Groovy Hate Buck
Indie culture is fuckin’ pathetic. You have the Elephant 6 Collective, collectively sucking Brian Wilson’s cock. The punk scene comprised of glam metal bands that decided to stop dressing like chicks and sound like the Stooges instead of Britny Fox. Then there’s the college undergrads sporting their yuppie parents’ love beads and listening to that sorry-ass piece of shit band Phish. Oh, and who can forget the living Las Vegas acts in the rockabilly scene trying to be Gene Vincent. Anytime anywhere, it’s every time but now.
At Drunk Horse’s May 7 Brownies gig, it was Starsky and Hutch night—everyone looked like an extra, no shit. The ladies parted their hair in the middle and feathered it, and the gentlemen had honky Afros and bushy sideburns (some had biker beards). The Berkeley quartet opened its set jamming and vamping, with singer/guitarist Elijah Eckert slinging Jimmy Page-style leads over one-chord blues. From then on it was a motherfucker; nothing like the current wave of junior Black Sabbaths and Blue Cheers trudging through the low-end. The band played what’s best described as boogie-metal progressive rock. “Tanning Salon,” from their latest, Tanning Salon, hit all the rock ‘n’ roll moods: heavy and dancey and moody and trancey. The tune began with delicate, sweetly sour chords, swelled to thrust-out-your-hips riffage, and then floated away in a wash of jazz. Eckert led the guys through seven songs in 50 minutes of strange chord shapes (his and co-guitarist John Niles’s hands stretched out like spiders on their fretboards) and wildly bucking grooves. The crowd ate it up like a Levi’s 505 clearance at Filth Mart. Headliners the Fucking Champs sounded like indie-rock eunuchs who instantly grew dicks once they swapped their Pavement records for Iron Maiden ones. Fuck that shit. —Lorne Behrman
Touching From a Distance
The performance was very Death of the Author: no names, no lights, no secular humanism, just two humans barely visible in laptop light. But that was enough; the sellout crowd focused stageward on Autechre’s no-show as if Kiss were playing. More substantially, the air remained haunted by the sins flesh is heir to. Despite Autechre’s Edenic formalism, in concert (at Bowery Ballroom on May 5) it remained possible that the band could change their minds, respond to the situation, get tired. When Sean, or perhaps it was Rob, took a hand off his technology to light a cigarette, a drum line briefly vanished; such a minimal gesture still signified liveness—proof they weren’t just checking their e-mail. And such tiny signs made for big weirdness. Warehouse xtc parties promise the social utopia; Autechre discs offer the conceptual utopia, at their best sounding like chips off an infinite progression happening in ideal space. This was neither, and seemed like a kind of test: How does sonic patience work when you’re standing in a crowd? What happens at the corner of theory and Delancey Street?
The band’s music has been moving away from the utopian-abstract anyway, but their unstable reverbed beats—clustered with brushed-steel whooshes that morph into sirens—will never make a Mensa rave. It was more like a Minnesota Multiphasic Mixer, except everyone’s personality inventory kept coming up Psychaesthenia and Social Introversion. Occasionally the show might even have aspired to the Krafft-Ebing annals of people unduly stimulated by radio static. That’s the dream, I suppose: that familiar avenues of experience can be aggressively ignored for new and surprising intensities. A semipublic ecstasy of thoughtfulness remains an odd dream, however—as mildly dissociative and symbolically confusing as the show’s emblematic image, that of little apples glowing in midair from the band’s laptops. —Jane Dark
Just a Taste
The Psychedelic Furs have been many things in the past 22 years: meta-punks, meta-pop tarts, sellouts, even sell-ins. Reunited after a decade, they’re now experimenting with a shocking new element: tastefulness. Frontman Richard Butler appeared at Irving Plaza last Wednesday dressed in a black jacket and tee, his pearl choker the only nod to excess. Looking freshly tanned or at least ruddy, his spiky mane still (naturally?) blond, he leaped about exuberantly and rotated carefully, like in the “Heaven” video, earnestly declaring how nice it was to be back. He kept his expression perfectly balanced between a smile and a smirk as fans reached out to shake his hand throughout the 90-minute set.
It wouldn’t have seemed strange for him to announce a mayoral bid between songs. By now, East Villagers are probably more used to spotting him sashaying down St. Marks Place or gorging on lobster ravioli at In Padella than fronting the Furs; a return to their leadership suggests he has some even more ambitious purpose in mind. The timing is right, too. Never beloved enough to be terribly missed, he has resurrected the Furs before anyone thought to pine for them. Butler’s sneering and irony sounds fresh compared to today’s apolitical fare, especially “President Gas,” whose ridicule of Reagan needs no dusting off for W.’s era—even Butler’s disdain for the census is still timely. Invoking respectability again, the Furs relied on their stronger albums for this adopted-hometown set, not daring to crack World Outside or even Book of Days, and only the obligatory “Heartbreak Beat” from Midnight to Midnight, saving “Pretty in Pink,” the hit that shouldn’t have been, for the encore. With a commendable lack of self-servitude, they interspersed two “new” songs from an album whose title remained unhyped. In the second one’s chorus, Butler declared, “For once in my lifetime I’m not scared!” Trust him. —James Hannaham
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on May 15, 2001