Sound Advice: : Rush and The Dirty Projectors

Upcoming concert previews of note

Sep 1, 2007 at 2:06 pm
Dead Oceans

The Dirty Projectors

The Dirty Projectors with YACHT and Vampire Weekend

Wednesday · Publico (

Jaded music lovers often have this odd perception that nothing is new ­ everything has already been done. While I can see their point if you listen to only mainstream music or most other forms of standard Indie, Rock, Jazz, R&B, Rap or whatever, you can sometimes start to think that musicians are simply rewriting old songs like musical Mad Libs. Of course, there can be artistry in working with pre-established rules and tools, but bottom-liners often seem more interested in not rocking the boat and reaching the widest audience possible.

Creativity and innovation in music is far from a dead notion, however. Music lovers who eschew spoon-feeding and take some chances when seeking new music will tell you there's an entire other world of music that resists the need to replicate.

Here's a suggestion: Start carrying around copies of The Dirty Projectors' Rise Above (well, after it comes out Sept. 11, that is) in your pockets and purses, so the next time some curmudgeon cries about the originality deficit, you can simply slip him or her a copy and say, "Listen to this, call me tomorrow and tell me you still think that way." He or she might hate it (while far from impenetrable, the Projectors' are high-up on the "weird" scale), but there's no way they will be able to say, "Oh, that's just a straight rip-off of (Fill in the Blank)." It's a remarkably inventive and imaginative album that will blow your mind if you let it.

It's not as if the Projectors aren't using certain elements of "traditional" music. While I think it unfair to say that no one is doing anything original, it has indeed been a while since anyone has invented a new enduring instrument or musical scale.

But the way the pieces are put back together by the Projectors is unlike anything you've heard. And even the basic concept of the album is staggeringly intriguing.

Rise Above is a song for song "tribute" of sorts to Black Flag's legendary 1981 album Damaged. But don't expect a straight cover of that album. Dirty Projectors' mastermind David Longstreth attempted to "re-create" the album ... from memory. Although it was one of his favorite records in high school, Longstreth hasn't listened to it since then, and he purposefully avoided re-listening or reading any lyric sheets. The result is absolutely nothing like the Black Flag record — though an argument can be made that Longstreth shares a similar "beat of his own drummer" quality with Black Flag head honcho Greg Ginn, one of the most underrated guitarists of our time. Instead, Rise Above stands as a truly mesmerizing piece of art on its own merits.

The streaking-across-the-sky, star-shower of vocals run parallel to the streaming voice-layers of Prince's most adventurous (and best) album, Sign of the Times, full of soul and slanted harmonies. But the heavenly vocals are underlined by some fascinating, impossible-to-pigeonhole, avant-garde excursions, from impulsive bursts of guitar sparks and noise to more ambient fluttering to orchestral spikes. Traditional song structures are virtually non-existent — instead, the record unspools fluidly, almost like one uninterrupted composition.

Unpredictable? Does the Pope shit in the woods? Even more fascinating than listening to the album should be the band's live translation of the record. If it's anywhere near as captivating as the record, it should be a truly mind-blowing show. (Mike Breen)


Saturday · Riverbend Music Center

In the disposable world of popular music, where a band can be chart-topping heroes with one album and dropped from a label after the next, a 33-year career isn't merely unusual, it's a feat that Ripley wouldn't believe. For that band to remain vital and relevant and to retain the same lineup for (nearly) the duration of the band's history strains credulity even further.

So it is for Rush, the Canadian power trio that has been dazzling their fans since their 1974 eponymous debut. Only the true fan will remember that Rush began life with drummer John Rutsey, who was quickly replaced by Neil Peart, one of the most literate and gifted timekeepers of the Rock era. Peart joined vocalist/bassist Geddy Lee and guitarist Alex Lifeson to become a major force in music during the next three decades, raising the concept album to high art, routinely selling out arena tours, staying on top of the recording and marketing possibilities of cutting edge technology and selling in excess of 35 million units.

Rush's latest album, Snakes & Arrows (their first album of new material in more than five years) is a revelation for a band with a 30-year scrapbook, including high points like 1976's 2112, 1981's Moving Pictures, 1985's Power Windows and 1996's Test for Echo. Lacing their lyrical examinations of faith, spirituality and relationships with some of the most visceral and powerful musical accompaniment they've achieved in years, Snakes & Arrows proved to be an instant winner upon its early June release, providing Rush with their highest first-week charting album in 14 years and their 11th career Top 10 release.

From the hair-raising majesty of "The Way the Wind Blows" to the quiet power of the one-take Lifeson guitar instrumental "Hope" to their signature pummeling-meets-subtle-brilliance return on "Far Cry," Snakes & Arrows proves that Rush still consistently finds a way to merge Rock classicism with contemporary verve without resorting to cheap trend peddling to maintain their position as one of the premiere Rock bands of the past 30 years. (Brian Baker)