Clan of Xymox/(le) Poisson Rouge/November 23, 2019

How many rock bands from Holland can you name? Golden Earring and Focus were short-lived one-hit wonders in the late nineteen-sixties and Within Temptation, Delain, and Epica have been rocking hard since the mid-nineties. Clan of Xymox, however, while not a household name, has been creating synthpop and electronic dance music for nearly 40 years.  Ronny Moorings was born in Roosendaal, Netherlands, and moved to Nijmegen in 1979, where the self-taught synthesizer player/guitarist/vocalist formed Clan of Xymox in 1981. Moorings moved several times between Holland, England, and Germany as the popularity of the band’s goth-leaning dance music shifted through Europe. In the United States, however, Clan of Xymox had a brief moment on college radio stations and dance floors in the late eighties and this helped the band retain an underground following among gothic and darkwave audiences. The band’s 16th and most recent album in 2017’s Days of Black.

Clan of Xymox headlined a rare local concert at (le) Poisson Rouge and drew a full house. Electro beats powered the songs, half of which were from the eighties and half of which were more current compositions. In the absence of a drummer, Mario Usai maintained a heavy bottom on his bass while Sean Goebel used his keyboard and Daniel Hoffmann used his sequencers to throb and pulse the rhythms. These musicians created a cinematic wash of sound as Moorings played rhythm guitar and sang in melancholic tones. If not for his vocals injecting moodiness, the overall atmospheric sound would have been chillingly hypnotic. These were the moments where Moorings’ somewhat monochromatic vocal range introduced the despairing darkness of classic goth rock. Clan of Xymox’s performance harkened to an earlier musical era and yet was vibrant enough to please a contemporary following.

Static-X/Sony Hall/November 24, 2019

At a time when every band that ever existed seems to be reuniting, Static-X has taken this concept to a most unusual level. Vocalist/guitarist Wayne Static (born Wayne Wells) founded the industrial metal band in 1994 in Los Angeles and was the band’s only consistent member until the band split in 2013. He died in 2014. Three-fourths of the original Static-X lineup (guitarist Koichi Fukuda, bassist Tony Campos, and drummer Ken Jay, none of whom were in Static’s later lineups) reunited in 2018 to record the forthcoming album Project Regeneration, creating new backing tracks to previously unreleased vocal recordings left unfinished by Static. The album would be filled out with new songs featuring vocals by contemporary hard rock singers. The project then grew even weirder. Fukuda, Campos, and Jay booked a concert tour using the brand Static-X to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the band’s debut album, the platinum-selling Wisconsin Death Trip. This lineup features the same three original members plus a mysterious singer who wears a necrotic mask resembling the late Wayne Static. Photographs of a matching neck tattoo tentatively identified the new singer, known as Xer0, as Edsel Dope, the lead vocalist of the band Dope, which is a support act on the tour; Edsel Dope denied this rumor.

The tour, which stopped tonight at Sony Hall, demonstrated that the original Static-X was larger than simply Wayne Static. Performing nine of the 12 songs from the debut album plus an assortment from later albums, Xer0, Fukuda, Campos, and Jay nailed all the essential ingredients of harsh, head-banging industrial metal. Xer0 achieved an especially strong performance with coarse, penetrating vocals, and the other members similarly proved their metal-hammering abilities, keeping the aggressive music raw and cutting. What might have appeared on paper to be exploitation turned into a fitting tribute to the late singer, with Xer0 rightly respectful in his substitute role. The concert was not intended to progress beyond the legacy of Wayne Static, so the musicians invested well in allowing the audience to experience the music of classic Static-X live one more time.

argonaut&wasp/Webster Hall/November 27, 2019

The move from Burlington to Brooklyn must have included more than a few dance steps. Vocalist Trey Schibli and synthesizer player Theo Klein met as college students in Vermont in 2012 and began working together on music that bridged pop and electronic dance music. Gradually the music started incorporating waves of house, trap, funk, and disco. Schibli, a fan of the early 20th Century journalist Ambrose Bierce, named the band argonaut&wasp after a column Bierce wrote called The Argonaut and the Wasp. Schibli and Klein relocated to New York City, recorded a slew of danceable original songs and, over the past five years, amassed over 15 million streams. argonaut&wasp’s third and most recent EP, Heartbreak Disco, was released on February 1, 2019.

argonaut&wasp landed the opening slot on Miami Horror’s current concert tour, which hit Webster Hall. Expanding to a quartet with the addition of a bassist and a drummer, the band married electro synth-pop and funk grooves to pop melodies for a bright and bouncy sound that recalled summer moonlight dance parties. Layers of silky smooth soundscapes made for intriguing arrangements. Overall, the band’s performance appealed to younger audiences; the music would need more darkness or edge to attract the interest of older music fans.

Lenny Kaye/Rough Trade/November 29, 2019

Every April, Record Story Day is a marketing strategy to lure customers back into record stores with the release of special edition purchases. Record Store Day on Black Friday is similar in that the marketing strategy reminds customers to include the gift of music during the holiday spending spree, and similarly launches special edition merchandise. Rough Trade in Brooklyn celebrated Black Friday with a free concert-and-record-signing promotion of a new single by Lenny Kaye and the Fleshtones.

The Fleshtones featured Kaye, guitarist for the Patti Smith Group and the Lenny Kaye Connection, on an album called Brooklyn Sound Solution in 2011. The one song Kaye wrote for that album, “Lost on Xandu,” was an instrumental composition. Eight years later, Kaye revisited “Lost on Xandu,” wrote science fiction lyrics, and added vocals, turning the track into something new. This re-imagined version of “Lost on Xandu” was released as a limited edition seven-inch 45 r.p.m. single on cloudy orange vinyl for Black Friday 2019. The vocal version of “Lost on Xandu” is on the A-side of the single, and a dub-style rendition of the track titled “Lost on Xandu (Version)” on the B-side features more of Peter Zaremba of the Fleshtones. Neither the vocal version nor dub version of “Lost on Xandu” were previously available in any format.

Although billed, like the album, as the Fleshtones + Lenny Kaye, the half-hour concert was not actually by the Fleshtones. The band consisted of Kaye, Zaremba, bassist Tom Clark and drummer Don Costagna. Hanging with fans prior to the concert, Kaye and Zaremba admitted they were not anticipating a great concert, but that they were hoping that everyone would have fun. Kaye started the live music playing solo and reminisced how record stores used to be the place where music aficionados met, adding that he first met Patti Smith while working in a record store. The other musicians joined Kaye and performed an obscure Fleshtones track, Lenny’s first single (recorded under the pseudonym Link Cromwell) and other songs, closing with Kaye’s extended version of Them’s “Gloria.” In the end, the forecast was accurate; the performance was not great, but it was fun—and free. Afterwards, Kaye and Zaremba signed records for the fans.

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