Fixed Focus

Broken Spectacles return with their first live show in two years, a new album, and a new vision

Even so, audio alone cannot contain what Broken Spectacles are doing. The warehouse that is Jeeters happens to be situated next to railroad tracks. When Rubinstein sings about going down to the trestle and catching that train out of town, I expect a locomotive to come crashing through the carpeted walls. The music itself is so multilayered the band decided that the live show must be presented in more tha one medium.

When the Broken Spectacles take the stage at Washington Square this Friday, they'll be joined by several television sets and big-screen projections. Just like U2's "Zoo TV" tour A except, of course, the Specs thought of it first. "I think U2 bugs our studio," Ed Hale says with a smile. "Every time we come up with something, they do it just before us, because they have the money to do it." The Specs and their associates -- working under the aegis of visual co-ordinator Loree Werder -- have been shooting and compiling original video footage for more than a year. "And when somebody loves us enough and has lots of money," says Don Jacobson, "we'll add lasers and holograms."

None of this should suggest that the band is copping or hyping. During a break in rehearsal, Hale walks over to the couch where I'm sitting with my jaw dropped in awe. He wants to talk. Not about his band or the songs they've just finished playing. He wants to lobby on behalf of the local-music show recently canceled by WSHE-FM (103.5).

Later that night I'm permitted to see the first demonstration of the multimedia presentation planned for the live show. In the sprawling living room of a house a few miles from the studio, TV sets are stacked and channel-switched into multiple VCRs. Sabatella and Hale tinker with the electronics. A sheet is draped on a wall for video projection. And two women A Kerri Boyle and Ali Greenberg -- sit on the blue carpet with piles of propaganda. This is another dimension -- the band will set up a table with information about various activist organizations. "I know it sounds crazy," jokes Fellerman, "but clean water is a good thing." He goes on at length about the importance of not poisoning the Everglades any more. "This isn't about proselytizing or preaching," Hale says of the information table. "It's about having the information available."

Somehow the topic of vegetable juicers comes up. Someone says that it'd be really cool to have juicers at a show, so people could order their favorite organic concoctions. "But if we decide to ever do that," Hale says, "we'll find out U2 already has them."

In their music the band brilliantly addresses the very technology they're employing. "Last Song" begins with a cybervocal intro: "It's a new age, a new dawn, a New World Order carries on/We've got digital audio, video, CD- ROM, computers, cable TV/We're able to call anywhere in the world for eleven cents a minute and then watch it on our video phones/The power of our ideas is endless/It can take us anywhere...." Instruments scream into an explosive cacophony, the song begins to unfold, a Beatlesque brainfry that bands like U2 can only dream about creating. The guitar-drenched chorus cuts through like a psychological knife: "Get off your ass, get off your ass, get off your ass...."

And you do.
I've seen the band play two rehearsal sets and I've seen a demonstration of the multimedia accompaniment to the live show. I've heard the final mix of the album a few dozen times. It's three or four in the morning and I'm driving south on a deserted I-95 with the Broken Spectacles tape blaring. I'm wondering, maybe worrying, about the impossibility of fairly representing this music in print. It's too much for words.

In the next lane I catch a passing glimpse of what looks like a mutilated dalmatian, or some other black-and-white dog, twisted into the asphalt. Up ahead on the highway a million red lights are twinkling, and some blue strobes flicker into view -- Highway Patrol cars, flares, and then a mangled beyond model-recognition automobile. I assume from the carnage that this was a fatal wreck.

The night is black as the pavement -- the new moon has just come in. As I turn onto 836 the impossible light show that is Miami International Airport causes me to hallucinate. The tape blares.

I haven't had a shot of whiskey or a dose of narcotics all night. But I'm tripping now, my body is trembling and I feel as if I've left the planet. I grip the steering wheel hard and try to concentrate. I turn off at my exit and drive into the incandescent kaleidoscope of the billion-bulb cosmos created by the runway lights, Shakespeare's "burning tapers of the sky" set against Le Jeune Road.

The tape blares.
The music of Broken Spectacles has changed me. And soon, I think, it will change the world.

In a few minutes the sun will rise.

Broken Spectacles perform at 11:00 p.m. Friday at Washington Square, 645 Washington Ave., Miami Beach, 534-1403. Admission costs $5.

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