Styrofoam’s Nothing’s Lost was released in 2004. But a re-review of the album is relevant, with Arne van Petegem, aka Styrofoam, playing tonight at the Holocene with Alias and Adelaide. The album doesn’t sound as vital as the day it was released, but it’s still good. Styrofoam gets a lot of help from the who’s who of lap-pop, including Ben Gibbard, Notwist’s Marcus Acher, American Analog Set’s Andrew Kenny, and Anticon rapper Alias. Fortunately, all the guests help the album instead of hurting it. All the highlights of the album include a guest star, whether it’s Alias delivering another wonderful nasal-rap on “Misguided” or Ben Gibbard sounding more Dntel than Postal Service on “Couches in Alleys” or Bent Van Looy and Miki’s techno-pop gem “Anything.” Van Petegem’s solo endeavors pale in comparison, lacking structure and real hooks. But those songs can easily be endured for the sake of the wonderful songs featuring guest collaborators. Though a year old, Nothing’s Lost is still worth checking out by fans of Notwist, the Postal Service, or Dntel. Because unlike hopes for a John Kerry presidency, albums do not expire.
For a closer look go to www.styro.be
Live performances are often what will make or break a musical act. The Grateful Dead, Phish and String Cheese Incident have all but staked their entire existence on the hectic insanity of their concerts. On the other hand, Ashlee Simpson nearly destroyed what sickly little career she had by submitting live audiences to the excruciating torture of her “performance.” The concert is essential. If done correctly, the audience will be treated to the added intensity and randomness that is inherent in a good performance. If done poorly, the audience will leave, shaking their heads wondering how they had been so thoroughly brainwashed to believe that the performer or group was any good in the first place.
For Rasputina, formed in 1992 around the concept of cello as rock implement, the concert is a double-edged sword. After seeing the trio at Dante’s two years ago, I was absolutely overcome by the sheer power and sexuality of these two women sawing away at the cellos lodged between their legs, lace petticoats hiked up to their knees, singing about death, insanity and farm animals. I was also incredibly put off by the waifish audience solemnly swaying to the music, wearing black bustiers and clutching dirty baby dolls to their chests. It was crowded, hot and the smell of patchouli could not be escaped. The music, however, was transcendent.
What is particularly pleasing about Rasputina’s new live album, Radical Recital, is that it offers all the power and energy of their live performance without all the sweaty turn-of-the-century waifs rubbing up against you. The sound of this album is amazing and clear and does not have the muddy quality found on many live albums. It is as if the group had dragged a club audience into a recording studio.
Cellist Melora Creagar banters with the boisterous audience between classic Rasputina tracks such as the heartbreaking song about the lobotomized Rose Kennedy, “Rose K,” and the rousing jig about a man and his cow, “Wicked Dickey.” Perhaps banter isn’t the correct word … Creagar’s comments almost seem like small soliloquies that introduce each song. She muses about national ID chips, her mother, animal rights, and Hitler’s testicles, much to the delight of the audience.
Rasputina also has a knack for covers. I will never forget their cover of Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here,” which left me slack-jawed at the Dante’s performance. There something about rock ‘n’ roll being filtered through classical instruments that just works and on Radical Recital it works to great affect on two ass-kicking tracks, Heart’s “Barracuda” and Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll,” both of which show the range of the cellists and their instruments as the sound growls and wheezes accompanied by the pounding drums of Jonathan Tebeest.
For the uninitiated, this is an album that would be an excellent introduction to the funeral parlor chamber music of Rasputina. As the days get darker and the weather gets colder, this trio is a lovely accompaniment to days spent drinking whiskey and trying to get warm. For those who already love the music of Rasputina, Radical Recital will not fail to deliver, taking you back to that dark club where the sound of the cellos washed over you with their wicked, guttural vibrations.