Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Ron Asheton Lives On In Death

For fans of long-running New England roots reggae band Lambsbread, seeing three of the members onstage at Damrosch Park out back of Lincoln Center Saturday night playing terse, period-perfect, occasionally savage mid-70s Detroit-style rock must have come as a shock – for those who didn’t know the backstory. It’s well-known now: three Detroit brothers start a soul-funk band, discover the MC5 and Stooges, Dennis Thompson rhythm and Ron Asheton guitar snarl, and a new band is born. They called themselves Death, before any heavy metal band could; signed to Columbia Records in 1975, they were unceremoniously dropped when Clive Davis couldn’t persuade them to change their name. The band themselves released a single, then eventually moved to Vermont where they would  turn in a direction about as far from proto-punk as you can get. Nine years after guitarist David Hackney died, Drag City finally released a seven-track cd, For the Whole World to See, last year. And the surviving members, bassist Bobby and drummer Dannis Hackney, enlisted their Lambsbread bandmate, guitarist Bobby Duncan (who as a child was given his first guitar by David). The result: a time trip back to a Detroit of the mind, the Stooges at the peak of their woozy, raw power. Forget for a minute that all three of these men are black – this was yet more enduring testament to how music transcends any racial or ethnic differences.

What was most revealing about this show was what a smart band these guys were – and remain. Introducing the ornately scurrying, utterly psychedelic Politicians in My Eyes (the A-side of their prized 1975 single), Bobby Hackney explained that he’d written it in protest of the Vietnam War, watching his friends and neighbors getting drafted left and right. When the band launched into the funereal four-chord progression on the song’s bridge, it was unaffectedly intense. The band’s riff-rock songs – notably the brief Rock N Roll Victim, which could have been early Joy Division, or a cut from the Stooges’ Kill City period – are very simple and catchy. Yet like the Stooges, they didn’t limit themselves to three-minute gems.

And the ghost of Ron Asheton was everywhere. David Hackney internalized Asheton’s bluesy wail and careening riffage as well any other guitarist ever did, and so does Duncan, if with considerably more focus and precision, often tossing off a brief, perfectly executed, barely two-bar lead at the end of a phrase. This version of the band makes every note count, often leaving a lot of space in between guitar fills. Duncan was playing without any effects, which combined with the park’s dodgy sonics to limit his sustain. As a result, a lot of the songs took on a skeletal feel that isn’t present on the album, or in the various live versions scattered around the web. This didn’t pose a problem during the slow, bluesy epic Let the World Turn, with its tricky 7/4 interlude, but it sapped the energy during the chromatically charged You’re a Prisoner and the band’s ridiculously catchy encore, possibly titled Blood on the Highway, to be released by Drag City sometimes this Fall. Like the great Detroit bands who preceded them, Death undoubtedly sound best the closer you are to them. Ron Asheton would approve.

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August 2, 2010 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CD Review: Mickey Wynne – Running on Empty

We’re late in reviewing this one, but Mickey Wynne’s guitar playing and songwriting defy the ravages of time: the Liverpool-born rock vet delivers vivid, smartly played, smartly written Americana rock. As befits a guy with an Electric Ladyland/Abbey Road Studios pedigree, the song are superbly produced, blending rustic acoustic textures with a savage, electric, early 70s psychedelic bent, guitars swirling, bending, phasing in and out. Perfectly illustrative song: the lush ballad Against All Odds I’ll Do It, with its layers of acoustic guitar and mandolin that build to a big, sweeping crescendo before coming back down again with a majestic grace.

The tour de force here is the fiery, insistent Bush era parable All Quiet on the Eastern Frontier, funky acoustic guitar giving way to macabre, reverb surf guitar on the chorus and an equally nightmarish outro. It could have been an A-list Dire Straits album cut from 1982 or so. The title track is a shapeshifting John Lee Hooker-style blues with sparse, incisive slide guitar accents that morphs into pounding Led Zep style riff-rock; the hallucinatory, reverb-drenched French Blooze evokes recent work by Spottiswoode or Marty Willson-Piper. Wynne plays the usual UK roots music haunts: the 12 Bar, et al.; the live tracks up on Wynne’s site confirm his reputation as a dynamic, intense live performer.

February 24, 2010 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Song of the Day 9/22/09

Every day at least for the next few days, our top 666 songs of alltime countdown gets one step closer to #1. Tuesday’s song is #309:

The Rolling Stones – Citadel

Where Sgt. Pepper was a quintessentially British, somewhat satirical slap at conformity, the Stones’ rejoinder, Their Satanic Majesties Request was unabashedly savage. In this frequently covered riff-rock masterpiece, Jagger has been taken prisoner by the enemy. Candy and Cathy, wherever you are, if you ever existed at all, this one’s for you. The link above is an intriguing alternate take in a slightly more folk-rock vein.

September 22, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

This Band Will Kick Your Ass

What a great discovery. On their absolutely scorching new ep Cooler Than Your Boyfriend, Chicago power popsters the Romeros blast in with a BIG anthemic sound, an absolutely relentless twin guitar attack. They love Big Catchy Hooks. Cheap Trick is the obvious comparison, but without that band’s frequently cloying, dweeby vibe. They also evoke Stiff Little Fingers at their cheeriest and catchiest. Thirty years ago, they would have had a slew of AM radio hits – and that’s a compliment. The Romeros understand that hit songs are simple and catchy: after all, you don’t walk around all day with a Joe Lovano solo running through your head. The album kicks off with Tonight, almost like a slower oi-punk song with a pop feel, like something you would have heard at CBs circa 1980. It’s simple and catchy, maybe echoing what you’d hear on the Saints’ first album, with a simple but effective guitar solo then back into the crunchy chorus with tasteful lead licks on the way out. Wow!

Big in Japan isn’t a cover of the Alphaville hit: it’s another anthem with a sardonic lyric about a band not being able to make it big where their obvious audience is. It sounds like it’s a big crowd-pleaser. Love Notes is fast over a bed of acoustic and electric guitars: it sounds live, maybe better that what they’d be able to do with it in the studio since they completely cut loose with the vocals. I Could Never Take, another live recording, is a blistering rocker. The band sounds completely drunk, and better off for it. The lead player does a goosebump-inducing slide down his low E string with his guitar pick as the first couple of verses crescendo into the chorus. The guitar solo is straight out of the Ron Asheton songbook, a lot of over-the-edge bluesy licks that go absolutely nowhere, but it completely fits the song: absolute pandemonium.

Can’t Hardly Wait is another live track, very mid 80s, like the DBs with balls. Nice completely over the top heavy metal ending. Somebody to Shove is yet more live stuff, nicking its intro from some 80s song (somebody tell us what!!!) with a furious, pounding chorus, the closest thing to SLF they do. Some of their lyrics sound like an afterthought, but that’s not a big deal: this band is all about the hooks. Yet further proof that the best things in rock are happening outside of New York right now. Chicago has long been known for killer party bands and these guys are as good as they get. These guys offer a really cool deal: not only can you get the ep, you also get the “gift pack” which includes a Romeros t-shirt PLUS another bonus disc of live tracks, bootlegs, acoustic demos, basement tapes and rarites along with pins, stickers and a poster for your bedroom door for the obscenely low price of $7! If that’s not fan-friendly, nothing is. What a great way to get to know a totally kick-ass band. CDs are available online and at shows.

March 22, 2008 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment