of Four at the Crystal Ballroom
can always learn. Learn to fight, for instance. Fight against premature
aging something I learn on an early May night from Gang of
entertainment! The landmark 1979 debut still carries
I learn to lead with the drink, too.
Lead with the drink held high and treat your body like a swinging
door. Words to live by, learned at Portland's Crystal Ballroom.
So lately I've put myself in an unearned, premature La-Z-Boy and
now I'm fighting, leading with the drink and observing all the other
aging punks and art-rockers, older even than l'il ol' me
aging punks and art-rockers out to connect with the stuff that launched
them from schoolboy pants onto the stage of life.
It's stuff that should launch you from your premature La-Z-Boy,
should you be cranking back on that recline-lever too often.
We struggle to find meaning in work and the day to day. Meanwhile
lucky sods, like the GO4 crew and seemingly suddenly this
time find themselves in a well-considered yet vicious time
warp where they can stomp all over the young bucks and show them
what was real before the "exploding plastic inevitable,"
if you will.
Look no further than the opening act, New York's Radio 4, to see
how it's not done. No mistake, Radio 4 bounces out catchy little
rhythmic numbers that force you to grin. Or maybe you're grinning
because of brainless lyric anthems such as the one that characterizes
Radio 4 as "the party crashers" or puts a call out to
In this case it seems to be enthusiasm toward blending up styles
and elements hand picked from the dusty record collections of those
here to see the Gang. Radio 4 is like the Justice League of bands.
Need a hero who can play synth? Check. Congas? Check. Lanky dude
on guitar? Check.
What you get is like a Disneyland map of post-punk and new wave,
complete with stagey, insincere posturing. It's nearly letter-perfect
but slavish and unoriginal, resulting in a Petri-dish mixture with
large doses of Allen, Burnham, Gill and King's preserved sweat.
How does Portland represent in this mix then?
Gold: The 1981 follow up matched the debut's iconoclastic
With and through the good graces of PDX transplant Dave Allen,
the imminently "Portland" band Menomena rips the reins
from Radio 4 with quiet, earnest authority, slamming Neanderthal-funk
drums against deep-throat saxophone swing and lots more.
The trio is unafraid to use dynamics that might suffer in the hands
of fools, or invite an audience to walk all over the songs. But
in the case of Menomena the songs don't need any help and even the
parts where everything gets real quiet actually invite you to listen
to the lyrics instead of yakking on your cell phone.
When's the last time you could understand lyrics lyrics
that you weren't already able to shout along to in a drunken frenzy
at a live show?
Multi-instrumentalists expertly punching out intricate, sometimes
delicate, songs is one thing, but when those songs are catchy and
tuneful without being obvious or facile hey, what more can
you ask? If this stuff wasn't so smart it would cover the world
So now it's time to bring on the boys from Leeds.
Gang of Four is to angular rock as Pythagoras is to geometry. Wooly
mammoths having a disco party in the La Brea tar pits. Endless,
once gob-smacked whitecaps churning up the Crystal's famous floating
floor into a delirious rapture.
They prowl the stage like cagey lynxes, like cocaine-fueled silverback
gorillas defending their turf they've earned every inch of
it, and they prove it.
They even get this atrophied body spazzing about like an arthritic
skeleton on a hot greased griddle.
Allen's in fighting form, abandoning himself to popping bass lines
that approach funk at an 87-degree angle, even adopting stage-front
rock-star postures for the adoring punters.
Hugo Burnham's indigenous rhythms are crisp as ever (or at least
as ever as my vinyl intimates) even if he, more than the others,
looks to have entered middle-age reality.
Andy Gill inhabits the role of rock decadence best: floppy peroxide
locks and shirt open to the navel syncopated jabbing jagged
shards of guitar lock with the other pieces to paint a perfect picture.
It's 1980 again and Labour isn't working, as the quarter-century-old
zeitgeist in Jolly Olde England is resurrected.
A hearty sampling of tunes from Solid Gold and Entertainment!
advances forth the message of arch disenchantment, one that, oddly,
hasn't aged a bit.
In-the-know wage slaves righteously crow along with Jon King as
he snidely begs "please send me evenings and weekends."
The anti-G8-crew pogos to the bashing of the carcass of a microwave.
of the Free: The 1982 album features "I Love a Man
in a Uniform."
So who is out there right now telling us we don't need to take
the extruded polyvinyl shite-pills that the global corporate banks
want to feed us?
Well right now, again, it's Gang of Four.
For all those in attendance, I hope some kind of message gets through,
a message to reject the plastic false reality corporate global domination
provides. A message to work for some kind of change from
within or without that will move us forward.
I, for one, need to lead with the drink more often, to weave through
the crowds on a mission of personal liberation.