Monday, April 25, 2011
To paraphrase Brando, do I have the strength, the will, to enjoy three shows in six days?
Fortunately the stars have aligned so I should still be a functional human being by the time the last notes have faded Monday evening.
First up is The Psychedelic Furs Wednesday at The Belly Up.
They'll be playing their classic (and it is a classic) second album "Talk Talk Talk" in its entirety. This recent trend among mostly eighties bands (it seems that way anyway) to play entire albums is a good thing. We've seen Sonic Youth playing "Daydream Nation," Gang of Four doing "Entertainment!" and the Pixies performing "Doolittle." X did "Los Angeles" the last time they were here (I didn't note it in my earlier post because I didn't find out until after I wrote it, and I DID check their website).
We can pause a minute here and think about the other albums and artists we'd like to see do this . . . Wire and "Pink Flag," "My War" or "Damaged" by Black Flag, Eno's "Taking Tiger Mountain."
Anyway, The Furs rose out of post-punk England in the early eighties and were unfortunately lumped in with the dreaded synth bands that soon saturated the nascent MTV. They had their MTV hit with "Love My Way," but their music was more guitar oriented with a healthy dose of Roxy Music thrown in.
They had a great self-titled first album and quickly followed it with "Talk Talk Talk." Both albums featured droning guitar, saxophone (yay!), distinctive arrangements and fantastic sound, courtesy of producer Steve Lillywhite (who produced a number of notable albums during this period).
But soon singer Richard Butler's ego started to take over, dominating the sound and the artwork (their album covers went from a band photo to a single photo of Butler's mug over the space of four albums). They went in a more pop direction, and while the next two albums ("Forever Now" and "Mirror Moves") were still good, the band feel was lost. By the time 1989's "Book of Days" arrived, his voice had been pushed so far up front to render the album unlistenable. They split soon after. After a decade or so of various side projects, they recently reformed and have been touring ever since.
As a live act, I finally saw them, after two previous cancellations, at the Adams Avenue Theatre in (I think) 1981. And, along with opening act The Dream Syndicate, they were terrible. Richard Butler performed in a trench coat, the band lugged the tempos on some great rock songs and just didn't have it together. With a defined set list (another good thing about performing albums in their entirety) and more years of experience, I'm hoping for a great show this time.
Saturday is Mudhoney at The Casbah. Mudhoney was one of the originators of the (and I hate to say this) "grunge" sound that came out of Seattle in the early nineties along with (yes) Nirvana, Soundgarden and others.
Mudhoney had an incredibly primitive sound compared to the relative polish of their early punk brethren. But they had a great yelping singer in Mark Arm, a distinctive guitar sound and a fantastic drummer in Dan Peters.
As a friend said, they were like a perfect combination of Black Sabbath and Black Flag. After the epochal, seminal, classic "Superfuzz Bigmuff" EP and a solid first album, they seemed poised on the edge of greatness. Instead we got the incredible stinker "Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge" followed soon by the equally bad "Piece of Cake." What happened? In Michael Azerrad's "Our Band Could Be Your Life," he discusses Mudhoney at length and it was the usual case of drugs, band infighting and a general lack of ambition that derailed what could have been a great run.
But surprisingly, Mudhoney soldiered on. They've continued to release albums (I've heard all of them), tour and function as a working band. While most of their nineties work was pretty average, their last two discs, 2006's "Under a Billion Suns" and 2008's "The Lucky Ones" were both quite good. Mark Arm's yelp is pretty out of tune these days but their anger and energy is undeniable.
I've only seen them once live, opening for Sonic Youth at Bing Crosby Hall (the worst concert venue, sound wise, in San Diego) in '92 and it was a pretty perfunctory set. But up close and personal at The Casbah should be fun.
Monday is TV on the Radio at 4th and B.
TVOTR's goal seems to be to incorporate every phase of black music from doo-wop to hip-hop into their dense, layered sound. What makes them distinct is that they aren't going for any kind of mainstream audience, so we get pop music filtered through an artistic/punk vision. I complained to my daughter that they had seemingly lost their weirdness with 2008's "Dear Science," starting to sound like Prince. Well after going back and listening to it again, I realized that Prince is just another layer they're adding.
The new "Nine Types of Light" incorporates Marvin Gaye's weirdness into their sound. I didn't realize how out there both Prince and Marvin Gaye have gotten at times. In Marvin Gaye's case, I'm talking about post "What's Going On" Marvin Gaye (check out "Here, My Dear" if you don't believe me). And Prince's influence is more pervasive than I realized. It just takes awhile to filter all the sounds. They also use horns, strings and female vocals on the new disc which is a great listen.
I saw them live at Street Scene in 2008 and they put on a fabulous show, using a full horn section and opening with my favorite TVOTR song, "Young Liars." They could do no wrong after that. 4th and B is one of my favorite venues in San Diego because the stage is elevated enough that you can actually SEE the band without standing on your tiptoes. I'm really excited about this one.