rock and roll

There’s retro, and then there’s retro.  Spiders, a heady four piece from Sweden is true-blood retro from the cover art on down.  Their new album “Shake Electric” borrows elements from many of the historic corners of rock and roll, beginning with its humble roots and going straight through its seventies heydays and eighties flair.

 

It seems a strange time in history when it is anomalous to encounter musicians who can only be called ‘rock’ without any other qualifiers. The ‘rock and roll’ genre was once so all-encompassing and pervasive that it permeated every corner of the musical universe that didn’t a classical composer, and the label itself needed no acute narrowing into subgenres. Eventually rock evolved as our tastes were refined, turning into rockabilly, hard rock, alternative rock, metal, pop rock and a million other things.

In metal circles, Volbeat has become a household name. The band is loaded with metal chops and yet concurrently appeals to genres outside just their home base. The crowds that gather to see the band perform their art range in age and fandom, covering a wide spectrum of musical taste and appreciation. A Volbeat show has practically become an affirming event – patrons are there to see great music and have a great time, in a shockingly well-behaved fashion, which isn’t unwelcome.

Joan Jett may well be one of the most important women in the history of rock and roll. While this may romanticize the details, her breaking out after the dissipation of the Runaways to produce the Germs album and start the Blackhearts, experiencing commercial success on her own terms, makes her the Lucille Ball of punk rock and rock in general. Along the way, Jett proved that it was possible to have sex appeal while not being a teased, airbrushed and angel-voiced blonde, and also possible to have male fans who respected her musical ability.

Life experience, viewed through a sort of existentialist paradigm, is an extremely persistent animal. There are certain lessons that life seems bound and determined to teach us, no matter how many times we attempt to ignore the moral. Foremost among those teachings and concurrently the one that is seemingly reinforced most often in our lives is “don’t judge a book by its cover.” It’s a little shameful to admit, but I’ve spent thirty years on this earth and occasionally still have slips in my understanding of this basic tenet.

The word is out. Volbeat is far from a secret. Those not familiar with the Danish rock and metal powerhouse are officially behind in the count now. Playing the Best Buy Theater in the burning neon heart of Times Square, Volbeat had sold out the show weeks in advance. I had it on pretty damn good authority that industry people, journalists and an audience from all over Europe were flying into New York City to witness this show.

For at least the last six or eight years, no band makes me more nervous than Clutch. Ever since the release of “Robot Hive: Exodus,” the band has left my fanhood on uncertain footing, slowly but surely making adjustments to their sound. As critical praise came easily to “From Beale Street to Oblivion,” many who thirsted for the “Pure Rock Fury” era felt left in the lurch. What were we to make of this new Clutch, with the mellower, more calculated sound? The crowds at the live shows began to shift demographic, skewing in new directions.

Just read the press release for Mothership and you’ll learn there’s a lot to like about this band. (And for clarity’s sake, let’s get one thing out of the way; this band has nothing to do with George Clinton.) There are the stock-in-trade quotes about what the band is and what they want to be. There are all the conformist comparisons to who the band sounds like and allusions to who inspires their composition.

What kind of a show was Graveyard? Allow me to set the scene. After driving two hours to Boston, my wife and I were greeted by temperatures hovering right around the zero mark, with a persistent wind that just wouldn’t let up. We were in the middle of the most rugged cold snap the Northeast had witnessed in at least two years, and the car whined much of the way about having to perform under duress. Simply walking to and from dinner was a chore, and we knew immediately that windburn had damaged the unprotected portions of our faces.

If you’ve never been to a show at Bridge Street Live in central Connecticut, you’re missing out. The place is essentially a massive ballroom with a corner stage, plenty of table seating, suitably dim lighting and perfect acoustics. The ambiance of the building is set wonderfully in a retro rock and roll motif; art deco and clean design lines run tastefully rampant through the corridors and over toward the bar. It was exactly the kind of place that The Reverend Horton Heat would be expected to play.