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for May 14, 2002

Embracing Subjectivity
by Lorraine Doran

Over the past several months, Iíve been working a lot. At my real job, not at what I consider my true calling: seeing live music. As I wait for someone to discover how truly great I am at going to concerts and pay me for it, I am sometimes left with no time for any but the truly important shows, the shows that cannot not be missed. The title of this piece must, then, be taken as a caveat. I cannot possibly be objective about any of the musicians discussed here. Consider yourself warned.
Cat Power graced the East Coast in March, playing at Brooklynís answer to the ever-growing shortage of Manhattan music venues, the Warsaw. A Polish community center by day, the Warsaw serves pierogi and babka, which were much-needed to sustain the crowd during the long wait for Cat Power to take the stage. Chan Marshall, who, sometimes alone and sometimes with a band,is Cat Power, is notorious for her stage fright and for remaining backstage as long as possible. Luckily she is also notorious for being brilliant, so the wait really didnít matter once she emerged, safe behind her hard-to-get bangs. Playing a solo acoustic show to young lovers with messy hair, Marshall responded to requests with an apologetic "I wish I could." The songs she did perform were rarely taken whole from her records. Many were obscure covers and some were versions of her own songs that she might have made up on the spot. Some, like an Oasis cover, were pieces of songs, finished when she said so. This show, done by anyone else, might have felt uneven and unfinished. As done by Cat Power, it was plaintive, heartfelt and oddly satisfying. You have to love Cat Power before you see her live. So get ready. Go buy Moon Pix.
Perhaps youíve heard the rumors about Bob Mouldís current tour. It involves synthesizers. And pre-recorded music. And video screens. If you are a devoted follower of Mouldís, any of these things must strike fear into your heart. In combination they might cause you to look skyward in search of swarming locusts. Not many people have achieved what Bob Mould has. His music career is now in its fourth incarnation and each of the prior three has produced a masterpiece. Husker Du gave us...well, take your pick. Mine is Zen Arcade. He went solo and, from the angst borne of the personal and professional break-ups, wrought Workbook, luminous in its passion and isolation. And then there was Sugar and Copper Blue, which almost made the wide world appreciate him. Almost. In other words, his penchant for switching gears has a good track record. I canít say that I love Modulate, the first of three records he will release this year, but it is growing on me. And anything that gets Mould on the road, alone and at one with his guitar, is a good thing. The screens to either side of him played films he commissioned to accompany each song. During "Brasilia Crossed With Trenton," there were scenes of Trenton interspersed with scenes of what, one assumes, was Brasilia. Other songs inspired animation or a montage of silvery roman candles. It worked without ever taking attention from the songs. With uncharacteristic humility, Mould acknowledged the mixed reviews his shows have been getting and thanked the audience for letting him "try something new." Itís worked for him before.
New Brunswickís own SuperBLUE kicked off a stellar night of music at the Court Tavern last Friday by taking their live show to the proverbial next level. Their performance was tight without feeling constructed. And the lyrics matter. Even breaking that time-honored rock rule -- never let the drummer sing -- works for them. For those who judge a band by its covers, SuperBLUE pulled out classics old and new: Big Starís "Big Black Car" and Pavementís "Summer Babe." Talent and good taste.

©2002 Lorraine Doran

All material ©2001-2014 Sean Carolan, except as noted.


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