Seks Bomba do the Dino thing
Cellars by Starlight by Brett Milano
Modern bands who do the lounge/cocktail-revival thing tend to fall into two
camps -- call them the Franks and the Deans. The former would be the folks with
a darker, Sinatra-type sensibility, groups whose music has some heartbreak
between the lines -- Royal Fingerbowl, Lars Vegas, and recent Combustible
Edison. The latter are the ones who follow in Dean Martin's footsteps: they're
into the music mostly for the entertainment value, the cocktails, and the
No question about where to place Seks Bomba, the local lounge crew who will be
celebrating the release of Operation B.O.M.B.A. (on YaYa) with a show
tomorrow night (Friday) at the Linwood Grille. Seks Bomba are with Dean all the
way. It sounds as if frosty concoctions had been imbibed during the making of
the album, and it would be fitting to do the same while listening -- they even
stick on a "Last Call" before the final few songs. Cheesy secret-agent riffs,
hyperactive surf drums, and Telstar organ are everywhere, along with a
couple of make-out ballads (one of which was lifted from the soundtrack of
The Pink Panther). "To Kill '89" includes an apparent quote from the
David Letterman theme; "Jet City" sounds like a medley of James Bond licks,
only faster. The campiest they get is a cover of the Dionne Warwick chestnut
"Do You Know the Way to San Jose," which plays like a tribute to MOR master Ray
Conniff, breathy vocals and all -- but it's still nowhere near as campy as
Frankie Goes to Hollywood's cover of the same tune. Elsewhere they stay on the
right side of the line between hip irony and inspired trash.
Still, this is an unlikely place for a bunch of serious players to end up --
especially someone like guitarist George Hall, whose last regular band was the
metal-funk outfit Dogzilla. "For the first two years of Seks Bomba," he admits,
"I had to deal with people saying, 'Nice project -- so when are you going to
get a band?' A lot of us have been playing in rock bands for a while; then at a
certain point you say, 'What the hell -- I'm sick of trying to get a record
deal. I'm just going to do what I want, or play the kind of music I've been
listening to.' "
A long-time prog-rock aficionado, Hall also did time in art-damaged outfits
like Cxema and the Archbishop's Enema Fetish, a band remembered more for their
name than for their music. "That's probably for the best," he acknowledges.
"I've watched videos of that band lately, and all I can say
is . . . yeah, it was a good name."
His current band's music seems a lot simpler on the surface, but Hall says it
ain't necessarily so. "A lot of it is really complicated and tricky to learn,
but we try to make sure it doesn't sound that way. If it sounds different from
Dogzilla, that's partly because I never got to write much for them. Something
like 'San Jose,' that's our tribute to Vince Bell. He invented the electric
sitar and played amazing pedal steel, made a lot of bizarre sounds. He was the
Adrian Belew of the '60s. Different people in this band are coming in from
different angles: Matt and Lori [bassist Matt Silbert and organist Lori
Perkins] have more of a classic-rock background; Chris and I [co-guitarist
Chris Cote] are the record geeks. The songs aren't really ripoffs, though we
might identify them as such later."
If there seem to be an inordinate number of retro-inspired bands in Boston,
that may be because everybody goes to the same garage sales. "It really started
for me with a garage-sale album that my girlfriend bought around '91 -- it was
The Man from O.R.G.A.N., by Dick Hyman; it just amazed me with the
arrangements. That's probably the same thing that happened with Combustible
Edison; they'd pick up albums because they looked funny and the band realized
how cool they were."
How much of Seks Bomba is serious and how much is send-up? "I think it's all
sincere, but it's a fun band -- NRBQ has always been a large influence. We all
like music and we want to write good songs; that's the bottom line. You can
either go back to the Velvet Underground or back to John Barry."
Sharing the bill at Seks Bomba's release party will be Auto 66,
whose own CD (also just out) may mark the birth of a new genre: prog-funk.
They're an instrumental trio of chops-heavy players: guitarist Doug Vargas (who
played with Aimee Mann in the Young Snakes circa 1980 and later worked
with Chainsuck), bassist Tristram Lozaw (ex-Serum and occasional Phoenix
reviewer), and drummer Joe Coe. And their sound is a reversal of the usual
power-trio format, since they put the rhythm section up front and the guitarist
in an atmospheric role. Vargas does a modified version of Robert Fripp's
Frippertronics, looping the guitar into an orchestral backdrop while Lozaw's
propulsive bass lines charge at his heels. Their harder tunes have a real
cliffhanger quality -- you keep waiting for that big solo. The quieter ambient
pieces provide a gentle release of tension.
Officially, the Midsummer Knights who play the Lizard Lounge
next Wednesday are a long-inactive garage band from the '60s who've been living
quietly in the suburbs for the last few decades, having narrowly missed being
invited to the Lost/Remains shindig at the Paradise last spring. They'll be
wiping the dust off their vintage equipment and relearning their old set for
this one show, which takes place on Midsummer Night. In reality, this line-up
offers some familiar local faces doing a Dukes of Stratosphear-style
tribute/parody. Gravel Pit frontman Jed Parish is the keyboardist and frontman,
Mike Gent (of the Figgs) is on guitar, Mike County (ex-Jen Trynin) on bass, and
Pete Caldes (Gravel Pit) on drums. They'll be doing a mix of standard '60s
covers and songs Parish wrote in that style and acting the part of a
"We were hoping to get Peter Wolf to come on and introduce us as one of his
influences," says Parish -- but as it happens, Wolf has a J. Geils gig that
night. "Of course, nobody was going to notice that we're all younger than
Parish's love of '60s rock should be familiar to anyone who likes the Gravel
Pit; but a more obscure side of his musical personality comes out on his new
solo CD, Bloodsucker Blues (a limited release available through
www.qdivision.com). The unsettling cover painting -- which involves two naked
guys, twisted grins, and an alligator -- should tip you off that Parish is in a
sinister mood; and the music doesn't disappoint. The sound is stripped-down,
the words are pissed-off, and there's a lot of dark-shaded humor -- for
starters, nearly every song has the word "blues" in the title, though few are
actually blues songs. And the seven-minute "Weird Sister Blues" is an
adaptation of the weird sisters' choruses in Macbeth, with appropriate
"I decided not to censor myself in terms of making a disturbing record," he
explains. "It started out being really sad, but it turned nasty and mean. I had
a few songs written when I noticed this theme happening, so I ran with it --
the whole idea of sucking blood, how your relationship with your best friends,
your girlfriend, and your boss can all have this parasitic nature. Some of the
songs are testing my own boundaries in terms of what I can say in public, and
to bring out this nasty side that I'm not always interested in bringing out
with the band."
Although Parish will be playing fun stuff with the Midsummer Knights, he'll be
doing shows later this summer to play the darker solo material. "It's funny --
when I do a Gravel Pit show, I want people to feel that it's a rocking good
time; but that's not always true in my solo shows. In fact, I played one at the
Lizard Lounge recently, and I started feeling bad that it was such a bummer.
People still liked it, but I was standing there laughing to myself and
thinking, 'Hey, I didn't mean to do this. Gee whiz, I'm sorry.' "
I mixed up my Dukes in last week's Del Fuegos profile: it was Duke
Levine, not Duke Roth, who played in the Fuegos and is now with Mary Chapin
Carpenter. Duke Roth was the guy who went from Bullet LaVolta to Smackmelon.
And it was, of course, guitarist Adam Roth whom Duke Levine replaced in the
Lunar Plexus follow a mighty Rumble set with a gig at the
Middle East tonight (Thursday), opening for Zia. El Camino are at Bill's Bar,
zydeco dude Terrence Simien is at the House of Blues, and the Lizard Lounge has
a strong quadruple bill with Honeyglazed, Bourbon Princess, Ross Phasor, and
Meaghan McLaughlin . . . Patty Giurleo is at Toad tomorrow
(Friday), the Shods play T.T. the Bear's Place, the Dismemberment Plan and
Wicked Farleys are at the Middle East, and Fighting Gravity are at
Bill's . . . In the reunion shocker of the month, Alex Chilton
fronts the Box Tops for the first time in 30 years at the Paradise Saturday.
Todd Thibaud's release party at T.T.'s is headlined by the terrific Austin band
Damnations TX. The Gravel Pit are at Bill's, Asa Brebner is at the Linwood, Los
Straitjackets are at the Middle East, and the Swinging Steaks are at the House
of Blues . . . Brian Wilson hits Symphony Hall on
Monday . . . The Go-Betweens reunite at the Paradise Wednesday.
Tim Keegan, last seen playing guitar with Robyn Hitchcock, opens. Meanwhile the
J. Geils Band play their first official gig in 15 years, at the Tweeter Center.