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True Grit
By John Brodeur

Two Cow Garage, the Nerds
Valentine’s, Nov. 4

Sweet Jesus. My ears are still ringing, my liver still gasping, and my hair is blown back flat against my scalp. There’s a fresh bruise over most of my upper right arm, the sheets are in a ball on the floor, and I’m pretty sure I swallowed a cigarette butt. And no, I didn’t drink, smoke, fuck, or fight last night—this is a cultural hangover. My emotions have been turned and twisted and pushed and pulled over the last 48 hours, and last night’s rock & roll didn’t so much ease the pain as distract from it. But, oh, the rock was good, even if very little else in the world is.

Ohioan roots-rock trio Two Cow Garage seemed a little down in the wake of a presidential election that found their home state doing its best impression of Florida. There was a tone of resignation in bassist Shane Sweeney’s voice when he admitted that Ohio “fucked it all up.” It sounded like an apology, but you can’t apologize for a headache, even if it’s a two-term headache. Thankfully, these boys know that sometimes the best remedy is to get out there and make a shitload of noise, and in that they had the cure.

There’s no corner-cutting here, no placebo effect—they’re the real deal. Their songs of restlessness and desperation are heartfelt and hard-fought—just three chords and the truth, to borrow a phrase—and they play them really loud. Like a midair collision between Copperhead Road and Back in Black, they shredded through material from both their albums, including a number of songs from The Wall Against Our Back, which, coincidentally, hit stores on Election Day. But try thinking about politics when the only sound you can hear is your eardrums pleading for mercy. A heavy dose of raw, no-frills rock & roll can cure all ills, or at least temporarily take your mind off of them, and this stuff is as raw and honest as it gets.

When baby-faced, moonshine-voiced guitarist Micah Schnabel sang “135 of 142, by the skin of my teeth, but I made it through,” it became obvious that these are just three normal kids who were terrified of inertia, so they started a band to get themselves the hell out of town. A great many of their songs deal plainly with moving out and breaking free; odes-to-the-road like “Alphabet City” and “If This Is Home” are irony-free and youthfully innocent. And while a vitriolic early-set read of Neil Young’s “Vampire Blues” nearly created the sensation of fading hope (“Good times are comin’, but they sure ain’t comin’ soon”), the band’s energy was so invigorating and inspirational that 2008 suddenly didn’t seem so far off. It’s a two-term headache, though, so I guess I’ll just have to get by on these temporary highs until then.

The Nerds, a young (as in high school) band from Delmar, opened the night with an enjoyably loose set that recalled Modest Mouse’s more subdued material or the Pavement of Wowee Zowee. Despite their unfortunate moniker—there must be at least 15 other bands with that name!—the group showed great promise, sometimes in the form of some inventive guitar leads or sharp rhythmic twists; elsewhere in a straight-faced cover of “Born to Be Wild.” There is hope.

Toxic

Clinic, Sons and Daughters
Pearl Street, Northampton, Mass., Nov. 6

The stage getups worn by Liverpool art-punk band Clinic—aqua hospital scrubs and white virus-blocking masks—can be viewed as a gimmick, sure. The band refuse to perform or be photographed without their identities concealed, à la the Residents, proclaiming that the masks help them maintain a sense of mystery. Still, the creepy hospital garb is probably the least weird thing about Clinic.

“Paging Dr. Alan Vega,” quipped a friend at Clinic’s Saturday night show in the smaller room at Pearl Street Nightclub (the Wailers packed the upstairs ballroom with throngs of the unwashed). When it comes to spooky keyboards and jittery vocals, Clinic trades in the unsettling vibes of their forbears in Vega’s ghostly synth-rock outfit Suicide. Clinic’s intriguingly odd sense of instrumentation, however, rescues them from mere imitation. The sinuous “Voodoo Wop,” which kicks off their debut album Internal Wrangler, may sum up the band’s eerie aura best. The song’s surf guitar line and throbbing Krautrock keyboards hum against sounds of nature made to seem sinister: adamant bee buzzing and lonely waves crashing against the shore.

In a live setting, it became more apparent that the British quartet truly are the twisted brainchild of frontman Ade Blackburn, who shuffled between instruments for nearly every tune. When not playing keyboards, Blackburn blew into the flex tube of a melodica, a keyboard and horn hybrid that bleated like a forlorn, faraway train whistle.

(He was the only band member whose mask was spliced open to reveal his mouth.) “Who would you disintegrate for?” Blackburn hissed on “Welcome,” in an enigmatic, nasal tone that has drawn comparisons to the inscrutable Radiohead-speak of Thom Yorke.

Drummer Carl Turney added a tribal beat while Hartley—an icy-looking fellow who goes by just the one name—slashed and burned on guitar.

The virtue of Clinic’s distinct and haunting sound—one that has few equivalents among current bands—can also be their weakness. The band’s newest album, Winchester Cathedral, sounds unfortunately similar to their previous disc, Walking With Thee, which is perhaps one of the weirdest albums to ever receive a Grammy nomination. Live, however, Clinic broke up the “sameness” of their methodical groove with the one-minute punk bursts of “Pet Eunuch” and “Hippy Death Suite” (great title).

Sons and Daughters, a Glasgow group featuring two former members of fellow Scottish indie band the Arab Strap, came out with a surprising intensity for an opening act. Over a thundering drumbeat, guitarists Scott Paterson and Adele Bethel traded off on fiery vocals in the vein of L.A. punkers X. Stone-faced bassist Ailidh Lennon, dressed in a black party dress, contributed the mandolin, hollers and handclaps that gave the group its rootsy, salt-of-the-earth Scottish feel. A band worth looking out for.

—Kirsten Ferguson

Rockin’ for the Greater Good

Feedback 2004, Metroland’’s annual fund-raiser for the Food Pantries for the Capital District, was a big success Friday (Nov. 5) night at Valentine’s. We’d like to thank all the musicians (pictured are drummer Al Gorithm III and keyboardist Dewi Decimal of the Mathematicians; and hiphop artists Sev Statik and Shyste) who took time out of their busy schedules and lent their talent to the cause to make it a great show. Also, thanks to Valentine’s owner Howard Glassman for use of his venue, and to all those who came to see the event. For more pictures from Feedback, visit www.metroland.net.

photos by: Kathryn Lurie

.


Which One’s Pink?

The Australian Pink Floyd Show
Pepsi Arena, Oct. 28

I’m not what you’d call a “fan” of Pink Floyd. I’ve heard The Wall, but I don’t really get it, and I probably own a copy of Dark Side of the Moon (I think it’s handed out to college students at freshman orientation), but I can’t say I’ve ever actually listened to it. Maybe I just never did the right drugs. So 20 minutes into last Thursday’s performance by the Australian Pink Floyd Show, I found myself wondering what I was even doing there. But I couldn’t sell my tickets (especially when only 3,000 or so were sold to begin with), and there was a job to do, so I sucked it up and braved the elements.

The elements, in this case, included a hail of lasers and strobes, bucketloads of reverb, and a thick fog of reefer smoke, all of which led to mass intoxication. It might not have been such a bad idea for the beer vendors to cut some people off. It certainly would have saved the security crew the trouble of having to usher the same group of dancing drunken girls out of the aisle over and over. And the guy behind me didn’t even seem to realize that he was routinely lurching forward and driving his knee into my lower back. It was all I could do to keep from jabbing my pen into his neck. But nature tends to regulate itself—his date, obviously displeased with his behavior, ushered him out of the show early into the second set. Hooray for karma.

Anyway, there was a show going on this whole time, and it wasn’t half bad—for a tribute band, that is. The decade-old Australian Pink Floyd Show is one of several touring entities that present the Floyd’s grand, psychedelic vision to the masses in stunning detail. Musically and visually, it was damn near flawless, and that giant inflatable kangaroo was the goofiest thing I’ve seen in some time. That’s worth some bonus points.

For the first set, the group performed the entirety of Dark Side, in celebration of the album’s 30th anniversary. The five-piece band (occasionally augmented by a trio of female backing vocalists and a hammy sax player) nailed the parts like they were playing a recital. While it occasionally came off as dull and dry, it was no more so than the original recorded material. And I found myself experiencing spikes of enthusiastic recognition—the instantly recognizable sound effects and introductory bass riff on “Money,” and the “Dear Prudence”-y guitar arpeggios on “Brain Damage” were both welcoming in their familiarity.

The downside of the performance was, unfortunately, the vocalists. None of the three lead singers had the piss to really dig into Roger Waters’ famously vinegary lyrics, and while the two guitarists ably aped David Gilmour’s fluid leads, neither had much in the way of matching vocal chops. Bassist Colin Wilson was the best of the bunch, doing a passable Waters on “Brain Damage” and second-set opener “Shine on You Crazy Diamond.”

The song selection was a little odd, too. While “The Fletcher Memorial Home” (from The Final Cut) might have worked as a harsh indictment of the major cold-war political figures upon its release 20 years ago, the images of Margaret Thatcher and Leonid Brezhnev projected behind the band only served to date-stamp the song as a relic. The selection of “Keep Talking” (from 1994’s The Division Bell) as the only representative of post-Waters Floyd was equally puzzling.

By show’s end, I had gone from shaking my head to nodding it. “Comfortably Numb” and “Wish You Were Here” are great tunes, regardless of who’s playing them, and when the faux-Floyd reached the apex of their set with the taped helicopter intro to “Another Brick in the Wall,” and the helicopter-like guitars of “Run Like Hell,” I almost got it. Almost.

—John Brodeur

 

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