Wednesday, October 31, 2007


Nuggets of Goldfrapp


by Wayne Robins

I was channel surfing through the cable TV afternoon dead zone, figuring I would find an offbeat horror film suitable for one who still has his Zacherley-issued Transylvania passport. Instead I found myself amused by a concert film on Showtime's Family Zone, "The Move Music Festival," featuring performances gleaned from a four-day event in Manchester, England in summer 2004.

Each band in the film did a maximum two songs, including the headliner and hometown hero Morrissey ("Irish Blood, English Heart" and "Every Day is Like Sunday"). The attendance seemed sparse for many of the performers (Beta Band, Ordinary Boys, Tim Booth), but for Morrissey, it was people packed to the horizon of a flat earth, a mass of humanity similar to that of photographs I've seen of Shakira performing before zillions in Mexico City's main zocalo.

The concert had some historic resonant moments, as both the reunited Pixies and the reconstituted New York Dolls performed. The Pixies didn't seem sharp at first: During "Here Comes Your Man," they seemed to be having trouble hearing each other, and what they might have heard was Frank Black's guitar sounding way out of tune. "Where is My Mind?" was tighter, augmented by a fog machine that had the effect of putting Manchester into its more familiar frame as dusk approached on an unusually sunny afternoon. The Dolls' ("Jet Boy," "Personality Crisis") ramshackle sons-of-the-Stones sound seemed to the blasé audience a curious museum exhibit. One wondered if they had followed the flatlining shoegazers Elbow in real time, or whether the juxtaposition of the two bands was shock therapy film editing.

The Cure seemed disoriented in the sunlight as well, and though they played "End of the World" and "In Between Days" competently, neither the band nor the cheerful-looking, clean-cut audience seemed to have any great stake in the performance. One did feel some sympathy for Cure leader Robert Smith, after all these decades most likely still requiring hours before the show to render every strand of his assiduously messy mop into the right wrong place.

But the biggest surprise for me was the band that provided the bait for me to keep watching the movie when I first turned it on. The group seemed to have about eight different keyboards of various shapes and design, a bass player with a porkpie hat who looked like a young John Doe of X and two females, one of whom reminded me of a young version of Exene Cervenka of X, L.A.'s greatest band between the Doors and Guns 'N Roses. The main singer was glamorous in that obvious, show-bizzy way, yet showed substance beneath, or rather over, the bloomers she wore. The band also employed an electronic theremin, and maintained a steady groove, combining Sonny & Cher's "The Beat Goes On" and Norman Greenbaum's "Spirit in the Sky." By the time the band's second song ("Strict Machine") and name flashed on the screen, I was feeling a little bewildered: This is was Goldfrapp but they were much too good to be Goldfrapp. Or had I been misinformed?

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