Reviews

Dirty Three

David Marchese

are a working band and can't survive by just playing for an audience of one.

Dirty Three

Dirty Three

City: New York
Venue: Bowery Ballroom
Date: 2005-10-17

Seeing Dirty Three perform live is a deeply strange experience -- and not just because of violinist Warren Ellis's brilliantly madcap antics. It's strange because the band's music has a solitary, late-night cast to it, and hearing those same sounds fill a sold-out ballroom is, well, just plain disconnecting. The band's rolling, melancholy music isn't something you'd play at a party, more what you'd play after everyone leaves. Live, the effect is impressive, but, like seeing a tiger at the zoo, there's a disappointing sense of unfulfilled potential. Of course, Dirty Three in a cage is still more intense than most bands left free to roam. Ellis's simple, mournful melodies soar atop the ringing, reverberating chords of Mick Turner's guitar and Jim White's cymbal-heavy drumming with the foreboding grace of an albatross circling a moonlit sea. This is not light music. The sensibility is similar to a rock version of a Mark Rothko or Caspar David Friedrich painting: awe-inspiring immensity, the beauty and terror of one's place in the grand of scheme of things. Lying in bed with headphones on, the repetitive pitching and rolling of the music works like a hypnotist's pocket watch. Live, such mesmerizing back and forths are a lot harder to get going. But if the realities of performance compromise the intimacy of their music, the band puts on a spectacle that your strangest dreams would be hard pressed to match. And the success of that spectacle is almost wholly due to the presence of Ellis. With his long dark hair and devilish goatee, Ellis created a dramatic image, lurching back and forth in time to the music. He often stood on one leg or added the occasional kick for emphasis. His presence is a striking reminder of how magically dramatic the violin can be. As the strings of his bow whipped in the red light and his arm moved in long, graceful lines, it was easy to imagine him a modern day Paganini, whispers of black magic and deals with the devil following him from town to town. Were it not for Ellis, it might have been something of a slog to stand through an hour of his band's slow, cyclical music, but his warped and surreal between-song banter provided a much-needed counterweight to the night's heavy emotionality. (And it should be required listening for all musicians who go mute between songs.) When not delivering lengthy monologues explaining the genesis of the different songs -- all of which are instrumental -- Ellis explained that goatees are a more effective incitement to divorce than a hard drug addiction, invited a clever heckler on the upcoming European leg of the band's tour, and explained that Cinders, the band's new album, was "recorded in a studio that smelled of urine and vomit -- and not ours". The smattering of audience members standing with their eyes closed seemed a testament to the desire many felt to capture some of that splendid isolation that the music lends itself too. But, the reality is that Dirty Three are a working band and can't just play for an audience of one. No matter how tightly you close your eyes, it's hard to maintain the illusion that they are -- especially when the guy beside you keeps spilling beer on your shoes.

This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Music

The World of Captain Beefheart: An Interview with Gary Lucas and Nona Hendryx

Gary Lucas and Nona Hendryx (photo © Michael DelSol courtesy of Howlin' Wuelf Media)

Guitarist and band leader Gary Lucas and veteran vocalist Nona Hendryx pay tribute to one of rock's originals in this interview with PopMatters.

From the opening bars of "Suction Prints", we knew we had entered The World of Captain Beefheart and that was exactly where we wanted to be. There it was, that unmistakable fast 'n bulbous sound, the sudden shifts of meter and tempo, the slithery and stinging slide guitar in tandem with propulsive bass, the polyrhythmic drumming giving the music a swing unlike any other rock band.

Keep reading... Show less

From Haircut 100 to his own modern pop stylings, Nick Heyward is loving this new phase of his career, experimenting with genre with the giddy glee of a true pop music nerd.

In 1982, Nick Heyward was a major star in the UK.

As the leader of pop sensations Haircut 100, he found himself loved by every teenage girl in the land. It's easy to see why, as Haircut 100 were a group of chaps so wholesome, they could have stepped from the pages of Lisa Simpson's "Non-Threatening Boys" magazine. They resembled a Benetton knitwear advert and played a type of quirky, pop-funk that propelled them into every transistor radio in Great Britain.

Keep reading... Show less

Despite the uninspired packaging in this complete series set, Friday Night Lights remains an outstanding TV show; one of the best in the current golden age of television.

There are few series that have earned such universal acclaim as Friday Night Lights (2006-2011). This show unreservedly deserves the praise -- and the well-earned Emmy. Ostensibly about a high school football team in Dillon, Texas—headed by a brand new coach—the series is more about community than sports. Though there's certainly plenty of football-related storylines, the heart of the show is the Taylor family, their personal relationships, and the relationships of those around them.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Mixing some bland "alternate" and "film" versions of Whitney Houston's six songs included on The Bodyguard with exemplary live cuts, this latest posthumous collection for the singer focuses on pleasing hardcore fans and virtually no one else.

No matter how much it gets talked about, dissected, dismissed, or lionized, it's still damn near impossible to oversell the impact of Whitney Houston's rendition of "I Will Always Love You".

Keep reading... Show less
4
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image