2005, Rasputin Manifesto
It's been three years since I last saw one of your live performances. You had released your second album, The Golden Dove (Matador), and your quirks were quite entertaining. I loved that cat mask, and the little dance you did towards the end of your set. Those vintage keyboards were the shit. I never get sick of those soft, smooth, pre-digital electronic sounds. Music really seemed to have set you free, though the monkey, the lion and the ocelot seemed to have skipped town that night. Their testimony would have turned the concert into an event. In lieu of the animals, I was satisfied when you confirmed for me that you were not on any drugs during the Helium set I witnessed in '95.
So after all this time, we meet again, and I must say - what a difference three years makes! One listen to your new record, Ex Hex (Lookout!), and my immediate reaction was, "whoa!" The rhythms were very DC-sounding to my ears, as if you had signed to Dischord or something. Of course, recording at Inner Ear Studios with Brendan Canty producing and Devon Ocampo from the Medications -- another card-carrying Dischord artist -- drumming, will probably have that sort of effect on the music.
The crowd that gathered to hear the new music at Café du Nord seemed really happy with what you gave us. I kept hearing someone yelling for "Return to Pirates," which you made sure to include in your encore. It was a scorcher, that one, even without Mr. Canty's bass. He was great to hear, and watch while he was up there with you and drummer Devo Ocampo before the encore.
I also sensed that you were very happy with the crowd that assembled before you. We were all in a good mood, and the smiles you sent from the stage were as infectious as the music you played. It seemed like a loose, fun, low-stress night for you, with giggles and good vibes smoothing over some of the awkward endings of the songs. "Music and Charming Melody," in particular, didn't appear to be quite as long as the version on your LP The Golden Dove.
But it was all good. And all that pogoing you were doing during "9x3" looked like a blast. Never expected to see that. There has always been this sort of slow-moving, semi-melancholy-ness to your music that has come across on stage during past performances of yours I have witnessed. You must have eaten your Wheaties that morning, for sure.
And doves what is your fascination with those birds, anyway? There's a "dead dove" in "Magic Power" and in the title of your second album, and on the new album, there's a "little white dove" in "Return to Pirates." I imagine you must like those white doves a lot, though the word "dove" tends to remind me of the rock doves all over San Francisco, which aren't particularly loveable - not when they're relieving themselves all over our buildings and street corners, anyway.
No matter, it's all part of the charm of the worlds you create with your songs. What really matters here is the new musical territory you are covering. Like when Devin played a drum solo that evening at the end of "Backwards/Forwards" - I never thought I'd hear one of those during any of your songs, and actually enjoy it. Those Black Sabbath-like chords you were spitting out after the drum solo were pretty bad-ass too. You've really become quite the riff-master, a guitar goddess of sorts. Oh heck, why qualify it - you ARE a guitar goddess! I've a feeling you wouldn't agree, but I think the riffs you've been writing bear it out
Cases in point: "9x3," the quick driving lines cruise along like it's none of the business of Pearl Jam's "rearviewmirror." And how about the way that the singing riffs of "Hard Times Are Hard" provide a neat bed for your conversational lyrics? They make it safe for a line like "people like you and people like me should just agree to disagree" sound less like a cliché and more like a rockin' refrain that means something real. No small feat, I say.
I am expecting that when you return to this locale, playing an opening set for Sleater Kinney at the Warfield on June 4, those ladies from Olympia might have their work cut out for them trying to sound like a commanding headliner compared to you. Perhaps it will be like the battle of the bands, a musical war field of sorts, where the byproducts are less lost limbs and more inspiration to play even better than the last time. Could be yet another exciting time, I'm sure.
Well, I'm glad we met again in the context of another fine show, a most noteworthy performance at that. And thanks for all the great tunes. Don't ever stop!
-The short guy in the front row