Posts Tagged ‘The Jesus Lizard’
MBV frontman Kevin Shields looked completely disengaged during the performance. Fellow cooer/guitarist Bilinda Butcher looked even bored-er. Speakers blared. Visuals were set to “seizure“. But reactions, energy, pulse? Nope. Just another day at the office for these two.
Why do we necessarily need our musicians to look “into it”? IMHO, effort is a nice-to-have in a live setting but it’s perhaps even more impressive to see somebody create epic art with a degree of nonchalance. As was the case with MBV in Toronto. And the entire history of J Mascis playing guitar.
Aside: seeing a band look awesomely bored on-stage while making an incredible racket is another example of how contrast is an underappreciated aspect in music. For more on this genius theory, read this.
Many outfits get tagged with the “they’re awesome live” label. This can help in terms of selling tickets and moving merchandise. However, it can also act as a distraction from the actual music (i.e. art) being created. Thusly, there are some “awesome live” acts who may not get the full artistic credit they deserve based on their on-stage antics (Fucked Up, the Jesus Lizard). The end game is they may get pigeonholed by some observers alongside other acts who exist primarily as a “spectacle” rather than “recording artist” (Gwar, Monotonix) in the traditional sense.
Google nets 18,000+ results for the expression “they’re boring live” so clearly, boredom is a concern for many, many music fans. But really, it should come down to a question of expectations. It’s not really fair to the artist to expect any random concert to provide the same brand of entertainment across the board (bored?). In the case of a band like My Bloody Valentine who took a two decade break between albums, I’d be really surprised if they did appear into it. Why would anybody think otherwise? If they really wanted to play these concerts, they wouldn’t have sat out 1993-2007.
I’d argue that the only problematically “boring” concerts are when a young-ish band get massive in a hurry (i.e. the Strokes, MGMT), focus on the substances or other distractions and start mailing in performances while they’re still in the ascension phase. This seriously is the worst but these outfits are pretty easy to spot via YouTube or Reddit or countless other outlets. Do your research and buyer beware, I guess.
So My Bloody Valentine looked half asleep. I thought the concert was beyond fantastic. Fucked Up insight CONSIDERABLE moshing while their singer strangles himself with the mic cord. It’s delightful; I’ve seen them maybe 4-5 times. Again, it’s all a matter of expectations and with a slew of online resources available to give your concert going experience an anticipatory litmus test, it’s now easier that ever to vet your “entertainment” options in advance. If you have concerns…
Bonus! 10 photos of artists who are/were really good at looking bored and being awesome.
1. Bernard Sumner, New Order
2. Charlie Watts, Rolling Stones
3. Doug Martsch, Built to Spill
4. Jamie xx, the xx
5. John Entwistle, the Who
6. John Hassall, the Libertines
7. Mark Smith, Explosions in the Sky (accepting on behalf of his band’s unjust “they’re boring live” stigma)
9. Nate Dogg
10. Neil Tennant, Pet Shot Boys (mildly related, the track “Being Boring” is completely underrated)
After witnessing recent live sets by Deerhunter and Fucked Up in quick succession, I had a total light bulb moment, man. It concerned music, music bands (!!!) and the ways in which music bands can differentiate themselves from the competition.
Three words: contrast, jerk face!!!
Part of the reason that Deerhunter and (Messed) Up are so striking on-stage is the visual contrast between their respective lead singers and their backers. Whether it’s the sinewy weirdness of Bradford Cox or the David Yow-meets-Ox Baker angle of Damian Abraham, one has to concede that these bands are significant aesthetically (and sonically, from what I can tell).
What IS new (or not new) is the acknowledgement that contrast is a fairly easy way to make your band “interesting” even if you are unable to make your band “good”.
Deerhunter and (Screwed) Up are certainly not the first outfits to explore the wonderful world of contrast. Here are 10 bands (all a varying degree of “good” IMHO) who have historically used the contrast model to set themselves apart (in a good way IHOP).
1. The Damned
A fairly standard looking O.G. punk outfit if you remove the fact that Dave Vanier insisted on dressing like a vampire. Never made any real sense with their sound and looked quite stupid at times.
2. The Boredoms
Founder and frontman Eye is the only constant in a quarter century of the Boredoms as his hair alone gives the band an image, which helps when the rest of the outfit typically looks like well-mannered exchange students.
OMG!!! Easily the most gimmicky band on this list: a speed metal outfit “fronted” by a pair of pitbull. Listen to one of their full-lengths here. Notable because one of the band members wore an alien mask for this press shot and he was STILL overshadowed by the fact that his band was 40 per cent canine.
Similar to Caninus except this band was fronted by a FOX!!! I kid, I kid but this doesn’t change the fact that without Deborah Harry leading the way, Blondie would aesthetically look like a more low-rent version of the Knack.
5. Guns N’ Roses (circa 2000-2004)
This was the Buckethead era of “the Gunners”. No idea why Axl would sign-off on this goofball playing with them, considering it’d obviously deflect attention from his cool dreadlocks and whatnot. And yeah, I get it: Buckethead is avant-garde or whatever but at the end of the day, he wears a KFC bucket as a hat. I mean… c’mon!
6. Roxy Music (circa 1971-1973)
Early, early Roxy Music were collectively known for being “fashion forward” but Brian Eno took things to the next level. Maybe to compensate for his hairline or maybe because of drugs. Or both!!! Anyway, he left, ultimately torched all his feathers and started to dress more like this guy.
Ugh. We’re now four decades into Ron Mael’s creepy uncle look. #gross
8. Cheap Trick
An interesting double shot with unique images cultivated by their guitarist (a far, far dorkier version of Angus Young) and a drummer (I dunno… taxi dispatcher?) detracting and contrasting with their hunky frontmen. Maybe the most obvious band on this list. Also, Cheap Trick are terminally underrated.
A gimme when their bratty frontman is wearing one of his considerable hats.
10. The Cure
A gimme when their **** frontman is wearing one of his considerable hairstyles. Must disqualify that stretch in the 1980s where Robert Smith banished his hair for several months.