and fields of his youth as he did with that song, Sullivan and the rest of the band had the packed house energized, and if only for a couple of hours, fused as one against the forces of evil. Even a somewhat comical little fender-bender outside the club – “Didn’t know there’d be three sets tonight,” said one bemused onlooker – couldn’t distract from the intensity onstage.

September 4, 2010 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

More Songs For Yesterday and Today

Every day, our top 666 songs of alltime countdown gets one step closer to #1. Wednesday’s song was #483:

Rachelle Garniez – Crazy Blood

Title track to her superb 2001 cd, a haunting, minor-key blues as anguished as anything Bessie Smith or Nina Simone ever wrote – and as uncharacteristically direct as the great New York noir songwriter/multi-instrumentalist has ever been:

 

No one knows the trouble I’ve been

Torn up, twisted, time and time again

Had a chance to make changes but I threw it away…

 

and Thursday’s song is #482:

New Model Army – 225

Fast Lillywhite-beat anthem from the 80s…of course. Justin Sullivan’s prophetic lyrics reprinted in full below:

 

She stares at the screen at the little words of green,

Tries to remember, what to do next

There’s a trace of frustration, that crosses her face

Searching for the key she should press

And I would help her, if I only know how

But these things are a mystery to me too

And it seems that the corporate eyes they are watching.

She fears for her job and the moments are passing

I stare at her nametag and think to myself

Both you and I

We never asked

For any of this

 

So let’s take a walk

Up past the chemical works

Where the sky turns green at night

And we’ll talk

About getting away from here

Some different kind of life

But even in the freshest mountain air

The jet fighters practice overhead

And they’re drilling these hills for uranium deposits

And they’ll bury the waste for our children to inherit.

And though this is all done for our own benefit, I swear

We never asked

For any of this

 

This golden age of communication

Means that everyone talks the same time.

And liberty just means some freedom to exploit

Any weakness that you can find

Well turn of the TV just for a while

Let us whisper to each other instead

And we’ll hope that the corporate ears do not listen.

Lest we find ourselves committing some kind of treason

And filed in the tapes without rhyme, without reason.

While they tell us that it’s all for our own protection,

I swear, we never asked

For any of this

 

This was 1989, folks. From the album Thunder and Consolation. Here’s a cool  video.

April 2, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment