Prisoners of Rock and Roll

Cell 63 free themselves from the retro morass

And a band called Cell 63 has to have at least one run-in with law enforcement. "They hassled Rob after one gig," reveals Graquitena, "for making a three-point turn." Coe explains that a Miami Beach cop got in his face for the vehicular indiscretion. "I realized I was dealing with a person without much education who's now backed into a corner," Coe says. "I didn't make a fuss, I let it go. The cop stops me, and I tell him it's the only way to get my car out, we just played a show. He says, 'Oh, you're a musician. Like Luke?' There wasn't much I could do with that." David O. says that's not true. "What we do is write a song about it."

The Cell also boasts a long-running battle with a Melbourne band called Scoobee Doos. "A while back this guy says there's a band in Melbourne covering one of your songs, 'I Think You've Seen.' It's questionable. But I think they play it like it was one of their originals. They don't announce they're doing a tune by this Miami band. Hell, I wouldn't. So when I first heard other people were playing one of my songs, I said I had to get a new band together."

The resulting group's arresting way with rough hooks, mixed melodies and unusual harmony structures, sound effects, and a surging undercurrent of raw power could entice anyone to borrow from them. But they don't make much of the petty things. "We're on the lowest level of rock," David O. says, "the local scene. How can you be into cliques and ego when you're also on that level?"

Cell 63 seems confident enough to escape that trap, too. But they can't get away from their consuming Miami-ness. "Traditionally punk bands write about what's around them," says David O., noting "Bloody 27" in particular. "We do try to establish a sense of place," adds Mr. Coe. "We try to understand our surroundings. Which reminds me A why does Miami fall short, always coming up second? The Dolphins, the 'Canes, Mickey Rourke, you name it. Anything associated with Miami is always almost, always second, just short."

Maybe that's why big labels find their new stars in Iceland. Not that Cell 63 could care. And the rugged terrain explored on their debut CD isn't going to attract that other career opportunity, commercial radio airplay. Coe, who grew up in the Bahamas, recalls his youthful stupefaction over the radio signals picked up from Miami, the rock of WGBS and WQAM. "When I was a kid," he says, "I thought the musicians got in a room and played the song [live]. I always wondered how they did that, made it sound the same every time. It really jaded me, that and finding out about sex."

Yeah, says David O. "It always mystified me how those people were able to play inside the radio." Radio is still mystifying. So is the rest of the business. Fortunately Cell 63 will not be prisoner to the conspiracy.

Cell 63 celebrate the release of their new CD at 10:00 p.m. Friday at Washington Square, 645 Washington Ave, Miami Beach, 534-1403. They also perform acoustically at Yesterday & Today Records, 5753 SW 40th St, on Sunday. Call 665-3305.

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