News & Politics

Goldstein Knocked out by Toronto’s The Paupers


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March 9, 1967, Vol. XII, No. 21

Notes from Underfoot

By Richard Goldstein

Where do they all come from department:

Backing up the Jefferson Airplane at the Cafe Au Go-Go last week, an incredible group from Toronto called the Paupers descended on the New York scene like electric thunder.

The Paupers are a conventional number of musicians (four) playing a conventional range of instruments (guitar, bass, drums, etc…). But their music makes the average combo sound like a string quartet doing Wagner.

The Paupers play electronic rock with a power and discipline I have never seen in live performance. Their music sounds like Byrds and Beatles compositions. But the miracle is the Paupers’ ability to reproduce live all the structured atonality it takes these groups months in the shelter of a recording studio to create.

Though the lyric content is weak, the Paupers’ music puts electronic rock a step closer to becoming a viable folk music. They make impossible sounds with their instruments, and it is all there, right before you, real. A soft ballad becomes stunning when the Paupers make an electric mandolin sound like a battery of woodwind. “Dr. Feelgood” has a warped but pounding Chuck Berry beat, delivered with flying hair and flaying tambourines. “It’s Your Mind” explodes with stretched and straining notes. And the rest of the act bristles with feedback, dissonance, and a pervasive beat pounded furiously on three sets of drums.

The Paupers are what makes rock such an exciting form to write about. They swooped down out of nowhere, from a scene nobody knew about, and suddenly they were paying real electronic music with a teenage audience screaming allegiance in the background. If their debut at the Au Go-Go is any clue to the Paupers’ versatility, their recordings on Verve Folkways should shatter one of the last cliches about rock ‘n’ roll: that it must be melodic to work.

I recommend you catch this group next time it appears anywhere.

[Each weekday morning, we post an excerpt from another issue of the Voice, going in order from our oldest archives. Visit our Clip Job archive page to see excerpts back to 1956.]


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