Music Picks

The Kids Are Listening to Rock Again

Heavy blues bands, like the Brought Low, are suddenly glamorous.

By Adrian Mack 29 Mar 2007 |

Adrian Mack is the music editor of the Nerve Magazine and freelance rock bore.

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The Brought Low. Photo by M. David Leeds.

The kids are listening to rock music again. In Vancouver's remaining sticky-floor, live venues like the Cobalt or the Lamplighter, you can see 'em nodding heads in appreciation of the gonzo boogie machine that is Pride Tiger, for instance. Bands of less distinction are even climbing on stage in James Gang and Cactus T-shirts. They still sound like Alice in Chains -- they always will -- but at least they're trying. A friend predicted this six years ago. "Classic rock, suede coats, beards...that's the next thing," he said, "Back to basics. You won't have to listen to this new wave trash forever." He'd just come back from New York.

Which brings us to The Brought Low, who grew up listening to hip-hop in New York in the '80s, but sound like they should have signed on with the drawling misfits and badasses that made Capricorn Records the home of southern rock a decade earlier. The Brought Low are the Black Crowes gone right. Aerosmith, Humble Pie, Foghat, it's all in there: heavy blues, from weedy white guys on junk. All that turgid nonsense that came between Altamont -- the Rolling Stones concert during which the '60s and LSD's politics of ecstasy were stabbed to death by Hell's Angels -- and The Last Waltz, when the baton was passed to disco and punk. It's a time that seems weirdly glamorous all of a sudden, especially to pot-bellied rock pigs like me.

Right off the top, "A Better Life," could be the Allman Brothers' guitar star Dickey Betts goofing around with the underground blues-punk classic "Psychotic Reaction," while drummer Nick Heller spends the first chorus putting the kick on the second and fourth beat. Notice that? He reverses what most drummers would do, turns the whole pulse of the song around, and gives it a revival meeting feel. It brings to mind something Robbie Robertson says in Greil Marcus's book Mystery Train about how southern audiences clap on the off-beat. When the songs combust into the controlled rage and power groove of the second verse, it's the stuff of early ZZ Top -- as taut and muscular as a bulldog's hindquarters.

And it's the second verse that counts. The Brought Low might fool the vinyl nerds who are merely stuck in nostalgia -- people who habitually use a phrase like "Kossoff solo"...

...without even once considering how filthy it sounds -- but their pregnant explosiveness also places them in the here and now, which is why it works for everyone else. It's no coincidence that they sing, "the city lies in dust," and then bring up 9-11 in interviews.

Dance punk, freak folk, new rave, and now the Brooklyn Skynyrd and their angry pool hall gospel music. It's been a strange century so far, but it just took a turn for the bitchin'.


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