By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
THE FIRE SHOW Above the Volcano of Flowers (Perishable)
This record arrived out of nowhere, popped me twice on the forehead, and swiftly jettisoned Radiohead’s new live album — the tedious, why-was-this-released? I Could Be Wrong— from the CD tray, never to return. Why? Because that eight-song, 40-minute record, Radiohead’s third in a year and a half, delivers little that Kid Aand Amnesiacdidn’t, while the seven-song, 40-minute Above the Volcano of Flowerssounds like the guitar-centric follow-up to OK Computerthat Radiohead might have imagined but couldn’t/wouldn’t deliver.
Which probably isn’t fair to M. Resplendent and Olias Nil — former members of unremarkable ‘90s indie rock band Number One Cup, who, as the Fire Show’s primary creative forces, have with this record made something that arrives at post-”Paranoid Android” six-part nervy epics by way of much older (and in some ways more artistically rewarding) routes. The obvious influences here are the amazing postpunk bands of the late ‘70s: groups with cropped guitar and funk-dub bass and vocals that spat, sparred and then went all melodic. Think Gang of Four, the Pop Group, the Fall, Wire, Levine/Wobble–era Public Image Limited, and (later on) the Minutemen. Throw in the rulelessness of prime Can and the vaulting, proglike compositional ambition (and poetic lyrics) of Television, and you come up with something like the songs on Volcano — tracks that regularly break the five-minute mark (the fantastic “Dead Like Latin,” which features a deep vocal chorus hook, stretches past 10 minutes), that keep the refrains and riffs coming from all angles and instruments (guitar, bass, keyboard, horn, strings, whip-crack drums, bits of computer glitch, etc.), that feature lines like “I’m designing a steeper cliff/to hang from my own thread,” “Can you please let me plead like I have a right,” “There are phantoms in this blood,” “By the rivers of Babylon/I swallowed my own tongue.” The vocals are desperate, tense and determined — I have no idea what those lyrics mean, either, but someday I might. (Radiohead lyrics only occasionally have that virtue, and you have to put up with Thom Yorke’s never-ending marble-mouthed mewling to hear them.)
This is seriously good stuff — imaginative, hot/cold, body-and-brain music that builds on its antecedents and doesn’t get stuck relying on clone work. Volcano is so good that one wonders why the record is being billed as a stopgap, between-albums release, limited to only 1,000 copies. It’s as if the band isn’t aware of what it’s achieved — or has something even greater up its collective sleeve. I dunno. I could be wrong — but the Fire Show may be right. (Ordering info is available at www.fire-show.com)
BJÖRK “Pagan Poetry” video (Elektra)
Björk has been one of the most engaging music-video artists largely because her directors invariably succumb to her ravishingly zonked child-woman fantasia. Even with Chris Cunningham, a director known for his mature nightmare science, Björk preferred dreamy sci-fi androids with lubed sprockets to do what should have obviously been reserved for consenting women (“All Is Full of Love”). No question, her numerous inner children have been beautiful to watch, from wonderland fables (“Bachelorette”) to cartoon head rushes (“I Miss You”) to stuffed animals on the hunt (“Human Behavior”). But there’s a moment in “Hidden Place” — a video that follows an enchanted living stream of kiddie snot dripping out her nose — where Björk looks like a person who’s starting to show her years at being a girl.
With “Pagan Poetry” she finally takes on, with a jaw-dropping sexual agenda, what is woman’s work. Directed by the British photographer Nick Knight, the video begins with abstract doodling whose veiled allure reveals itself upon a focused viewing: a girl giving head, then getting fucked; the colors and lines (traced from live-action material) register the contrasting regions of live nude flesh. In the second half, a full view of Björk, in mesmerizing grown-up beauty, slowly emerges from the graphic foam — she’s wearing a topless dress seemingly made of pearls, her midnight hair longer than ever, with gusts of wind splashing on her like the tides. Alas, it’s Venus as a woman, and there isn’t an ounce of lewdness to her myth-making rise — her bare breasts are for us to see, but more beautifully they’re for her to see: “This time I’m gonna keep my all to myself.” Suddenly, she complicates that resolve when she yells, “But he makes me want to hand myself over.”
Before the video’s premiere, many Web sites had quoted the above lyric as “But he makes me want to hurt myself again.” Fascinating, because in the video, at the moment she might have said those words, a skewer pierces the flesh of a woman’s back. The video then concludes with a view of the woman’s exquisite dorsal erotic body art — a string of shiny gems laced between six flesh-fastened hoops. As with our heroine, there’s elegance to be found in such carnal affliction. This is pagan poetry, as poetically pagan as, say, tattooing the face of God or Jesus on your back — adult art that is worshipfully sensuous, with breathtaking idols here on Earth. (Tommy Nguyen)