Thursday, October 15, 2009

Live: Teenage Jesus & the Jerks + Talk Normal

Damn, I am WAY behind in writing my reviews...

When: 10/3
Where: WFMU Fest @ Music Hall of Williamsburg

Of the opening acts, I paid most attention to, and liked the best, Talk Normal, and experimental noise duo with droning guitar and primitive, pounding drums. I didn't expect to enjoy the set, because I get quite bored with noise bands and rarely find anything original in their approach. So I was delighted to find Talk Normal could hold my attention. The main factor was the vocals, which ranged from mutter to shriek but always just hinted at some sort of melodic structure - it's as though you're seeing the ruins where a pop melody got bulldozed and then burnt to the ground. This, coupled with a very dimly lit stage, generated a sense of intrigue and suspense. I found the percussion vaguely offensive and the guitar only sporadically good, but despite that, I'd definitely go see this band again. [MySpace]

There were other bands on the bill, also playing avant-garde art/noise stuff with a punk edge. I think the bands in question were Drunkdriver and Sightings, but in any case, I came out pretty neutral on both and really don't have anything interesting to say on the subject. So onward!

Onward to the headliner, one Lydia Lunch and her infamous band, Teenage Jesus & the Jerks. [If you know the history of Lunch, Teenage Jesus and no wave, skip this paragraph and the next one.] Teenage Jesus were one of the flagship bands for the late 70's New York art-punk movement known as "no wave." A few people around the drug- and arson-addled city saw how punk rock on both sides of the Atlantic sold out and commercialized into "new wave" almost as soon as punk coalesced as a genre in 1977. Independently, these few people - some musicians, some visual artists - began to create forms of music that could never be commercialized. Soon enough, these like-minded rebels found one another and joined forces in making abrasive, bizarre music that could never be adapted for mass appeal.

Teenage Jesus & the Jerks, one of four bands featured on Brian Eno's genre-defining compilation No New York, were a highly incompetent band who would make grating, inhuman noise rock. The main features were unchanging pounding on a drum, caustic, waaaay out of tune guitar and bass lines and Lydia Lunch's angry, madwoman chanting. Their songs were mostly about 30 seconds long.

[OK, pre-educated readers, join us again here!] At the WFMU set, the band, featuring acclaimed no wavers Jim Sclavunos and Al Kizys on bass and drums, was doing exactly what they've always done. Audience members cried out declarations of love for Lydia Lunch, which she rejected with particular vicious hatred. When one suggested she marry him "for money," she asked him to open his mouth. When he complied, she spat into his mouth from the stage and then turned her attention back to the set.

The band played a characteristic 20 minute set (I didn't time it but something like that) of extremely ugly music. Then, apparently too disgusted to bear another minute with their despised audience, they walked out. It was pretty much perfect.

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