Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Concert Review: New Madrid at Crash Mansion, NYC 4/3/10

New Madrid have really taken their live show to the next level. Entering to the thundering strains of a cd of Also Sprach Zarathustra, they hit a jarring chord in a completely unrelated key and then proceeded to pummel the audience with one darkly catchy, stomping anthem after another. There is no other New York band who sound like them which is probably because A) being a bilingual/rock-en-Espanol band, they’re the furthest thing from “indie” and B) they seem to draw more on European or Mexican influences. Their shtick is that their drummer stands and sings, and he welcomes the chance to come out from behind the kit. This time around he’d shut the band down for a pregnant pause, sticks between his teeth, waiting for a reaction (something he could do a little less frequently – or else this time he was just in a particularly boisterous mood). He’s a good player, too, going four on three during two jarring, extended crescendos during one of the set’s last songs. The guitarist is eerie and noisy, like Daniel Ash but with better chops, at one point taking a solo that sounded like Saul Hernandez trying to channel Beefheart. Their bassist has a tough job, as much a part of holding the runaway train to the rails as the drums, and he delivered, at one point carrying the song with boomy intensity while the drummer took an eerie suspense-film solo on the toms.

Most of the material in the set seemed new, other than the tensely staccato anthem Soberano (Sovereign). The best song of the night saw the guitarist employing the most macabre, watery effect you could imagine: on top of that, he’d bend the notes at the end of a phrase with his tremolo bar for even more sepulchral quaver and goosebumps. The big audience hit seemed to be a fairly simple, somewhat glamrock number entitled Kill; another new one, possibly titled Crazy Lady was aptly menacing, with a grittily noisy, offhandedly intense guitar solo out.

Another way to tell that New Madrid is on to something good is how they managed to clear the fratboys out of the room. Almost imperceptibly, a much more intelligent-looking, diverse and considerably less obvious crowd gathered at the front of the room as the khaki-and-poloshirt contingent stumbled back toward the bar. The only drawback about the show was that the club put them on over an hour and a half late. While the idea of putting rapper/accordionist Julz A and his guitarist pal on a second stage in the back was imaginative, and their songs were enjoyable, it didn’t help New Madrid or their crowd to be standing around aimlessly for minutes on end waiting for the signal to start.

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April 4, 2010 Posted by | concert, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

CD Review: Linda Draper – Keepsake

Quietly and methodically, Linda Draper has been putting out consistently excellent albums. This one is her fifth. If she keeps this up, she’s got a one-way ticket to the Secret Rock N Roll Hall of Fame. This may or may not be her best – they’re all good – but it’s definitely her catchiest. It’s a sparse, impeccably tasteful acoustic affair: Draper plays most of the instruments except the drums and Rob Woodcock’s upright bass on a few songs. As a lyricist, Draper is unsurpassed. On this album, she’s reined in the wild, free-associative, rhythmically complex style that characterized her previous work, substituting wickedly smart, tersely crystallized, often symbolically-charged wordplay.

The album’s first track Shine begins with an insistent chordal figure. It’s an unabashed love song that actually works without turning all mushy:

I once mistook the clock for the moon
My eyes see things a little out of tune
The stars shine like turpentine
For you and me and nobody

The title track opens with eerie music box melody that Draper plays on toy xylophone, then she and her band launch into a swinging acoustic pop song. They sounds great: nobody overplays, nobody’s trying to be Clapton. Everybody’s there to support Draper’s great lyric:

Bird learn to fly
Do not wake me with your song
About how the day burns down the night
Snow falls like ashes from the starlight

It’s a rueful post-breakup song and it packs a punch, quietly. She follows it with the sardonic Cell Phone, a song that needed to be written and it’s a good thing Draper was the one to do it:

I still do not think I really need one
Even if this makes me a bit archaic

The following cut Too Late is driven by a wickedly catchy descending progression at the end of the chorus. The hits just keep coming with Traces Of, a fast 6/8 number where Draper is backed by the band again: it’s a beautifully ghostly, memorable song. After that, on Kissing the Ground, Draper offers some black humor for somebody down on his/her luck:

You were born to endure more than this
Your life thrives through pain and bliss
Because if you’re still around after you fall down
You’ll be kissing the ground
Just when you think the story ends

The following track, Sunburned is her best song, an excoriating vignette of a hellacious evening out:

Remember when we crashed that party full of
Those kiss-ass opportunists
They sat in a circle that was
Too tight to include us
So we stayed on the outside

Drank all of their beer
When there was none left I said
Let’s get out of here

It has an absolutely triumphant ending – it’s a strong candidate for best song of 2007.

The album concludes with the thoughtful, quizzical Among Every Stone That Has Been Cast, the nocturne Full Moon – flavored with Woodcock’s bowed bass – and then a Ricky Nelson album track from 1970, How Long. Bizarre choice of cover, but Draper makes it work with the flawless clarity of her voice and her dexterous fingerpicking: she’s always had a thing for melody, and with steady gigging and recording she’s become a fine player.

As with the Byrds Play Dylan, an electric rock band should do a cover album of her songs. The Shins Play Draper? Unlikely, but it would be a good fit and it would remind them a thing or two about the melody they’ve lost since their first album. What a treat that could be. And what a treat this is. Four everything bagels, buffet style, with anything on them that looks appetizing. Pesto with fresh basil maybe?

June 8, 2007 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment