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items tagged with RIBCO

Inexhaustible Possibilities: Helmet, October 8 at RIBCO
Written By: Jeff Ignatius
Section: Music

Category: Feature Stories

2011-09-29 13:20:45

Helmet. Photo by Shiloh Strong.

In the course of a phone interview last week, Page Hamilton – lead guitarist, singer, and composer for Helmet, performing on October 8 at RIBCO – dropped the names of Beethoven, John Williams, Philip Glass, Ornette Coleman, Miles Davis, and John Coltrane.

That collection gives a good sense of the breadth of Hamilton’s musical study and knowledge, and some indication of why his band rewards close listening. It also hints at why Hamilton’s rigorous heavy music has found only modest commercial success, with one gold album (1992’s Meantime) and only top-50 peak chart positions in the United States.

What’s important to understand is that while there’s an essential academic/philosophical component to Helmet’s music, the band has also been distinguished by an uncompromising pummeling force, what the All Music Guide described as a “very precise and diabolical din – full of martial barks, jackhammering drums, rumbling bass, and some of the most brilliant IQ-lowering guitar riffs since Black Sabbath’s first four albums.” Hamilton rejects the assertion that Helmet is simply a metal band, but it operates almost exclusively in an aggressively gritty guitar/bass/drum framework. Within that structure and self-imposed limitations, Hamilton explores musical theory.

“The Helmet vocabulary is the drop-tuning, the chord voicing, and the figure writing, or riff writing,” he said. (There are also players employing different time signatures, a technique borrowed from composer Glenn Branca that Hamilton said creates “this sort of forward propulsion.”) “It’s thematic writing. It’s the same approach a jazz improviser would use, or a classical composer.” He then mimicked the openings of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 and John Williams’ title-crawl theme for Star Wars, and discussed how they quickly establish themes that are then developed. “That’s my approach to writing. I’m not stringing a bunch of shit together – the drummer came up with this, and I came up with that. That can work, but I think eventually you run out of ideas. We’re all using the same 12 notes in Western music.”

If that makes your eyes glaze, it must also be noted that Hamilton’s solos – which he said he approaches like a “spaz jazz idiot” – are razor-wire sharp and exhilarating, regardless of a listener’s music-theory understanding.

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No Pretense to Pretty: Meth & Goats, “Leisure Time”; at RIBCO on September 16
Written By: Jeff Ignatius
Section: Music

Category: Feature Stories

2011-09-13 13:15:34

Meth & Goats. Photo by Dan Wilcox.

Without casting aspersions, it must be said that Meth & Goats’ new album Leisure Time starts at full throttle and never lets up, with few variations in volume, pace, or approach. The Moline-based quartet has crafted a pummeling record that over 32 minutes offers scant relief. The album’s first stylistic breather is the space noise of seventh track “Gem Vision,” which is even more assaultive than the other nine songs.

In that context, though, the album is quite an achievement – razor-sharp, discordant hard rock finding a midpoint between the breathless anger of Rage Against the Machine and the sonically ravenous exploration of Cedric Bixler-Zavala’s and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez’s the Mars Volta and At the Drive-in, without the ego-driven ambition of any of those bands.

If Leisure Time also lacks those groups’ moments of transcendent grace, that seems like a choice: Angular and throwing sharp elbows all over the place, Meth & Goats – which will perform a record-release show at RIBCO on Friday – makes no pretense to pretty. The album is loaded with hooks and urgency and dares you to keep up.

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“We’re Always Going to Try to Alienate You”: Gene Ween, September 8 at RIBCO
Written By: Jeff Ignatius
Section: Music

Category: Feature Stories

2011-08-31 11:28:12

Gene Ween

At this point in Ween’s career, the only thing that should surprise the band’s fans is the core duo of Gene and Dean Ween (born Aaron Freeman and Mickey Melchiondo, respectively) doing something normal.

Based on a conversation last week with Freeman – who will perform a duo show with Ween bassist Dave Dreiwitz at RIBCO on September 8 – there’s no danger of that.

“Where I want to go next is the Disney-soundtrack-era Phil Collins,” he said, adding that he was as “serious as a heart attack. ... From the onset of Ween, I always planned on devolving into that. Instead of trying to be cool. ... Partly I like that music ... . I find something very punk-rock about it, and I can’t explain what that is.”

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All-Stars on All-Stars: The Baseball Project, June 9 at RIBCO
Written By: Jeff Ignatius
Section: Music

Category: Feature Stories

2011-05-25 11:13:43

The Baseball Project. Photo by Michael E. Anderson.

To get a sense of the challenge, charm, and skill of the Baseball Project super-group – playing RIBCO on June 9 – start with Scott McCaughey’s “Buckner’s Bolero,” a litany of all that conspired to make Bill Buckner one of the sport’s great scapegoats.

“If Bobby Ojeda hadn’t raged at Sullivan and Yawkey / And hadn’t been traded to the Mets for Calvin Schiraldi,” it begins. “If Oil Can Boyd hadn’t been such a nutcase / And Jim Rice had twice taken an easy extra base.”

Here it’s evident that McCaughey knows the game in general, knows Game Six of the 1986 World Series in particular, and is fearless in attempting rhythms and rhymes with proper names and baseball lingo in song. Of Red Sox Manager John McNamara, he sings: “If he’d hit Baylor for Buckner and yanked the first baseman / For his by-the-book late-inning defensive replacement / That ball would’ve been snagged if it’d ever been hit / And Mookie’s last name would now be ‘’86.’”

But that amounts to little more than clever wordplay. Where McCaughey really shines is in taking the long view, approaching existential issues of baseball immortality: “If even one man doesn’t do one thing he does / We’d all know Bill Buckner for what he was: / A pretty tough out for the Dodgers, Red Sox, and Cubs.” But he finally concludes that the ground ball hit by Mookie Wilson that went through his legs might be the best thing that happened to his song’s subject: “And your 22 years playing ball might be forgotten / Maybe Bill Buckner was lucky his luck was so rotten.”

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Ozark-ian Mix and Match: Ha Ha Tonka, May 13 at RIBCO
Written By: Jeff Ignatius
Section: Music

Category: Feature Stories

2011-05-10 20:25:59

Ha Ha Tonka. Photo by Todd Roeth.

It’s little surprise that the members of Ha Ha Tonka, hailing from the Ozarks, have a natural affinity for bluegrass.

“Anything we do, whether we’re trying to cover an R.E.M. song or what have you, comes out sounding Ozark-ian,” said frontman Brian Roberts in a phone interview last week. But on Death of a Decade, released in April, that influence on the band’s indie rock is front-and-center with Brett Anderson’s mandolin.

Roberts said the quartet, which will perform at RIBCO on Friday, aimed for “brighter, more hopeful sounds” on the album. And because Anderson had been playing lots of mandolin, “it just became the starting point for a lot songs. ... It’s such a colorful, I daresay happy-sounding, instrument. It definitely has a bright sound about it that I think ... helped capture the type of vibe or mood that we were wanting on the songs.”

That description misses the tonal and artistic expansiveness of the album. The mandolin drives opening track “Usual Suspects,” and it’s indeed an upbeat rocker. But elsewhere, the instrument brings shading or a counterpoint; on “Lonely Fortunes,” the mandolin adds balance, emotional complexity, and ambiguity simply through its pregnant tone.

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