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Beat Street
By Todd S. Inoue

Love and Rockets
Photo by Vincent McDonald

Taking Off: Love and Rockets returns to live performance after a five-year idle on the launch pad.

Blaze of Glory:
Love and Rockets
catches fire anew

There's nothing like a command performance to recharge a live act that's been dormant for five years. Last winter, the seminal doom-and-gloom band Love and Rockets made four appearances at radio-station holiday shows. The only local gig--a five-song performance at the Berkeley Community Theater--made Love and Rockets into genuine comeback kids. The band plays Sunday (March 17) at the Edge in Palo Alto.

"The offers came out of the blue," says bassist David J, from a hotel room in L.A., about the band's return to touring. "We had to get a set together very quickly. We were blown away by the response." The original decision to abandon live shows was a conscious one. "Rigors of the road, really," explains J. "We did a big tour in 1989, and it proved to be too big. We decided to have a break for a year; then we needed longer, so it became two years."

During the break, Love and Rockets members--J, guitarist Daniel Ash and drummer Kevin Haskins--immersed themselves in solo projects (David J garnered a small hit in the early '90s with "I'll Be Your Chauffeur"). In 1994, the trio ambled back into the studio and came up with Hot Trip to Heaven, an experimental, if dated, trip into acid-house and rave culture. "Some of the songs were 14 minutes long. Did you hear of it?" J asks. Nope. "That's the usual response."

The plan was to slip out Hot Trip to Heaven and follow it six months later with a proper release. The six months expanded into two years, and the result is the current album, Sweet F.A. (American). The release marks a break from the trademark buzz-guitar layering to a more organic sound, as if the crispy, throbbing edges had flaked off and revealed the succulent fruit underneath. Sweet F.A. was simultaneously marred and blessed by disaster. A fire broke out in the house where Love and Rockets recorded many of the sessions, destroying out the band's equipment (some going back to the Bauhaus days) and working demos. The band had to re-record almost all of the tracks. "It had a galvanizing effect," J says of the disaster. "It was part of the making of the band that we had to sum up a lot of power and courage." After the fire, funds were low, so the band had to record in a converted garage. "The bass was set up in the kitchen; the voices were done in the toilet; Kevin Haskins was in the lounge," J recalls. "It was very Joe Meek [a legendary lo-fi producer of England], but it was great. With the fire and everything, we just got a new spirit; it turned out to be advantageous."

The lean toward more natural tones reflects J's current preoccupation with bands like Folk Implosion, Daniel Johnston, and Medeski, Martin, and Wood. Rick Rubin was also influential in sculpting the Love and Rockets sound. "His main contribution was to advise us to hone the whole thing down," says J. "And he's a stickler on songwriting. Once you've got that, he wants to make it very up-front--avoid excess studio effects unless they were going to be used for a purpose. Go for the emotional quality." J believes that the '90s Love and Rockets is better than ever, too pertinent to be dismissed as an attempt to cash in on '80s nostalgia. Sure, the band still plays "Ball of Confusion," but there's also a ton of new material that should be considered, J says. As for Bauhaus, the band occasionally crosses paths with enigmatic singer Peter Murphy, but there's no sight of a reunion--yet.

"We don't think ourselves as an '80s band," J says, summing up. "We relate more to the '90s than the '80s. In many ways, the music we're coming up with has more to do with these times. It feels more vital than it ever has. If you excuse the pun, there's a lot more fire now than ever before."

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From the Mar. 14-20, 1996 issue of Metro

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