Reviews

Wayne Kramer

Adam Williams

Turned down but tuned in, these days Brother Wayne is kicking out an entirely different kind of jam.

Wayne Kramer

Wayne Kramer

City: New York
Venue: Joe's Pub
Date: 2006-05-20

Someday, Wayne Kramer will pen his autobiography. It will be a tale of revolution and rebellion, addiction and incarceration, revelation and redemption. Kramer's story is a compelling one, and could become a preferred text in Rock 'n' Roll 101, but until he commits his words to the page his primary creative outlet remains in music. And it is his music, past and present, which continues to define the man affectionately known to his friends and fans as Brother Wayne. And so it is that Kramer took the stage at Joe's Pub, armed with only an acoustic guitar and a tapping foot for a metronome. The intimate setting was perfect for the older and wiser Brother Wayne. Why perfect? It was reminiscent of the Greenwich Village coffee houses that hosted beat poets, jazz musicians, and folkies in the '50s and '60s, and Kramer's set was comprised exclusively of his solo work -- a wonderful amalgam of spoken word and blues with a pinch of rock residue. Over the past decade, solo efforts have put greater distance between Kramer and his storied career with the MC5. Although his writing is still laced with anti-establishment sentiments, Kramer is far from the model of Neil Young-as-aging-hippie spokesman; rather, he is a polished and articulate societal observer, incorporating sharp cultural criticism with wry humor, while offering thought-provoking commentary over six-string accompaniment. Who'd have imagined the once wild-haired, wild-eyed Motor City bad boy would settle into middle age as such an understated revolutionary? For the better part of an hour, Kramer served up a dozen songs, jumping back and forth between the albums he's penned since the mid-'90s. Opening with "Something Broken in the Promised Land" (from 1996's Dangerous Madness), Kramer set the tone with a grim depiction of the country's current state of affairs. Though the song was penned 10 years ago, much of its content still rings relevant -- from the disparity of the nation's wealth to the oppressive political climate. And Kramer's Spartan presentation only drove the words home that much harder. Similarly, the three entries from 1997's Citizen Wayne ("Shining Mr. Lincoln's Shoes", Revolution in Apt. 29", and "No Easy Way Out") carried an undertone of sadness, desperation, and futility. Once again, the messages delivered through Kramer's vivid word pictures were stark: are things that fucked up? Brother Wayne thinks so, and he's telling us with conviction. That's not to say the set lacked uplifting moments. "Great Big Amp" (from 2002's Adult World) was an amusing, albeit honest, take on superficiality and materialism; "So Long Hank" (LLMF 1998) was a vigorous acoustic, spoken-word workout, showcasing Kramer's still potent fretboard skills. And let us not forget the reception that Brother Wayne received upon taking and leaving the stage; it was a profound expression of love from his fans, and evidence that he still retains a place in our collective hearts. It's always special to see a veteran musician in a modest unplugged environment, especially if that artist is more known for larger venues and electric performances. In Kramer's case, we'll forever look fondly back upon his days with the MC5, but that Brother Wayne lives on only as a memory. What we have now is a mature and eloquent artist, one who drives us to thought as easily as he drives us to applause -- two things we hope he does for many years to come. Don't be fooled�this motherfucker still kicks out the jams.


Wayne Kramer and The Bellrays - Operation Ceasefire Concert in Washington DC [24 September 2005]


Music


Books


Film


Television


Recent
Music

Great Peacock Stares Down Mortality With "High Wind" (premiere + interview)

Southern rock's Great Peacock offer up a tune that vocalist Andrew Nelson says encompasses their upcoming LP's themes. "You are going to die one day. You can't stop the negative things life throws at you from happening. But, you can make the most of it."

Music

The 80 Best Albums of 2015

Travel back five years ago when the release calendar was rife with stellar albums. 2015 offered such an embarrassment of musical riches, that we selected 80 albums as best of the year.

Film

Buridan's Ass and the Problem of Free Will in John Sturges' 'The Great Escape'

Escape in John Sturge's The Great Escape is a tactical mission, a way to remain in the war despite having been taken out of it. Free Will is complicated.

Books

The Redemption of Elton John's 'Blue Moves'

Once reviled as bloated and pretentious, Elton John's 1976 album Blue Moves, is one of his masterpieces, argues author Matthew Restall in the latest installment of the 33 1/3 series.

Music

Whitney Take a Master Class on 'Candid'

Although covers albums are usually signs of trouble, Whitney's Candid is a surprisingly inspired release, with a song selection that's eclectic and often obscure.

Music

King Buzzo Continues His Reign with 'Gift of Sacrifice'

King Buzzo's collaboration with Mr. Bungle/Fantômas bassist Trevor Dunn expands the sound of Buzz Osborne's solo oeuvre on Gift of Sacrifice.

Music

Jim O'Rourke's Experimental 'Shutting Down Here' Is Big on Technique

Jim O'Rourke's Shutting Down Here is a fine piece of experimental music with a sure hand leading the way. But it's not pushing this music forward with the same propensity as Luc Ferrari or Derek Bailey.

Music

Laraaji Returns to His First Instrument for 'Sun Piano'

The ability to help the listener achieve a certain elevation is something Laraaji can do, at least to some degree, no matter the instrument.

Music

Kristin Hersh Discusses Her Gutsy New Throwing Muses Album

Kristin Hersh thinks influences are a crutch, and chops are a barrier between artists and their truest expressions. We talk about life, music, the pandemic, dissociation, and the energy that courses not from her but through her when she's at her best.

Music

The 10 Best Fleetwood Mac Solo Albums

Fleetwood Mac are the rare group that feature both a fine discography and a successful series of solo LPs from their many members. Here are ten examples of the latter.

Music

Jamila Woods' "SULA (Paperback)" and Creative Ancestry and Self-Love in the Age of "List" Activism

In Jamila Woods' latest single "SULA (Paperback)", Toni Morrison and her 1973 novel of the same name are not static literary phenomena. They are an artist and artwork as galvanizing and alive as Woods herself.

Film

The Erotic Disruption of the Self in Paul Schrader's 'The Comfort of Strangers'

Paul Schrader's The Comfort of Strangers presents the discomfiting encounter with another —someone like you—and yet entirely unlike you, mysterious to you, unknown and unknowable.

Music

'Can You Spell Urusei Yatsura' Is a Much Needed Burst of Hopefulness in a Desultory Summer

A new compilation online pulls together a generous helping of B-side action from a band deserving of remembrance, Scotland's Urusei Yatsura.

Music

Jess Cornelius Creates Tautly Constructed Snapshots of Life

Former Teeth & Tongue singer-songwriter Jess Cornelius' Distance is an enrapturing collection of punchy garage-rock, delicate folk, and arty synthpop anthems which examine liminal spaces between us.

Books

Sikoryak's 'Constitution Illustrated' Pays Homage to Comics and the Constitution

R. Sikoryak's satirical pairings of comics characters with famous and infamous American historical figures breathes new and sometimes uncomfortable life into the United States' most living document.

Music

South African Folk Master Vusi Mahlasela Honors Home on 'Shebeen Queen'

South African folk master Vusi Mahlasela pays tribute to his home and family with township music on live album, Shebeen Queen.

Music

Planningtorock Is Queering Sound, Challenging Binaries, and Making Infectious Dance Music

Planningtorock emphasizes "queering sound and vision". The music industry has its hierarchies of style, of equipment, of identities. For Jam Rostron, queering music means taking those conventions and deliberately manipulating and subverting them.

Music

'History Gets Ahead of the Story' for Jazz's Cosgrove, Medeski, and Lederer

Jazz drummer Jeff Cosgrove leads brilliant organ player John Medeski and multi-reed master Jeff Lederer through a revelatory recording of songs by William Parker and some just-as-good originals.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.