Acid Mothers Temple

[23 June 2004]

By Chris Bailey

So, Acid Mothers Temple have a new record out, and are touring to support it. This may not sound like a big deal, but, for Acid Mothers Temple, having a year half gone and only one record out is something of an oddity. Normally, too, critics like to sit politely through a two-songs-in-40-minuted Acid Mothers Temple record, absorb about fifteen percent of it, and then slap together a review by thinking of as many synonyms for “psychedelic” as possible. We’ve all done it. We’re not proud.

This is a convoluted way of pointing out what struck me most about experiencing Acid Mothers Temple in a live setting. At home, or in your car, you can easily let your mind meander along with AMT’s many turns, switchbacks, and even their long, steady straightaways, smile, bob your head, and think, “Yeah, psychedelic, man.” But in da club on a Friday night, with Japanese men shrieking, amps blaring, opening act Wolf Eyes putting the sax to unholy use, and the requisite annoying drunk shouting for “La Novia” (even during “La Novia”), the music confronts you much more directly. The critics have led you astray (and not for the last time). You can’t sit back in your couch and groove to the music anymore—these guys play it loud, and they play it right. “Psychedelic,” as you’ve no doubt surmised, is normally just a codeword for half-asleep music majors playing long, lazy, overly theatrical, going-nowhere jams. Not here, folks. These guys can play the same thing over and over for 20 minutes, and, at minute 21, you’ll realize they played it for just long enough.

Instead of taking the normal instrumental rock route of build-build-build-foundsound-build-build-build-build-cresendo, Acid Mothers Temple take a more subtle, even playful path, entering periods of long repetition, teasing the audience with blasts of feedback, looping back on themselves, then inexplicably skipping forward past logical progressions. They played for two hours this way at the Abbey, and, in quite an unexpected upset, the audience kept right with them, well past the usual breaking point at indie rock shows. You know the point I’m talking about. It’s 12:53, everyone in the crowd has had at least six beers, and there I am, your intrepid reporter, struggling to hear the band over people making their plans for the next night while having three drinks simultaneously spilled on me from behind. Well 12:53 came and went at the Abbey that night, and I was still bone dry. Thank you, Kawabata Makoto.

As I mentioned, Acid Mothers Temple have quite an extensive catalog. Of course they played a very long version of “Pink Lady Lemonade”, recorded in studio for Do Whatever You Want, Don’t Do Whatever You Want, for those playing at home. And in a surprise move, AMT gave in to one fan’s campaign of terror and played “La Novia” as an encore. Other than that, I’m honestly not sure what they played. If, gentle reader, you can help me out with a set list, then please help me out with my student loans instead, because you have entirely too much disposable income to be buying all those AMT records.

And that, finally, is the crux of the problem with Acid Mothers Temple. You can go to your local indie record store, pick up some random AMT release, and, odds are, it’ll be pretty good. Do you buy a second? A third? A sixteenth? Because they’re all pretty good. Instead, though, you could take that money and go see Acid Mothers Temple play live. You’ll get all the good music, plus you’ll be treated to live rarities like bassist Tsuyama Atsushi alone on stage at the end, belting out “Hey Hey, My My” while pretending to strum his guitar case.

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