Reviews

The Incredible String Band

Tyler Wilcox

review by Psychedelic semi-legends pay fitting tribute... to themselves.

The Incredible String Band

The Incredible String Band

City: Denver
Venue: The Larimer Lounge
Date: 2004-10-16
"We'd been waiting years for a tribute band," joked Mike Heron, of the semi-legendary British psych-folk group The Incredible String Band, midway through the band's set. "But nobody seemed up to the task!" So there they were, the Incredible String Band, playing a slightly under-attended set for an audience of aging folkies and curious hipsters in Denver's Larimer Lounge. Yes, the tale of The Incredible String Band is a long and strange one. They're the most obscure band to play the original Woodstock festival, the makers of several bona fide psychedelic masterpieces, (The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter, Wee Tam and The Big Huge to name a few), the only band to ever boast a member named Licorice, and the only band, as far as I know, to dedicate entire albums to Scientology. The band's current incarnation doesn't deviate from this weirdness. It's probably a good idea to think of the trio currently touring the US as Heron suggested. They're a tribute band. Missing is Robin Williamson, undeniably a primary creative force during the band's original 1965-74 run. He's played the occasional reunion gig with Heron in the UK, but opted out of this tour. Banjo player Clive Palmer is along for the ride as well, but he only appeared on the band's debut. So the band's set only includes Heron and Palmer songs. Kind of like the Beatles reforming, but only playing McCartney and Harrison tunes. Heresy? Well, maybe. But what the hell, life is too short for such quibbles. On a chilly Saturday night in October Heron and Palmer, two musicians who haven't played the US for at least thirty years, took the stage, cherry-picking some of the best tunes from their extensive catalog. To complain about the legitimacy of using the Incredible String Band name is just sour grapes. The sight of Heron and Palmer onstage was alone worth the price of admission. Heron, with his short stature and bright eyes, looked as if he could've played Bilbo Baggins in The Lord of the Rings. The spindly Palmer, on the other hand, seemed positively ancient, as he plucked his banjo with impossibly long fingers. Throughout the night, Palmer wore a mischievous grin. It was hard to tell whether he was having the time of his life or if he was utterly embarrassed. Standouts included a sprightly, slide-guitar laden "Hedgehog's Song", the Palmer-led "Ducks on a Pond" and a jaunty reading of "Everything's Fine Right Now". The band struggled with dodgy monitor levels, off-key harmonies and out of tune instruments, but their shambolic presence was more often endearing than not. This clearly wasn't a slick reunion, all for the cash. The original Incredible String Band was never concerned with instrumental virtuosity or conventional song structure. Rather, they were all about making up rules as they went along, fashioning singular, iconoclastic music out of unorthodox material. In this respect, the "new" Incredible String Band captured the original's essence rather well. The centerpiece of the show was the band's ambitious rendition of "A Very Cellular Song", a tune from The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter that stands as the greatest 13-minute folk song about amoebas ever recorded. I suppose there's not much competition. Heron could hardly stop smiling as he sang the song's joyous finale: "May the long time sun shine upon you/ All love surround you/ And the pure light within you/ Guide you all the way on!" Such lyrics couldn't come from any decade except the '60s, but they sound just as good in 2004.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

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

rating-image