Friday, December 12, 2008

Live: The Bellmer Dolls

When: 12/11
Where: The Studio at Webster Hall

After a week of going to shows of bands other people like, it was nice to get back on familiar ground. But a lot has happened in the garage-goth world of the Bellmer Dolls since I last saw them - they scored opening gigs on Nick Cave's East Coast tour, they added a fourth member and their bassist, Anthony Malat, shaved his sleaze-'stache. Let's tackle these points one by one.

With regards to the Nick Cave tour, it's just one more way in which the band is moving towards a more established and professional existence. While all the Dolls are experienced musicians, the band itself has always had an extremely raw edge. At a typical show, frontman Peter Mavrogeorgis would randomly add parts to the songs, climb out into (and onto) the audience and accidentally break everything on stage in his passionate freak-outs. Yeah, like I said, a raw edge. And I was afraid to see them this time around, because I thought maybe they'd finally lost it.

The Bellmer Dolls (photo by Tim D. Richardson)
The Bellmer Dolls

They haven't. Sure, it was inevitable that they'd lose some spontaneity, and as expected, their performance is decidedly more self-aware and less genuine, but their posing is always interrupted by Mavrogeorgis's genuine insanity. Mavrogeorgis seems to be one of those extremely rare musicians whose mind is formatted for music and only music - you can see that he never stops thinking and that fresh inspiration never stops coming. He'll be playing guitar, then suddenly get an idea to go bang something out on the keys, then scramble over to the microphone for some impromptu howling. If you compare most bands' live shows to the Bellmer Dolls', the difference is similar to the difference between viewing a finished painting and watching the painter put brush to canvas. Sure, this time around, Mavrogeorgis was more careful not to break everything and some of his moves seemed decidedly more planned, but in the end, it was still the Bellmer Dolls I know, exuberant nihilism and all.

As for the new member, I had my doubts. I was worried he would close off the band's open sound, limiting their creativity and moving them away from their previous originality. But I need not have worried about this either. The newest Doll, Gabriel (I don't know his last name), played with honed restraint, never once overplaying either with excessive volume or with unnecessary complexity. He's a brilliant addition to the line-up - good choice, Dolls!

As for Malat's moustache, yes, I missed it. (And note here, I don't usually talk about a band's fashion choices, but since Malat is a stylist, it's pretty appropriate this time.) Anyway, nostalgic though I may be, he looks good without it too. And he still bends around like a demonic Gumby when he plays, and in the end, isn't that what really matters?


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