Beneath the Leaves
Watsonville Patio has always seemed like a band in search of a following first, and a distinct musical identity second. By no means hard on the ears, they’ve just always been somewhat bland: It’s hard to find anything approaching real raw passion in any of the spangly chords, bloodless guitar solos, or by-the-numbers bass on any of their albums. Singer Janice Grube’s narcotized delivery provides the only real point of interest, and Watsonville Patio’s output thus far has been a kind of pleasant waiting game to see when she’s going to step up and say something really extraordinary.
Had fortune smiled upon this band early on instead of, say, Sixpence None the Richer, and had members been slightly less insistent about writing their own songs instead of giving gratuitous public disembowelings to La’s and Crowded House covers, it could have been Watsonville Patio oozing out of every FM station from Baja to Bangor. At this late date, they may never achieve the mainstream success with which pleasant-enough blandness is so often rewarded, and the extramusical identity they’ve assumed by default seems to be one of lesser royalty paying occasional visits to grateful loyalist enclaves. They thank the entire state of Montana in their liner notes, for what that tells you about their own loyalties. In Missoula, they’re treated like old friends in town for the weekend. There are worse ways to not be rich and famous. (Andy Smetanka)
Watsonville Patio play The Other Side on Saturday, July 17.
Dr. Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys
Live at McCabe’s Guitar Shop
Ralph Stanley, introduced to millions as the archaic mountain singer of “O Death” via the O Brother Where Art Thou? soundtrack, does have a new album out: an eponymous debut for a new label, orchestrated by T-Bone Burnett, with the appearance of a career-polishing diversion. It’s also just another in a line of close to 170 recordings over the course of a 60-year career. Mass audiences may have discovered Stanley in this latest bluegrass revival, but the idea that he was lost is ludicrous; he’s toured with his longtime Clinch Mountain Boys (including son, singer Ralph Stanley II) almost as long as people have been praying death spare them.
For a more representative glimpse of the Stanley coming to Missoula this week, see 2002’s Live at McCabe’s, where Stanley and his crack crew—on the immediate heels of O Brother’s skyrocket—showed up and did what they’ve always done: laid down an accomplished primer on early bluegrass, the mountain songs preceding it, and the raw gospel underlying so much of both. From “Sittin’ On Top of the World” to “I’ll Wear a White Robe,” “Orange Blossom Special” to “Daddy’s Wildwood Flower,” there is not a thing here not to like. (Brad Tyer)
Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys play UM’s University Theater at 8 PM on Sunday, July 18. Call 243-2853 for info.
Young Heart Attack
Mouthful of Love
Big Dumb Rock is back. Fine.
If 50 years of rock music have taught us anything, it’s that nothing—no decade, no genre, no choice of livery—stays dead for long before some pack of whippersnappers digs it up for kicks. You thought you’d seen the last of zebra spandex and scarves tied to microphones. No way. And The Darkness is just the beginning.
Surrender to it. Own up to it, more like: We all know Big Dumb Rock hits a spot that Small Smart Rock can’t. If you love AC/DC, you’re going to like Young Heart Attack. If you like the Tight Bros from Way Back When, you’re going to love these guys.
Pure, unadulterated revivalism is rarer than you’d think among indie bands. Usually, even the most concerted revival attempt hauls up a bunch of other musical baggage along with it, like a drunk teenager plowing through a picket fence driving on with part of it still wrapped around his bumper. Not these guys, though (unless you count the sly nod to The Who at the beginning of “Starlite”); singer Chris Hodge sounds like he can’t decide whether to imitate Bon Scott or Brian Johnson. Young Heart Attack’s only real innovation is that girls get to play now, too. Jennifer Stephens sounds like a cross between Maria McKee and Neko Case, and her husky vocals make a winning complement to Hodge’s screeching Aussie fever. Fun as hell, this one. (Andy Smetanka)
I’m never as impressed by how much polyphony, harmony or counterpoint a group of musicians can purposefully encode in a composition as I am by what emerges, shall we say, accidentally. There’s a great piece by Steve Reich, written for two pianos playing the exact same four-beat measure, in which the instruments leapfrog each other by subtly—very subtly—speeding up and slowing down. New voices emerge from listen to listen, new pieces of the same puzzle.
By the same token, I can’t fully relate to spacey psychedelic musical mindscape music where no pieces are missing and everything is assembled beforehand. So the husband-and-wife Landing leave me hanging somewhere between the textural and the aleatory, between the rewards of careful planning and the magic of pure chance, which seems to be missing, here. Space rock is supposed to wander where it will. This is space rock with a short leash and a shock collar—beautiful, dreamy, melodic, and a bit anal-retentive. Landing gets compared to Low a lot, evidently to their increasing exasperation. “We’re a married Mormon couple who make quiet music,” Aaron Snow has told interviewers, “but that’s where the similarities end.”
But musicians are always splitting hairs talking about their music, aren’t they? I say if you like the idea of a space-rock Low, you’ll have no trouble with this Landing. (Andy Smetanka)
Landing plays Area 5 on Saturday, July 17.