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Turn of the Skew

Bazooka
Loaded: Drummer Vince Meghrouni powers Bazooka.

Photo by Andy Takakjian



Orange County's eccentric Bazooka tampers with expectations

By Nicky Baxter

UNTIL BAZOOKA came along, heavy-metal jazz sans guitar seemed like an oxymoron. Perhaps the punk-fueled mauling the trio inflicted on the genre can be attributed to the cultural miasma that is Orange County. Tenor player Tony Atherton's over-the-top squawking commanded attention, and bassist Bill Crawford and drummer Vince Meghrouni weren't just hanging around for the ride; they knew how to swing. In December 1994, Atherton left the group; shortly thereafter, Crawford bailed as well (he's now a screenwriter). The two have been replaced by bassist Steve Reed, keyboard player Don Carroll and guitarist Jeremy Keller.

The quartet's music is more accessible to noneggheads as a result, but as Poor Mr. Rockstar, Bazooka's latest release, makes explicit, the band hasn't forsaken its eccentric roots. The difference is that those roots branch off into funkier terrain--like Herbie Hancock's Headhunters on acid. "Pissums," for instance, has Hancock's signature all over it. Carroll can't touch the jazz legend's technical facility, but he compensates with some genuinely skewed comping.

"Bunny, Little Bunny" is more amorphous, with Meghrouni's drums tampering with time, caressing rather than bombing away. Here, Keller's guitar and Reed's bass swap positions, with the former punctuating the tune with staccato jabs, leaving the latter to throb and buzz unrestrained by beat-keeping duties. Clearly, Bazooka is still intent on shattering the boundaries between improvisational-music extremism and rock & roll convention. By adding keyboards and guitar, Bazookaville doesn't seem so bizarre from the outside, but that's all part of the plan; once inside, visitors discover that Bazooka's world is like no place they've ever been.

Poor Mr. Rockstar also features a key cameo by former Black Flag guitarist (and proprietor of SST) Greg Ginn, who supplies much of the brawn behind "Slugfest." Actually, "Slugfest" isn't all brawn; there's some brainy stuff going on here as well. Things begin calmly enough with Carroll's feathery plinking, but when Keller and Ginn enter the picture, "Slugfest" gets wild. Ginn remains the quintessential dissident, tearing off rough-hewn shards of guitar fury, while Jeremy Keller locks in on a neo-metallic riff. Following a brief exchange between the two guitarists, the bass, keyboards and drums leap into the fray. Noiseboys, rockophiliacs and, of course, jazz fans are all welcome in Bazookaville, and there's no question that they can all get along.


Bazooka plays Thursday (May 15) at 9pm at the Agenda Lounge, 399 S. First St., San Jose. Call for ticket information. (408/287-4087)

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From the May 15-21, 1997 issue of Metro

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