Plastic Afro!: Fool's Gold (with The Entrance Band and Tearist) @ The Echo, 12/17
Legend has it that a stoned Paul McCartney was one day listening to the playback of something The Beatles had just recorded and kept cracking himself up by repeating "Plastic soul, man, plastic soul." Later, he and his band mates embraced the autoderogatory comment and, famously, titled their next record Rubber Soul.
Which brings us to Fool's Gold, who topped a really entertaining bill last night at the Echo. Like The Beatles, they are very aware that they have taken a particular ethnic sound --
AfrobeatEast African music, in their case -- and made it hipster-friendly. But also like the Liverpudlians, Luke Top, Lewis Pesakov and their merry band of rotating noisemakers embrace the situation and make the best of it. If you ever seen any of the African acts that serve as their model (Konono No. 1, for example -- if they tour the US again, JUST GO!), you know where the actual gold is. Still, as the band showed last night to a packed dancefloor, there's a lot of fun to be had with its US replica.
The evening started with Tearist, in an oddly subdued set (for their intense standards). It's no secret we're big fans of their shtick, but last night Yasmine Kittles' vocals were mixed way down and she seemed less on fire than usual. (By the way, last time we wrote about Tearist, a couple of commenters kept going about how they're just "Hecuba Jr." We really don't see it. Hecuba are good at what they do, but their thing is more of a soulless, grad-school, super-self-conscious "performance." The combination of YK's raw singing and jerking and Will's lo-fi drone synth is way more soulful and it constantly teeters on the brink of derailment in a way the controlled Isabelle Albuquerque would never allow.)
Tearist was followed by The Entrance Band (aka, the band formerly known as Entrance), who enticed a healthy contingent of supporters and people curious to check out if the substantial buzz about them was justified. Entrance is one of those bands with ok albums that one is constantly told to disregard and check them out live instead. It's easy to see why: while their albums foreground the vocals and lyrics of leader Guy Blakesleee, the live show is grounded on his far more interesting guitar work, and, crucially, on the powerhouse rhythm section of bassist Paz Lenchantin and drummer Derek James.
Timothy Norris The Entrance Band
Blakeslee clearly feels very strongly about his lyrics, but his unabashed hippism comes off as a little absurd and slightly embarrassing, particularly over the killer psychedelic blues grooves that the power trio lays under them. Closer "Grim Reaper Blues" is still one of their strongest cards, and the live version last night wiped the floor with both versions on CD, particularly the latest, more anemic one for Thurston Moore's label. Yes, it is undeniably "plastic soul" two-steps removed, being Entrance's version of an early Led Zeppelin jam, itself a sludgy Brit riff on the old blues. But Blakeslee sells it, and the dual Lenchantin-James attack is a steady thing to behold -- these two could easily provide funk breakbeats if they so chose.
Timothy Norris Blakeslee sings the blues