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John Carpenter at the Silver Lake Lounge on Monday March 14th, 2011

The first time I heard John Carpenter, it did not really hit me, but there is definitively something Bowie-esque about these guitars and these epic and stormy songs. But there is probably more distortion, an even more dramatic setting and a spookier vibe than in a Bowie song, and many other influences quite difficult to decipher.

John Carpenter, the band, not the moviemaker, was playing at the Silver Lake Lounge on Monday night, and the very dim light of the nightclub was really fitting with the menacing and quiet violence of many of their songs.

Scott Walker (many times), Echo and the Bunnymen, Roy Orbison, John Cale, Gun Club, Jeff Buckley, Zappa, The Zombies (I don’t really hear that one), and early Roxy Music have all been cited in articles about them, but it is a difficult game to play in their case.

The heavy bluesy part, running underneath each song, had escaped me a bit when listening to tracks on line, but it was really obvious when seeing them perform live, although their unusual avant-garde psychedelic rock-blues has multiple personalities.

Many of the songs have a calm beginning, pregnant of a rowdy climax, the guitar, bass and drums progressively building a tension like in ‘The Captain’, which takes more than 4 minutes to burst into a distorted and turbulent sea storm, or ‘I can give you time’, which showcases John Carpenter’s vocal range going from a low baritone to a soaring high-pitch howl, or even the title-song ‘Fairy Tales Forgotten’ (and probably my favorite of their album) which contrasts with the bleak atmosphere of the other songs, and evolves into a sweet chorus melting into melodramatic chords and soothing-expanding vocals, before resurrecting several times and ending in a blast. Quite a program.

At the Silver Lake lounge, they played songs from their last album ‘Fairy tales Forgotten’ and EP ‘Possibilities’, but also a new song, ‘The Bond’. Their complex and eclectic music, quite difficult to apprehend at the first listening, was not afraid to produce this chilly, moody and turbulent atmosphere, always attacking the grandiose and the colossal with the help of John Carpenter’s guitar tearing up the space and ripping things apart, Joe Albanese’s (going very appropriately under the nom de guerre of J. Explosive) drums, and Jeff Phillips’ efficient bass.

If you see them live, don’t be fool by the clean appearance and the white shirt, this New Jersey transplant and his band mates don’t hesitate to do some damage on stage.


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