Thursday, February 14, 2013
Dead Meadow never takes the easy route: Not only is their most recent release Three Kings an expansive double LP, they included several bonus tracks and a feature-length film showcasing live performances intertwined with psychedelic dreamscapes. And the 15-plus tunes filling all four sides of the two records are far from skimpy, two-minute jaunts down radio-friendly easy street. The more-than-nine-minute “Beyond the Fields we Know” changes tempos more than Lady Gaga changes outfits during a concert; midway through, Jason Simon’s stoner rock guitar riff slips into a eerie Moody Blues-“Nights in White Satin” coda with all the mystical trappings of a world that’s home to fairies and goblins.
Since Three Kings in 2010, the D.C. natives have been working on a follow-up, Warble Womb, that’s looking like it will be just as grandiose.
“We were honestly trying to make the album much more simply this time,” bassist Steve Kille says. “But we ended up writing all these songs and to really make a complete statement, it’s just going to have to be a double record. We’ve always worked that way and been kind of nitpicky. Its just part of our creative process.”
Before Kille, Simon and drummer Mark Laughlin head out on tour, which includes a stop at the Golden State Theatre on Saturday, the group is making some last-minute tweaks on what will be its second consecutive double LP – initially they hoped to release it before their tour, but now they’re aiming for some time in May.
After making several albums with Matador – focused around deadlines and promotion – Dead Meadow was psyched to take it as slow as they saw fit with Warble Womb, allowing them to stay true to the way it was when they first formed.
“It’s all about getting your art refined in your own time,” Kille says. “I think the jams are reminiscent of the process we were doing when we first started out and released Howls from the Hills. But there are also some poppier elements from when we were working with Matador.”
“Mr. Chesty,” one of the new songs, begins tenderly like a desert lullaby. As you’d expect with Dead Meadow, the volume and distortion levels sidle up to sort-of-loud. Strategically, anticipation – that the noise will keep on creeping and eventually hemorrhage into heavy oblivion – begins to brew. But it stays exactly where it is: A silver-skinned limbo leisurely humping a plateau of resounded vocals and guitar.
“We do a lot to try to make the songs come across as quick and easy but there’s a lot of thought that goes into them,” Kille says.
Another new track, the guitar-driven “One Thousand Dreams,” uncoils with a similar sentiment: Upon reaching the bridge, you expect the melancholy will erupt into a headbanger’s ball, but Dead Meadow retreats with skillful Zen.
“When [the album] is finally finished it will be four sides of solid music, “ Kille says. “Even when we try to do something really simple, in the end, we like to tweak on the art probably more than most people. It’s the nature of how we do things and I don’t think we can ever do it simply.”
The night before Dead Meadow performs – along with special guests Strangers Family Band and Matthew J. Tow – guitar wiz/composer George Cole will treat Monterey to a couple hour-long sets soaked in nuvo-Tin Pan Alley, swing, gypsy jazz and a luscious lathering of vocals on par with Bobby Darin.
Fans frequently told Cole his original tunes sounded “instantly familiar.”
“I always took that as a huge compliment,” he says. “The best compliment I ever got was, ‘I don’t like jazz but I like you guys.’ That’s kind of a victory.”
Cole sources inspiration from just about every musical variety: From Top 40 hits to Linda Ronstadt’s version of “Many Rivers to Cross” to a rather unlikely influence, Jerry Garcia. The result: an accessible amalgamation of the Django Reinhardt Hot Club Quintet sound coalesced with American Songbook vocals à la Cole Porter.
“Riverside Drive” belongs in a smoke-filled, bygone era nightclub. Clarinet adds a little Dixieland kick to Cole’s sultry gypsy jazz guitar and martini-drenched voice. About eight months ago, Cole’s musical vibe expanded with his new backing band Eurocana, constructed of an all-star cast of session musicians including Nashville swing violinist Stephan Dudash, Parisian guitarist Mathias Minquet and bassist/singer Kaeli Earle, who may be one of the best harmonizers on the planet.
The group has been touring the country since their formation and currently, they’re readying to record their first record together. Just like Dead Meadow, Cole and Eurocana will play by their own rules in the studio.
“We tend to stay in our own lane, ’cause we are our own lane,” Cole says. “One of our forever challenges is to turn more people on to what we’re doing.
“It’s going to be a fun journey.”
GEORGE COLE and EUROCANA perform at 8:30pm Friday, Feb. 15, at the Golden State Theatre, 417 Alvarado St., Monterey. $10. 297-2472.
DEAD MEADOW, STRANGERS FAMILY BAND and MATTHEW J. TOW perform at 9pm, Saturday, Feb. 16. $10.
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