Get Hip Records Showcase, Warsaw, Brooklyn, June 28, 2002
As I walked through the doors of Warsaw, a band was ripping through real rock 'n' roll with hook after hook. After just minutes of listening, I wanted to grab the nearest person by the throat and scream, "Who are they? Where do they come from? Where have they been all my life? Why wasn't I told about them?" But I didn't. I did, however, come to learn they were the Paybacks. And the band has since become my new big love.
Detroit's the Paybacks Wendy Case (guitar, vocals), Marco Delicato (guitar), John Szymanski (bass), and Mike Latulippe (drums) are gods. Their debut album Knock Loud (Get Hip Records) is like a holy wafer in the Pope's pocket. I tremble at its powers. This is L7-meets-the Blackhearts ass-spankin' guitar solos, hot-rod rhythms, and the gruff, rrrawk voice of Case (think Donita Sparks, Bianca Butthole, and the crotchety lunch lady in a hairnet who served you grilled cheese in high school). While everyone is creaming over the anemic, thrown-together sounds of them garage-rockers, there's something to be said for Knock Loud's muscular balls. The album feels strong. Its sonic spine doesn't sound assembled from toothpicks. The kick of "Tie Me In a Knot" and "Vegas" had me convulsing, and if anyone wrote me a love song like "If I Fell," I'd marry the sucker. This album will be the death of my stereo speakers
an honor if ever there was one.
The purpose of my presence this evening was to catch fellow Detroit darlings, the Gore Gore Girls. G3 are cool because they wear all white. Not all black like we pretentious New York City a-holes do. Singer/guitarist Amy Surdu, bassist/backup singer Melody Licious, and drummer Cathy Carrell have the balls to wear white. Onstage at Warsaw, they looked Clinique fresh. I bet they smelled good, too. Appearing in white mini-skirts, and white platform go-go boots, the Detroit trio looked like femme-bots from Austin Powers. But in case you equate white with purity, consider this: Would the morally astute write songs with titles like "Shotgun Wedding," "Getting a Room," and "Automatic Love"? Oh, behave.
Two-thirds of the G3 line-up changed since the debut album Strange Girls, but that doesn't mean the music suffered. With shimmying harmonies, crisp drums and cymbals, and rambunctious vocals, this "girl-group garage band" employs zero riot-grrrl screeches or wails. G3 supercharges the B-girl in me. "Hot Rod Breakdown" from the new album Up All Night started things off, and before I could execute some killer dance moves, the band was already rocking through "Hunt You Down." And check it out on "Cattle Call," Surdu got a little snazzy and played a few chords with her guitar behind her neck. G3 is one efficient package deal. When Surdu broke a guitar string, she called out for another guitar (provided by Wendy Case), strapped it on, and went back to work. I can't change my shoes in such a short amount of time.
Cato Salsa Experience and Burning Brides at Mercury Lounge, Manhattan, July 31, 2002
If the Dell computer boy were in a Norwegian rock band, he'd be the lanky, quirky Christian Engfelt. The bassist for Cato Salsa Experience had dance moves like Axl Rose on peg legs. This nu-retro-rock band is nominated for the 2002 Shortlist Music Prize and includes Engfelt, Cato Thomassen on vocals and guitar, Jon Magne Riise on drums, and missing-in-action keyboardist Nina Bjorndalen. Like their Nordic kin, the Hives, CSX delves into rock's mythic past but adds a significant kooky touch that helped endear them to tonight's crowd. In other words, this ain't a bunch of spoiled brats grinding out noise. They're fun(ny) without being ironic.
"This is the last show of our tour," proclaimed Engfelt, "so we're gonna give you everything." (Funny, my ex- made me the same promise.) CSX opened with "So, The Circus Is Back in Town" from their album A Good Tip for a Good Time and screeched and hooted their way through a riff-raff set. Thomassen and Engfelt spent much of the time with their eyes on their instruments, but drummer Riise smiled brightly at the audience with really big, white teeth.
"The more you dance, the more we dance," said peg leg Axl, "and the more we dance, the more you dance, and imagine that!" Alas, few bodies in the crowd loosened up as much as CSX wanted them to. But it didn't bother the guys. As Thomassen tuned his guitar, he asked, "Is that too loud?" "I think it's great," answered Engfelt, "let's move on!"
And so we had to leave the CSX for Philadelphia's Burning Brides. The indie band is no longer indie, after jumping from File 13 to a phat deal with V2 records. V2 is re-releasing their album Fall of the Plastic Empire, which made it to my Top 10 Best of 2001. Whereas CSX forsake rock-n-roll brutality for something a bit zanier, Burning Brides aims to break the floorboards beneath your feet. Singer/guitarist Dimitri Coats and bassist Melanie Campbell are Juilliard dropouts (and boyfriend/girlfriend in case anyone cares to know). Drummer Jason Kourkounis wore a shirt that said "asshole." It's a good thing I didn't wear my asshole shirt tonight. That would've been embarrassing.
Burning Brides have been tossed into the garage-rock genre, but honestly, just because the music's loud and fast doesn't make it garage-y. This band is heavier and tighter than that old genre implies. The titanic force of "Glass Slipper," "Arctic Snow," and "If I'm a Man" was enough to loosen the bricks in the wall at the Mercury Lounge. Coats is a savage vocalist and his head-banging was nonstop. As he abused his guitar, his curly, poofy hair bobbed around his head like a jellyfish having contractions. His skinned, grizzly screams were so livid that you'd have thought someone was amputating his legs. Campbell's bass is bigger than she is, but she (wo)man-handled the beast with a constipated expression on her face. Kourkounis was a sicko behind that kit of his. The dude's drumming blew the snot out of my nose. Awesome.
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