Bauhaus's revered position in the world of gothic music has an auspicious origin. Their debut single from 1979 was a nine-minute, tongue-in-cheek horror-fest homage to Bela Lugosi, the actor best known for his 1931 portrayal of Count Dracula. Although lead vocalist Peter Murphy has admitted his band was actually making an attempt at sick comedy, "Bela Lugosi's Dead" has become both a postpunk classic and an essential component of goth's history; with that one single, Bauhaus defined the music's sound and style. Their penchant for extreme melodrama was exactly what their pallid, oh-so-tortured, darkly clad audience craved.
Daniel Ash's spastic, screeching guitar licks coupled with David J's churning bass lines and Kevin Haskins's primal drum beats were the perfect canvas for Murphy's feverish ramblings on the eerie, the strange, and the dark places of the mind. Bauhaus's members were at their best when at their most extreme, base, and silly. Crackle, the latest Bauhaus compilation (another set, Bauhaus 1979-1983, has also been reissued in the United States), is a smartly packaged assembly of the group's sly song craft. And rather than being simply a chronological collection of singles, Crackle takes you on a relentless roller coaster ride through the entire Bauhaus catalogue. The album opens with the pounding guitars, booming drums, and larynx-shredding vocals of "Double Dare," from the group's 1980 release, In the Flat Field. Then it's on to that album's title track, where Murphy happily wallows in the delirium of boredom. After the creepy disco of "The Passion of Lovers," from 1981's Mask, you get a nicely remastered version of the band's infamous debut single.
Throughout the disc, danceable moments ("She's in Parties," from the 1983 release Burning from the Inside; "Kick in the Eye 2," from Mask) are juxtaposed with meditative flashes ("Silent Hedges," from 1982's Sky's Gone Out; the title track from Mask). The pace is fantastic and adds an extra kick to this delightfully dreary nostalgia trip -- a reminder of why goth rock was so great for a while and what a gimmick-laden farce it has become.
-- Hans Morgenstern
Bauhaus performs Wednesday, September 16, at Sunrise Musical Theatre, 5555 95th Ave; 954-741-7300. Doors open at 8:00 p.m. Tickets are $28.75
In Carterian Fashion
James Carter is to jazz what Jimi Hendrix was to rock and roll -- a bold, loud, and irreverent player with the kind of mind-blowing talent that makes many of his contemporaries sound like they should go back to third-period band class. Carter's fifth and latest album, In Carterian Fashion, confirms his place in the upper echelon of modern jazz.
Carter showed his prodigious daring in his earlier efforts, playing many instruments (various saxes, clarinet, and flute) and covering an eclectic range of songs by the likes of Sun Ra, Lester Bowie, and Mel Torme. In Carterian Fashion continues his exploration of diverse musical forms, including swing, blues, cool jazz, free jazz. He also makes an excursion into funk on the title track with Kevin Carter, former Parliament-Funkadelic guitarist who also happens to be James's brother. In another new wrinkle, Carter recorded every track with a Hammond organ, adding a vibe that can brighten up a song like a string of Christmas tree lights. It's also a highly marketable sound at the moment, thanks in large part to the crossover success enjoyed by jazz/funk/rock/et cetera trio Martin, Medeski and Wood.
Some of the best tracks here feed off Carter's expansion of the fine quartet he has recorded and toured with for the past five years. On the fast-paced "Don's Idea," trumpeter Dwight Adams sits in, trading a series of explosive solos with Carter. Adams also shines on "Odyssey," wailing away on muted trumpet with Carter on bass clarinet above the broad, deep strokes of Henry Butler on organ. It's free jazz with a backbeat, which makes for wild but accessible listening.
On the blues standard "Trouble in the World," Carter sounds like a possessed snake charmer as he belts out an amazing intro before settling into a beautiful, plaintive melody, anchored by his brother's guitar punctuations. "Lockjaw's Lament" offers proof that, for all his pyrotechnics, Carter has mastered the ballad form like few other musicians.
The highlight is "Frisco Follies." Keyboardist du jour Cyrus Chestnut sits in on the Hammond, and Carter, through the wonders of multitrack recording, plays three different sax parts simultaneously (baritone, tenor, and soprano), at times sounding as if he's speaking in tongues. It's a raucous foot stomper, and one of the finest testimonies on record of this truly rare and joyous talent.
-- Chris Duffy
They Might Be Giants
Severe Tire Damage
Many a fan has salivated over the prospect of a live record from Brooklyn's They Might Be Giants, and the duo faced a daunting task in picking tracks for its first such attempt, Severe Tire Damage. John Linnell and John Flansburgh have seldom wavered from their simple recipe of cheeky wit, smart wordplay, and bold musical strokes, but this succinct collection of old and new tracks does only a fair job of documenting their creative traveling circus.
The material spans their twelve-year career, but the band's history is much more diverse than Severe Tire Damage suggests. The album's focus lies squarely in capturing the sound of the fifteen-piece touring band the duo put together in 1992. Although the disc is fun and memorable, it lacks some of the sweat and energy the Giants bring to their scorching live performances. In particular, the dirtier-sounding versions of "Birdhouse in Your Soul," "Ana Ng," and "Particle Man" lose some steam in the translation.
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
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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