Friday, October 17, 2008

Seven in a Row

Typical. It's like the bloody bus; you wait ages for one to come by, then several show up at once. However, in this case it's not a curse, but a blessing; right now there are soooo many fine shows coming up in Vancouver that I just couldn't sit in the bus shelter and watch them drive by.

Recently I've been to see The Wedding Present and Abigail Washburn (about which more at a future date). Then over the next six weeks I'm off to with Frightened Rabbit supporting The Spinto Band, gory thrashers GWAR, garage noiseniks King Khan & BBQ, and finally the delightful Holly Golightly.


And last night, Dearest Friends, I finally got to see The Legendary Pink Dots, whom I've long wanted to experience. It was a bit of a dilemma, for Wire were also playing that same evening, supported by the mighty Japandroids. But The Dots it was. LPD have been floating around the fringes, in the ozone, and underground for the past twenty-eight years, during which time they've prolifically released thirty-six albums plus a clutch of LPs. How to describe them for the uninitiated? Um, with difficulty. But here goes: LPD weave a dense and vast musical mesh of fairytale whimsy, surreal mysticism, and unsettling menace out of strands of electronica, goth, krautrock, folk, techno, dub, and psychedelia. Think (WARNING: Facile Artist Comparison Mishmash Alert!) early Pink Floyd meets Skinny Puppy meets Hawkwind meets Nurse With Wound meets Gorkys Zygotic Mynci meets Joy Division. I was hooked many years ago when I first heard frontman Edward Ka-Spel feyly singing of etchings and licking wax off moustaches in "A Day At The Dreamies."

LPD did not play that tune last night, but concentrated instead on their latest album, the excellent Plutonium Blonde. The show was, like the curate's egg, good in parts; the surrealy twee "My First Zonee" and the stalking, malevolent "Torchsong" were particular highlights for me. Oh, and I was particularly tickled when Niels van Hoorn, the mad saxophonist, went walkabout in the crowd, his instrument blasting out a fierce light from its bell with every bleat. However, I fear that overall the LPD live experience fell somewhat short, at least on this occasion.

Perhaps it was the venue; Richards on Richards is a rather soulless box, and last night it was only about a quarter full - perhaps everyone else was at Wire. But that aside, LPD's albums are glorious, grand, sweeping, immersive, mysterious things, and the group wasn't able to replicate that on stage. The three insistent strobe lights and the rather feeble pfft-pfft-pfft of a dry ice machine were a bit embarrassing, and the enigmatic Ka-Spel, clad in a black robe with a pink pashmina, looked like a cross between wee Ronnie Corbett (Yanks: see video in previous post, bloke on the right), Ozzy Osbourne circa 1971, and the singer from The Polyphonic Spree. While it was all quite endearing in an am-dram sort of way and the crowd was fiercely appreciative, it left me all rather underwhelmed.

Driving home in the rain after the show, I slipped Plutonium Blonde on the car stere-ere-ereo. As its otherworldly magnificence unfolded, the car brakelights in front of me became skittering cosmic paramecia and the windshield wipers the flapping wings of a mothlike pixie that sprinkled comet dust on my windscreen.

Now that's more like it!

The Legendary Pink Dots - Torchsong (buy here or e-here)
The Legendary Pink Dots - A Day At The Dreamies (buy here or e-here)
The Legendary Pink Dots - Princess Coldheart (buy here or e-here)

P.S. Here's a splendidly wibbly video of "Rainbows Too?," another fine track from Plutonium Blonde: