Isnít it strange how local rock has virtually nothing to do with the music being made on the national scene? Youíd think that some of the younger bands in the area would reflect some sort of overarching influence, that their own sound would mirror popular music on some level. But thereís really nothing in town that seems to take its cues from what you hear on the radio or in record shops. Does that mean thereís nothing nationally that has lasting impact? Sad, but most likely true. Itís a dark time on the rock charts.
Urdog: Eyelid of Moon (Secret Eye, secreteye.org)
Some of todayís bands find their influences by exploring early í90s grunge, others mine the elements of industrial metal, and many absorb aspects of punk and spew them back with their own spin. Urdog has discovered its inspiration in a strange rabbit hole of its own ó on the outskirts of í70s progressive rock and in the uncertain minefield of Can and Neu! ó krautrock to most people. Now, Iím not all that brushed up on krautrock these days. My Can collection, which actually does exist, has remained on the shelf for quite some time without seeing much activity. What I do know is that Urdog is a listening adventure, much like those records, that takes some getting used to. This is a good thing, and is in stark contrast to many pop records, which sound good the first time then lose their luster almost immediately.
The problem with many bands that work the fringe is they have a sort of purposelessness, an attitude that seems to state: "We can make music so out there that weíll lose you entirely, and you know what? We donít really care." Urdog doesnít fall into that trap, dodging audience alienation. Rather they patiently await the psychic arrival of their audience with low-key experimentation and compelling but subtle sonic departures. The songs still maintain some sense of structure and the instrumentation ó which includes Dave Lifririís electric guitar, Jeff Knochís Farfisa organ, and Erin Rosenthalís drums ó retains aspects of conventional space rock, even hints of "Interstellar Overdrive" Pink Floyd, at its core. That modicum of convention serves to keep the tunes on Eyelid within certain musical reason and logic, a good thing for those of us who like to know what weíre listening to without having to consult our thesauruses.
The Slip: The Slip EP (www.theslip. com)
What is it about the Slip that keeps us coming back for more? On paper, the guys ó two brothers and a childhood friend ó are rather ordinary. They possess the low sheen of a normal local rock band. But when they come together and make music, that matte finish turns to high-gloss. When their chemistry begins to react, their tunes become luminous, and their songs glow with a radioactive loveliness. (Relix magazine liked their last studio album, Angels Come On Time, so much, they deemed it the Album of the Year.) Shoot, I donít know why this magic happens ó instinct, perhaps? Vibe? But I do know that I look forward to spending time with new Slip material the way I look forward to sleeping in on a Monday morning.
The bandís new five-song, 28-minute EP finds them exploring ever more nuanced compositions. Their sad songs ("Lonely Boy") are spectacularly sad-sounding, their pop songs ("Children of December") are exhilarating, their musicianly chestnuts revel in the sound of loosely organized orchestral arranging. In a way, their new material is close to something Yo La Tengo would do if they were a jam band ó well-appointed material, great melodies, terrific performances, and that certain something that makes the experience of listening to them just sound, well, better than listening to so much else. Perhaps next time I write about the Slip, Iíll have figured out what that certain something is.
Fred Kendall Abong: Double Widow Secret
Itís been a while since weíve heard from Fred Abong. He was the bass player for Throwing Muses and Kristin Hersh for the bandís classy The Real Ramona outing back in í91 and did some time with Tanya Donellyís Belly as well. Since then Fredís put a life together for himself, started a family and all that. But heís never given up the rock, as evidenced by Double Widow Secret, his first proper solo album. The recording, done in 24 hours at Kraig Jordanís home studio last fall, is decidedly lo-fi and spontaneous. Production values are virtually non-existent. No matter . . . itís the performances here that really shine. Abong plays all the instruments and sings, which means he got things just the way he wanted. Jordanís recording captures the proceedings the way they were meant to be heard. Thereís a raspy quality to Abongís voice and a basic melodic texture to his guitar playing. Of course, the bass is there, and the drum tracks are relatively simple too. Together, the final assemblage has a late í80s indie rock feel, somewhere between early Replacements and the New Zealand indie rock served up the Flying Nun label. In fact, it brings back memories in that regard of bands such as the 3Ds, Straitjacket Fits, and the Verlaines. (Does that mean anything to anybody?) A few tracks, including "Various Sages" and "Bad Debt Blues," were recorded to microcassette in Fredís bedroom, which gives you some indication that Fred didnít really give a damn about how a song sounded. Rather it was what the song meant and how the vibe felt that truly mattered. There was a time when lo-fi actually meant something cool. Fred proves that thatís still a possibility.
Wandering Eye. Tonight (the 10th) at AS220, itís a Hearts & Stars Records night with Camellia, the Volunteer Arms, Harry and the Potters, and the Jena Campaign. The latterís self-titled album was released by Hearts & Stars on February 18. H&S has also signed Camellia and the Volunteer Arms to the label, and three members of Camellia helped record/ mix/master the Jena Campaign disc. Itís one of those all-in-the-family type things that has a nice, cohesive, togetherness feel.
Thereís a big weekend on tap at Giza. On Friday (the 11th), itís Top of the Bottom, Gatsby (www.gatsbymusic.com), Bulletproof Plan (www.bulletproofplan.com), and Fall Out of Line. On Saturday (the 12th), itís Dagnabbit, Failed Attempts at Flying, Torn, and Sulfer. Apparently, there will be some label reps at the 3/11 show. Tornís disc, Reincarnate, will be available in April at all Target stores for a single buck.
On Saturday at AS220, thereís a Tsunami disaster benefit show with the Dermoid Sisters, Yavin 5, Brio, Chanting In Your Slumber, and Pajama. It runs from 2 to 6 p.m. and the donation is $7. Later that night, Armageddon presents Noosebomb, the Body, Continued Without A Finding, and Sin of Angels. That show starts at 9 p.m. Head to www.as220.org for details
The astonishing Tony Bird will weaves his spell on Saturday at Stone Soup (at the Boys &Girls Club of Pawtucket Arts Center, 210 Main Street). The Malawi-born singer-songwriter hit it big with his album Sorry Africa way back when. Showtime is 8 p.m.; tickets are $12. Call 457-7147.
E-mail me with your music news at email@example.com.
Issue Date: March 11 - 17, 2005
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