Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Orchestral Maneuvers In The Dark, Killing Joke; The Dead

The Secret Museum

By Jim Webb

After briefly raving about The Monochrome Set last time, I’ve continued my early 80’s U.K. listening revival with Killing Joke and Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark. Both bands were favorites of the legendary Brit radio DJ John Peel, and were recorded for his program many times between 1979 and 1983.

O.M.D. was the anti-punk band of the late seventies who, with Gary Numan and The Human League, spearheaded the synth-pop movement. Melding pop songwriting hooks and commercial-sounding synthesizers, with a simple drum machine keeping an upbeat rhythm, O.M.D. were the next evolutionary step to such 70s bands as Kraftwerk, Roxy Music and Sparks. They had a handful of Top Twenty British singles, including Enola Gay and Electricity, before running out of steam in the late 80’s. Their closest reference is Soft Cell, though minus Marc Almond’s implied decadence. If you absolutely hated Tainted Love, then take a pass on O.M.D., but if, like me, you think Tainted Love was a good pop song that unfortunately got played to death, you’ll probably like Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark.

Killing Joke are much simpler and direct than Orchestral Maneuvers. They’re a straightforward guitar/ punk band that didn’t vary (at first) their unusually dense sound too much. By the late eighties and into the nineties, however, they started becoming a little too bombastic for my taste. Keep in mind 1980 Killing Joke is definitely “of the period”, meaning three-chord guitar nastiness that is satisfying in its striped down assault. If there’s a knock to be leveled against them it’s that now their late 70’s/ early 80’s output sounds a little dated. Not much melody in the songs, but hell – you could say the same about a lot of groups of the era.

Whomever John Peel promoted on his program was guaranteed to provide interesting listening. Peel’s been gone a few years now, and is still greatly missed. It would take a lifetime to catch up with all his recorded BBC sessions. His tastes were wide-ranging and impeccable.

The Dead- Pepsi Center, Denver
May 7, 2009


Good show, mind-bending drive from Santa Fe to Denver (as usual.) I don't know if any group is "worth" driving twelve hours roundtrip, but in the end I couldn't miss it. The Dead (minus Grateful, because it ain’t the same without Jerry, man) now has Gov't Mule/ Allman Bros. guitarist, vocalist Warren Haynes on board for this tour. Warren thankfully doesn't try to mimic every guitar line Garcia created, but follows him respectfully at times, while adding his own signature sound. A nearly full house at The Pepsi Center was pumped to the max for the first Dead tour since 2004. Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzman aren’t just still alive and well, but seemed revitalized after their five-year hiatus, and played for two and a half hours. The first set featured classics like Casey Jones, Easy Wind, and Loser, while the second set opened with an acoustic Deep Elem Blues, then Me And My Uncle, before Phil sang Whiskey In The Jar. For thirty-plus years now I have never been able to get into the drums/space portion of the show, where the drummers bang around for ten minutes before the full band joins in on a freeform jam that goes nowhere. This gig was no exception. A nice ending with Not Fade Away and an encore of Ripple. Only The Dead could range from a traditional Irish tune to Buddy Holly in one evening and somehow make it work. The World's Greatest Bar Band is back, and Jerry's kids are still happily soaking it all in.
-Jim Webb

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