Archive for January, 2008

Dan Reed

January 31, 2008

It’s funny when someone on a forum asks about an artist or band from my hometown, and yet I’m left scratching my ass for answers. Nonetheless, recent mention of Portland hair metal’s most-likely-to spawned a few ruminations from yours truly.

I should know more about The Dan Reed Network than I actually do. Trouble is, they appeared to be (from their photos anyway) another hair metal band, edging onto CHR back when I was donning the one-eyed/trench coat Goth look (before the colorful, candy NuRo thing) and absconding radio for my own nascent record collection. Portland, you see, didn’t have an alternative radio station until 1991, by which point the very meaning of “alternative” had jumped the shark altogether, and I had moved onto prog/art rock and RIO anyway. Yes, I’ve come a long way in the last 20 years, but I’ve not come around to liking that late-’80s CHR/hair metal thang.

Dan Reed, likewise, has come a long ways to. Around 1999/2000, he opened up a nightclub here in Portland called (if memory serves) The Orb*. This club was being touted as a local base for the much-hyped (at the time) electronica scene. Reed had shaved his head and become very adamant in interviews about the obsolescence of guitars in the face of electronics (sorry Dan, that vision had already been realized to the best of its potential some 20 years earlier with the Cold Wave/New Romantic movement, which ‘you’ missed out on while riffing along to the likes of REO Speedwagon.) Now while I’m all for that part of the creative rigmarole called “artistic development”, I really, honestly believe that he was merely trying to grab the wheels of the latest musical trend as revenge against the grunge movement (hey, no argument there) which had fizzled his thunder in a swamp of manure just as things had been heating up for him and his band back in 1990/91.

*I was subsequently informed that his club had been called The Ohm, the former site upon which still half-hangs its dilapidated marquee
like dumped inventory.


Memory Joggers

January 29, 2008

Even the few decent things to have come out during The Worst Deca[y]de In Human History have fallen from my memory banks, in-spite of personal experience, as someone’s recent mention of The Club Foot Orchestra revealed:

Almost forgot about them! I had their Metropolis/Felix Woos Woopey soundtrack some years back, but since it never got listed in my RYM inventory it must be lost. They came to Portland back in 1992 to play those pieces alongside screenings of the namesake films. I got acquainted with one of their members, Miles Boyson, who came back the following year with his avant-jazz unit the Splatter Trio.

Someone else had to re-enlighten me about Dutch goofsters Dull Schicksal, despite the fact that I had forked over for two of their discs in the dark days of yore.

By golly, I’d so forgotten these guys that I didn’t even have them in my RYM inventory. I have their 1992/1993 discs Neem Die Pijp Uit Je Muil, Jij Hond and Dikke Mannen, the first of which isn’t even entered into the RYM database.

Dull Schicksal were actually one of my few cold buys off the Wayside catalog back in the early ’90s that I was rather under-impressed by. Ostensibly, they were a cross between the RecRec wing of RIO (Debile Menthol, No Secrets in the Family) and that undying strain of jazzy, avant post-punk (Dave Thomas and the Pedestrians, Tupelo Chain Sex, Eskimo.) However, there was something dissatisfying about the overall effect, with brief flowing passages crashing into long, cumbersome dirges – they could have used some rebob. Furthermore, their eclecticism was made all the more jarring by the inconsistent quality of their material.

Who knows, maybe they’d be classics by now had they not been released during That ’90s Deca[y]de.

The Divine Rarity of Pomp Wave

January 9, 2008

I’ve long asserted that Magazine were thee band to have expertly woven the buzzsaw bite and trebly sonorities of punk and New Wave with the lavish textures and monumental scope of pomp rock and symphonic progressive. Just listen to the brimming colors of “Definitive Gaze” and watch the video to “Motorcade” for two perfect examples, the latter of which suggests a New Wave “Dance On a Volcano” with its uncanny triplex intro and myriad sections.

From there you can check out some other exceptional entities from the New Wave/post-punk movement, like Random Hold and Red Noise, in the “top friends” of Magazine.

Musically, it was the instrumentalists in Magazine who should be given credit for the prog leanings in that band. Particularly their keyboardist Dave Formula, who’s polyphonic arsenal gave Magazine that sweeping, grandiose sound and feel, totally beyond the confines of the post-punk aesthetic (where sparse primitivism was the order of the day.) Additionally, their guitarist John McGeoch lent dynamics to the proceedings with his eminently lyrical, immanently scything leads. The idiosyncratic maximalism of Magazine’s music made them, with honor, a luminous light within the sonic shadow of Genesis, King Crimson, Van Der Graaf Generator and Hawkwind, with due respect to the ubiquitous if over-emphasized mark of Roxy Music and David Bowie.

After McGoech left Magazine to help lift Siouxsie and the Banshees from the depths of haphazard, shock-punk pantomime, intern Ultravox axeman Robin Simon stepped in to lend his sheer, ebow*-like tones to Magazine‘s thinly produced and sadly slight swan song, Magic, Murder, & the Weather.

*I don’t know Simon’s exact arsenal, per se, but the ebow was nonetheless thee guitar sound amongst NuRo (that’s New Romantic) bands and performers like Japan, Yellow Magic Orchestra, Duran Duran and the ubiquitous string-shredder-turned-key-petter Bill Nelson, who laced numerous early 80’s recordings with the sleek, luminous sound of the ebow.