By Jacob Katel
By Laurie Charles
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Abel Folgar
By Kat Bein
By Jacob Katel
There is, however, a lot to like here. The record offers five new tunes, including "Dr. Worm" and "Severe Tire Damage Theme," two brassy numbers that mimic Sixties television theme songs. The best of this fresh quintet is the hilarious "They Got Lost," a never-before-recorded TMBG live show staple about the various times the band has taken a wrong turn on the way to a gig.
Of the older songs, the science-lesson charm of "Why Does The Sun Shine?" morphs into an all-out rave, and the ultimate new-wave battle of the bands portrayed in "XTC vs. Adam Ant" takes on bravura in front of a crowd. "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)" and "She's Actual Size" also sound great, benefiting from the band's slinky, swing-jazz treatment. The super-bad horns and squealing guitars of "S-E-X-X-Y" and the quivering organ and grungy pogo-pop of "Till My Head Falls Off" are also of the moment -- perfect for frenetic, head-in-the-speaker dancing. And for the true fan, the band has included seven hidden tracks featuring about twelve minutes of improv songs based on the Planet of the Apes movies. Lines such as "We're waiting for our thumbs" and "This ape's for you/He wants to love you" are sung as a ballad, a jazz odyssey, a heavy metal dirge, a disco inferno, electronic prog-rock, atonal horror movie music, and finally a distorted cocktail croon.
Whether they're maniacally funny or just sloppy and silly, these tidbits of whimsy underscore the fact that anything can happen in the charged atmosphere of a TMBG concert. Severe Tire Damage offers a peep-show glimpse of the band's career on the road but misses the opportunity to showcase the deep catalogue and wry showmanship that keeps their audience coming back.
-- Robin Myrick
Gone, Just Like a Train
Bill Frisell is a hard one to figure or categorize. An electric guitarist who studied at Berklee College of Music in Boston and then traveled to New York to immerse himself in the burgeoning downtown noise scene of the late Seventies and early Eighties, Frisell is easily identified by his singular tone and touch -- at once precisely mathematic and sloppily emotional. He can shift from soft country twang to something uglier than cliched metal on the same record, sometimes even in the course of the same tune. So what makes him different from other guitar hotshots like Steve Vai or Joe Satriani, who are also well-known for using dynamics in their playing? For starters, Frisell has more head and heart than those guitar jockeys. He can also write instrumental pieces that hold up as real compositions.
He has made several recordings and toured with bands that use the hoary guitar/ bass/drums format as a jumping-off point to go places that a trio like Cream, for instance, never dreamed of (or was never capable of) going. In fact, Frisell did two great records on Atlantic not too long ago, with Ginger Baker from Cream on drums and bassist Charlie Haden (the Ginger Baker Trio). On those records Frisell helped reinvent the power trio and artistically redeem the often rightly lambasted Baker. Gone, Just Like a Train uses the trio format again, featuring hallowed session drummer Jim Keltner and bassist Viktor Krauss (brother of Alison). Keltner and Krauss anchor things nicely for Frisell, whose compositions and playing on this recording are often eerie and unsettling. The guitarist uses his skills here to both lull and unnerve the listener but not in an overt, unpleasant manner; it makes for "uneasy" listening that sounds good.
-- Ross Johnson