Page 33 - the Noise July 2017
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Flagstaff, Headspace, June 3, 2017
I’ve been to a few shows at Headspace and should know by now even if the flyer says 8pm, it actually means the music starts around 10pm. Oh Flagstaff, how beautifully casual you are! Still, undeterred and sober, I stuck it out and was rewarded with a slew of tip-top quality local pop. The three opening acts were all solo incarnations of Cesar Ruiz’s backing band. A very resourceful move on the part of Mr. Ruiz!
Reece Noble, who is also the drummer for Cesar Ruiz, started the proceedings. I saw him recently behind the kit playing alongside Zeb Max in local math-core-heavies No Big Deal and already had him pegged as an astounding drummer. Armed with a backing track played through his iPhone (hurrah for technology!) he picked up a guitar and very quickly melted my mind with some complex metal-noodling of impressive caliber. Reece then hopped over to the drum kit, displaying an equally dazzling set of skills on the skins. Jeez, this lad has arms like an octopus, and talent to spare.
Austin Jackson, guitarist for Cesar, shuffled up next. He was previously a member of lo- cal legends Dragons, and is also presently a member of the delightful Egg Princess. He played two wistful jazzy-pop songs, accompanied only by his guitar before hitting “play” on his backing track and getting a little funkier for a couple more. I was digging the dislocated disco vibe and bubbling sequenced bass. More please. Sweet.
I wasn’t sure if Kris Kohl, aka Feral Moan was going to grace us with a performance. He arrived whispering that he had lost his voice, but somehow magically regained it for his ca- thartic set. Playing only an arcane chunky sequencer, his incendiary vocal performance was impressive start to finish. I struggled to make out the lyrics as Kohl barked out his syllables with a fervor and passion that 99 per cent of bands can only dream of. Just to watch him flagalate his frame into a committed frenzy is remarkable to witness.
Cesar Ruiz was celebrating the release of his wonderful For Music Lovers album. Housed in a 7-inch sleeve, with cassette, CD, postcard and booklet, the attention to detail with his art direction matches the precision of his music. Y’see, Cesar knows what’s important, and he cares about his pop. I’ve seen him perform a few times in the past year, and it’s great to see him grow in confidence as a performer. His songs are ‘80s tinged (despite his tender age), up- beat guitar pop, some slightly jazzy chords, bringing to mind summer evenings, uncluttered warmth, and brimming with a pop-positivity. Cesar’s set comprised almost exclusively (as expected) of tracks from his new album. His set was brilliantly considered and delivered. The last song performed, the only track not on the new album I believe, was the instantly catchy “House of Cool Boys with Feelings.” It’s a great indicator of what’s in store from Cesar a little down the road. Excellent stuff.
The room seemingly vibrated with the warm fuzzies. Cesar’s wide smile accompanied the end of each song. This, to me, is how pop music should be. A celebration and understanding of DIY ethics, that make up so many great local scenes nationwide. Flagstaff has a vast and burgeoning underground scene right now that is inviting and passionate, as highlighted by these four fine fellows this evening. Embrace it people! You will be rewarded!
You can check out the new album from Cesar Ruiz at
JESUS AND MARY CHAIN “Damage and Joy” (Artificial Plastic Records)
I saw the Jesus and Mary Chain at the tender age of 15. It was the first “professional” con- cert I had ever been to. It left an indelible mark on how I interpreted music. Because you never forget your first time, right? I had been turned on to the Marychain’s mid-‘80s rowdy racket by a cooler school friend who hung around with some older slightly dangerous looking kids. Both slated and heralded in the music press at the time for aping the noise-art rebellion of The Velvet Underground (a band I had yet to hear at the time), the Marychain’s initial call to arms was their visceral assault by their use of perversely over-distorted guitars. The first clip I caught of them playing on TV, I remember not understanding how they got such crazy sounds out of their guitars. It sounded like shattering glass to me. Fascinating.
The bassist only had two strings on his guitar because he “only used two.” The primitive drums were played standing up. It looked so different and cool, just two drums and no cym- bals, (a floor tom and a snare drum). The beat was simple and effective borrowing heavily from The Shangri La’s. The original drummer was Bobby Gillespie, who now enjoys greater notoriety and a fatter paycheck as the singer in Primal Scream. The vocals were melodic, delivered with a sneering coolness. The whole package seemed exciting. It was a fascinating mix, both tuneful and offensive, that stuck out amid the backdrop of over produced mid-‘80s chart bands of the time. It was my own punk rock.
I followed the band religiously for a time. With each passing LP they purposely attempted to prove they weren’t a one trick pony. They dialed back the fuzz, went through several im- age changes, and somehow along the way magically managed some bona-fide chart hits. The Marychain were not, and are still not virtuoso musicians. And I applaud them for remain- ing so, recognizing their own strengths and never overreaching. What they do, they do so well. Jim Reid (singer) was famously quoted as saying his brother, William, guitarist in the band, could “barely play a note, but is the greatest guitarist in the UK.” I totally got it. They turned a potential weakness into a strength. As with many on the fringes making extreme music, the brothers William and Jim were famously at each others’ throats for a decade and a half. The band finally imploded in 1998. Everyone thought, that was that ... until a bizarre sequence of events pulled the band back together.
A new generation discovered them thanks to an unexpected performance at Coachella when Scarlett Johansson joined them on stage to sing one of the more tender party pieces in the Marychain’s cannon, “Just Like Honey.” Surprisingly, a new LP was announced. These were the first recordings in 18 years. I was nervous to hear it lest my teenage impressions were set to be debased. The Reid brothers are now in their 50’s, so are coming back to the fray with a different angle. Wisely avoiding a facsimile of past glories, there is progression in the cleaner and tighter production, with a sprinkle of sonic discomfort to appease fans of yesteryear. It’s more straight ahead rock than past efforts, but there are some great songs that I consider up there with their best.
One notable difference from previous LPs is the wonderful use of a trio of female backing vocalists that, for me, brings a melodic vibrancy to the proceedings. There are great compli- mentary performances from Isobel Campbell (Belle and Sebastian), American actress Sky Ferreira, and Jim and Williams little sister, Linda, who performs under the name Sister Vanilla. The band still courts admiration and derision in equal measure.
us | the NOISE arts & news | JULY 2017 • 33

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