My art, music and events scene in NY/NJ
Attack of the Clones
Street Walking Cheetahs
June 3, 2016
By Doktor John
Singer and multi-instrumentalist Christian Dryden hosted a particularly spectacular night of cover band performances at the Clash Bar, a nightspot famous for exceptional entertainment in the punk genre. Most all my readers are familiar with this venue, noteworthy for its well-stocked bar, reasonable pricing (both entry charges and libations), great shows and the friendly supportive management of that patron of the punk arts, Bob Clash.
Openers Pulp Flannel served up a nostalgic mix of 90s grunge rock – Seattle style – with covers of Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Alanis Morrisette, the Cranberries, et al. They took a while to warm up and their performance was somewhat uneven with regards to quality and authenticity. However several songs, female-fronted by the adorable Kitman, really hit the emotional bulls-eye for us aficionados of pre-millenial alternative rock. Kitman also happens to be the name of a famous Hong Kong songstress to whom Pulp Flannel’s vocalist bore a striking resemblance, though decades younger.
Next up, The Street Walking Cheetahs put on an eye-catching as well as musically spot-on rendition of Iggy & the Stooges’ repertoire. Uncanny in his resemblance, both in sound and in visual terms, the lead singer of this Asbury quartet went beyond entertaining to actually transporting us all back to that special era in the early days at the inception of punk.
Disorder takes up the challenges posed in paying tribute to the oeuvre of Joy Division, whose iconic status attains to heights approaching mysticism for having ushered in the prolific era of Post-punk. There are other Joy Division tribute bands, but it’s hard to imagine a more perfect capture of the dark, enigmatic ambience of this archetypal band than that achieved by Disorder. Not only did they pay tribute to Joy Division’s beloved standards like “Dead Souls” and “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” but also they dug deep into their repertoire including such lesser-known gems as “Warsaw” off the “Substance” album. I have followed this combo ever since I adopted Joy Division as my religion, and I have seen the guitarist, John Costa and bassist David Id attain ever higher levels of skill in perfectly reproducing the sound of the original albums and the feel of the few surviving live performances. Vocalist Mike Strollo and percussionist Chris Mele bring a level of obsessive professionalism to the task of reproducing the experience of this tragically short-lived yet monumental band.
The night concluded with the KISS tribute band – The Flaming Youths – in full black & whiteface make-up, and organizer Christian Dryden sat in the esteemed position behind the drum kit for hard rock covers of the infamous 70s & 80s idols. Opening with the typically feel-good “Deuce,” Flaming Youths proceeded through a thirteen-song set and concluded with the emblematic “Rock’n’Roll All Night.” They touched upon and delivered the best of KISS’s mother lode of defiant party anthems, a perfect culmination to a night of tribute to rock music’s ancestry.
This is the newspaper print version of the report. The searcheable, internet-based version can be found by scrolling down two entries to http://doktorjohn.com/?p=1612
“This Sea Is Killing Me”
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By Doktor John
Lovers of ethereal, trip-hop and similar styles should check out this second album by Autodrone, a project of guitarist Jeremy Alisauskas, formerly of Projekt group Unto Ashes. This 10 track album, written by Alisauskas and keyboardist Angel Lorelei, appears to have aimed at relieving some personal grief and even despair as embodied in the plaintive vocals by the lyricist Katherine Kennedy, whose singing suggests Kate Bush calling from captivity, perhaps trapped in a cave.
The opening track, “Corvus” (crow) begins with a simple organ riff, the keyboard manned by second guitarist Markus Fabulous , formerly of Psychic TV, and introduces the faraway-sounding female vocals that set a melancholy mood for the rest of the album. A similar pattern is heard on the 2nd track “Exit Ghost” but with a little more rhythmic complexity provided by drummer Terry Taylor. Percussion complexity intensifies in the next track “Le Voleur” (The Thief) and serves in this and further tracks as a vehicle for the deliciously sad, yearning female vocals.
The 4th track “The Way Way Down” is more upbeat – to the point of being very danceable – with enthusiastic drumming, synthesizer and organ riffs, still in the service of Angel Lorelei’s disconsolate voice, and the 5th track even more rapidly paced into an actual gallop. The vocals soar to heart-rendering heights.
With the 6th track “Thunderbolt,” the cadence slows to a lumbering trudge through emotional pain and a sense of resignation. In the 7th track, the vocals become intentionally muddled and begin to merge with the instrumental accompaniment which comes to the fore, and presents a couple of captivating hooks.
A deep drone opens the happily gloomy 8th track, the “Lay of the Land,” but it turns into a structured mantra with – again – amazing cadenzas by Katherine Kennedy, who matches her melodious wailing during the 9th track as well. The 10th track is two and a half minutes of voiceless electronica, in keeping with the tradition observed by many electronic-based groups.
If you are a fan of shoe-gaze, mystical sounding, new-age-y music; if you are looking to expand your appreciation beyond This Mortal Coil, or supplement your desire for more in the Cocteau Twins genre, this album is for you.
A History of the Postpunk and Goth Subculture, 1978 – 1992
An Illustrated Lecture with Andi Harriman
Morbid Anatomy Museum
April 27, 2016
By Doktor John
The Morbid Anatomy Museum hosted a lecture entitled Goth 101 as the latest entry in its series of like-themed presentations by Andi Harriman, musicologist and author of a popular compendium on Postpunk and Goth culture. Ms. Harriman lectured for just under an hour, accompanying her extensive historical account with abundant photographic documentation.
The amount of material proves to be voluminous, but Harriman’s analysis puts forward the thesis that the Punk cultural movement of the 1970s, with its iconoclastic philosophy and raw musical style set the stage for the inevitable rise of the more wide-ranging and varied, but inter-related styles of the early 80s called Postpunk. Out of this conglomerate of musical (and fashion) styles came Goth, a sort of apotheosis of a cultural thread that had run through Western civilization for millennia.
The roots of Goth were traced back to marauding nomad pagan tribes, the Goths and Ostrogoths, then became identified with the architecture that these former barbarians built as they settled in the Europe that they had conquered. Gothic art and architecture, identified with the period of Europe’s Dark Ages became associated with ruins and decay, then served as the back-drop for morbid-themed literature centered on haunted castles, seductive vampires and themes of emotional despair. Early cinema continued feeding the undercurrent of dark glamour, featuring such “vamps” as Theda Bara. Ghastly musical performance art in the mid-20th century fertilized the Postpunk substrate, eventually giving rise to the dark style of music that we now recognize as Gothic Rock.
Along the way, Ms. Harriman provided slides demonstrating concrete graphic examples that connected the thread, from engravings of barbarian invaders to images of Gothic cathedrals, the picturesque ruins of which supply the settings for Gothic novels, later for horror-themed motion pictures and television. Slide images traced the evolution from Screamin’ Jay Hawkins music videos to Alice Cooper, to the Velvet Underground, to Iggy Pop and, most importantly, to Bowie. We learned that the term Gothic Rock was first applied to The Doors, although Bauhaus’s “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” in the movie The Hunger seems to have been its first true inception when it all came together.
At the turn of the decade – the 80s into the 90s – Gothic Rock underwent mutation as electronic and synthetic instrumentation eventually took over, morphing the movement into Industrial Music, while retaining of some of Goth’s dark preoccupations. Thus aficionados of Gothic Rock are to be found today pursuing their musical taste patronizing clubs and music collections that term themselves as “Gothic-Industrial.”
by Doktor John
This is Noir’s fourth release and it is dedicated to David Bowie. Noir consists of frontman Athan Maroulis, formerly of Spahn Ranch and Black Tape for a Blue Girl and keyboardists and backup female vocalists Kai Irina Hahn and Demetra Songs. In this collection they continue in what Maroulis terms the “Electro-Gothic” style. Isn’t that what the rest of us call “industrial?”
With this EP, he has re-interpreted a number of lesser-known classics from the New Wave era and added a brilliant original piece, namely the title track, “The Burning Bridge.” For this, track, he took a 40 second techno-instrumental groove by associate Erik Gustafson, digested it and set to it lyrics that envisioned himself or something like his ghost soaring through the night as a disembodied spirit. This artistic concept allowed him to look back beyond bridges that he had burned behind him to revisit experiences and repressed personal situations long since forgotten. He set this narrative to a perfectly danceable, electro-industrial rhythm track, richly overlaid with menacing deep, dark synthesizer melodies and his undulating, plaintive, yet angry vocals.
Noir turns Ministry’s pre-“With Sympathy,” 1982 upbeat obscurity, “Same Old Madness,” into a downbeat, lumbering slog through a knee-deep techno-industrial swamp, the heavy trudging paces marked by the mantra-like repetition of the title.
“The Chauffeur” continues in the persevering, slow trudge mode, not as ponderous, but still It retains the eerie negativity of the Duran Duran original, largely by unusual and somewhat discordant arpeggios and a zombie-paced cadenced percussion.
“In Every Dream Home a Heartache,” recorded live off a WFMU broadcast session, Noir’s version of Roxy Music’s creepiest piece, Noir slows it down even further to a funereal pace accompanying his mournful vocals with distant, echoing chimes, noise effects and instrumentals that might serve as the soundtrack for a horror movie.
“The Burning Bridge” offers musical pleasures of several varieties. First, there is an excellent new and original title track. Then there is the guilty pleasure of enjoying re-invented covers of lesser-know works from well-known artists. Finally, there is the unique, undulant vibrato vox of Goth-industrial pioneer Athan Maroulis to add a novel and classic touch to each of these tracks.
In a word: Short’n’Bittersweet