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The Beatings

The Beatings

The Beatings

City: New York
Venue: Knitting Factory
Date: 2003-03-26
The Beatings are a hammerin' four piece wrecking crew from Boston whose monster sound straddles the links between old art punk (Mission of Burma, Killing Joke) and Ameri-indie heroes (Hüsker Dü, Sugar, Nirvana, the Pixies). The band combine angry, thrusting, testosterone-fueled guitars, squealing feedback, screamed vocals (way better than Kurt's) and pounding drums together with edgy songs, incisive lyrics and a no bullshit onstage demeanor, not unlike the Hüskers of old. Image is not part of the Beatings' makeup. No matching suits for this lot; rather, the band's individuals dress as they see fit. At tonight's show, it's jeans and a large, black T-shirt (per usual) for guitarist Tony Skalicky; a swaying dress and frilly look complemented with heels for bassist Erin Dalbec; dour Manchester dark-gray-black for Ian Curtis-look-alike Eldridge Rodriguez, and a white T for invisible drummer Dennis Grabowski. The band's non-image suits them well, challenging the audience to look past their sartorial shortcomings to the rock. And rock it does. Blasting guitars to dreamy segues. The Beatings go from fast-loud to quiet-introspective within seconds to great effect, incorporating slow, goth, Cure-like guitar interludes in the middle of all the frenzy. You're left with the impression of a seriously committed band playing whatever pleases them, for keeps, every single night. Or to put it another way, if the war we are in right now is the one, then let the Beatings play the ending finale. [Disclosure time: Tall Beatings guitarist Tony and I played together (actually, drank together) in a GBV cover band a few years ago, and I've seen the band in various venues around NYC the last few years, from the Rockstar bar's gritty basement vibe, to the Mercury Lounge, Continental, CBGBs and elsewhere.] This show at the Knitting Factory was a bit of a step up in the Beatings' many NYC appearances -- literally. The Knit's stage is at least five feet from the floor. That factor produced a band/audience separation thing that I'm not sure worked in favor of the band. When you see the Beatings, you want them in your face. Cuz that's where it hurts the best! The Beatings' set was evenly balanced, with new songs competing for attention with tracks from last year's Italiano and 2000's 6 HZ EP. They opened the show tonight with a new one, a short, fast zip drive of a rocker, from a screaming Rodriguez, followed by a new number ("It Feels Good") sung by bassist Dalbec. "Twins", a rousing anthem, was next, delighting the smallish crowd on this rainy Wednesday. "Shark Attacks Are on the Rise", a longtime NYC set standard, was like an eight-minute knockout, moving from droning arpeggios to wailing feedback and everything in between. Some of my Beatings favorites ("Heavy Metal", "Addicted to Freaks", with its thrilling call and response vocals, and "New Destroyer") didn't get played, owing to the inclusion of new songs. One in particular, led by bassist Dalbec, started with a vampy bass line and hushed, wispy vocals, intertwined with crushing guitar chords and three-part vocals. Not necessarily a new direction, but one that again stretches the band's punk-art-jazz-anything goes approach to songwriting. A new EP is forthcoming from the band, and I was told it would incorporate new sounds and textures. Perhaps a reasoned move away from the loud-fast songs? I hope not, cuz that's where I like the Beatings best. We'll have to wait and see.

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