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J Church to Propagandhi, Avail to Lisa Dewey to the Ruins--a busy week

By David Espinoza

ANYONE WONDERING what happened to the pregrunge days of nonhesher rock music should check out San Francisco veterans J Church. Opening March 27 at Palookaville for the hotly anticipated Humanitarian Intervention Tour (featuring Canada's best export since Bryan Adams, Propagandhi), guitar and vocals man Lance Hahn and crew brought to mind the sound of early '90s Subpop Records. The trio even worked Pavement's classic "Summer Babe" into one of its songs--now that's worth a million bucks.

Following J Church's good but not so well received performance (most of the kids there probably weren't familiar with the genre), East Coast boys Avail blazed a fiery trail of Fugazi-influenced hard-core as powerful as a swift kick to the head. Backed by a rhythm section heavy as anvils, lead vocalist Tim Barry and goat-man (a guy with a goatee and missing a few front teeth who kept spitting into the audience) kept the adrenaline level at a fever pitch, leaping across the stage and encouraging pit slamming.

Propagandhi's performance, in comparison, seemed a tad sober. Then again, bassist Todd and lead vocalist Chris couldn't leave the mic stands much. Coming onstage a little past 11pm, the scrawny Chris started off by saying, "We're three pieces of shit from Canada" and then tore into a thrash-punk set that included a smoke machine. With Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn cited as intellectual inspiration, Propagandhi definitely possess the lyrical goods when it comes to anarcho-punkism--but that has its limitations. It's one thing to sing about the oppression of the masses at the hands of unaccountable corporate power; it is another to balance such a message out with exceptional music. Rage Against the Machine does it, Public Enemy and the Dead Kennedys did it, but I'm not sure yet about Propagandhi.

Goth Songs

As AFI's lead singer Dave Havok gets more and more gothed out every year, it shouldn't come as any surprise that he's taken some time to record a side project dedicated to his fetish. Featuring Danzig guitarist Todd Youth, Samhain and Tiger Army drummer London May, Samhain drummer Steve Zing on bass, and Havok on vocals, Son of Sam's Songs From the Earth is scheduled for an April 17 release, provided disturbed parents don't get hold of it first. Havok seems to be modeling his musical endeavors after Glenn Danzig, who happens to have a guest appearance on the album. The dreary organs by Youth used on a few of the songs are a little too dramatic, but fans of AFI's last three albums will surely appreciate the effort as a whole.

Speaking of neo-Goth, San Jose singer/songwriter Lisa Dewey played a marvelous show at the Jury Room Saturday March 31 alongside Sin In Space. Backed by a mellow three-piece band with 12-string guitars and plenty of effects pedals, Dewey gracefully sang simple but pretty tunes full of Cocteau Twins sensibilities.

Speaker Massage

In the book The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, there's supposed to be a band that is so destructive to mankind that they must play underground in a concrete bunker--or something like that. If such as band exists, it is the Ruins, and luckily the walls of the Rio Theatre were able to withstand their assault last Friday. The band consists of two extraordinary artists who've rejected every conventional musical bone in their bodies. Yoshida Tatsuya sent wooden chips of drumsticks flying as he pounded his drumset to death and beyond, while Sasaki Hiashi offered a facial massage via his bass speakers to anyone standing close enough to the stage. The time changes involved in the Ruins' wickedly abstract and frantic one-fourth-of-a-second compositions brought to mind the inner workings of a supercomputer, where information is processed at levels incomprehensible to the human mind. To put it another way, during the group's hour-long set, I half expected someone's head to burst like Kenny in the South Park Lazerium episode.

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From the April 4-11, 2001 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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