Wednesday, October 30, 2002

School of hard rocks

Rock City and those who worship at the altar of Rock were shaken to the bottom of the soul by last night's Sound City triple bill, and what a bill it was.

First to test out everyone's eardrums were Vendetta Red - little-known over here, but destined to make big waves I think. Caught them at the Leeds festival when they played to a nearly empty tent, but they impressed. Well, on this second showing, they're pretty good but not exactly life-changing. A few good songs ('Por Vida' for a start), but the nagging feeling persists that they're a major label A&R man's idea of At The Drive-In carefully grown in a petri dish in some laboratory ie they've got the ferocity, afros and microphone-chucking antics, but not the on-edge angular brilliance of El Paso's finest.

In such exuberant company Black Rebel Motorcycle Club were always going to seem slightly out of place. For me, the album has some great songs around which the other fair-to-middling tracks are arranged, and that's what their live set is like. Only during 'Whatever Happened To My Rock 'N' Roll?' and the new track which closed the set did they REALLY get pulses racing. Glowering, posturing, mushroom haircuts and black clothing are a good start but can only get them so far (ie as far as lacing up The Jesus And Mary Chain's boots), especially when they avoid playing the album's masterpiece 'Awake'.

It was left to Queens Of The Stone Age to rock us to within an inch of our lives. It's a sound all of their own - heavy hard rock and punk stretched out into trancy hypnotic grooves with the downright weird ('Monsters In The Parasol', 'Leg Of Lamb') and odd near-pop song (witness the chorus of 'Gonna Leave You') thrown into the mixer every now and again. 'Feel Good Hit Of The Summer', 'The Lost Art Of Keeping A Secret' and 'No-One Knows' are without a doubt three of the best singles of the millenium, and when they can blow minds and THEN wheel out the dark enigma that is ex Screaming Tree Mark Lanegan for tracks like 'Hangin' Tree' and the simply amazing 'A Song For The Dead', you know they're quite an incredible proposition. What they don't do for me on record (am I the only person who thinks Rated R doesn't do them any justice?), they certainly make up for in the flesh.

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