Saturday, February 28, 2009

Pushing Boundaries

It's always interesting to go to see a show that I know will, perhaps, be a challenge, but also test the boundaries of my musical taste. I'm no big fan of sludge-rock, but I will allow Rob Crow to take me to the edge of the precipice so I can peer in. Thus I went to The Knitting Factory on Friday, February 27, 2009.

Rob Crow and Zack Smith are two of my greatest teachers in this respect. First, because Pinback will always amaze me and I will follow them anywhere they've been, or wherever they go from here. But, even when I was a teenage rock fan in the sixties, I let the artists I most admired lead me wherever they wanted.

These guys have me listening to Three Mile Pilot, Heavy Vegetable, Thingy, Systems Officer and other bands they're involved with, who I ordinarily wouldn't bump into. And now Goblin Cock.

Actually, this is the third time I've seen them and I enjoy their satiric take on the genre. Also, they have a new CD out, the subtly titled Come With Me If You Want To Live, so there'd be new material to be heard.

Most times I've seen them they've had opening bands that are more straightforward in their approach. Warship was just such a band. Extreme sludge, with lots of screaming, both vocal and guitar and a sad lack of irony. When they did come together for me was during two of their quiet songs which had a hint of melodic flavor similar to parts of Pinback, and I suddenly saw a connection. But the loud avant-rock stuff is as difficult for me to listen to as John Cage. Just give me the corny old concept of melody, once in a while, for me to grab on to.

Unlike other Goblin Cock shows, the band came out and set up in street clothes, Rob being assisted by his two-year old son, so it was the first time I've really seen who's in the band. Donning their Druid robes and hoods for the performance, filling the stage with fog and flashing seizure-inducing lighting effects, the entire atmosphere shifts suddenly and you're sitting at the bottom of the world, someplace.

Rob's voice growls obscene sounding noises at you and the wall of sound commences. The difference is that the songs have shape and structure, and a life-saving humor that keep it from ever falling over the edge into self-importance.

I wasn't familiar with the new songs, but was happy to hear fresh material along with "Stumped" from their first CD and that great Tears For Fears song they always do, "Head Over Heels". But most of all I relish the honor and privilege of watching Rob Crow's hands as he plays his guitar. This is the 14th time I've seen him perform and I honestly don't think I've ever seen anyone play like he does. Not one false move. I also think he's one hell of a singer.

This was the first show I've been out to in two weeks and that's probably part of the reason I had such a good time. Goblin Cock pokes a big hole in the pomposity and pretension of usual sludge rock with great humor and insight, but with a scholarly knowledge of the genre they're sending up. All played with the authenticity of genuine musical talent.


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