Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Last Great Arena Rock Band: Pearl Jam at the Los Angeles Sports Arena

What is the rollicking, raucous racket; this primal (if not also primeval) force; this life force and (sometimes) death channel; this lifter of spirit and lowerer of inhibitions; this creator of relationships and destroyer of eardrums; this (formerly) reviled and now (virtually) taken-for-granted quasi-art form known as rock and roll?
                As I age, I question whether I should find it empowering and soul-nourishing.  I even question whether I (or anyone else) should have listened to it in the first place.  (I read with interest the musings of a rock fan—and player—who wondersif it was and is a cultural mistake.)  But there is no question that it still nourishes even my famished, arid, shipwrecked body and soul (which is saying something).  Perhaps it is too much a part of our culture—and, ineluctably and inexorably, my cultural experience—for me to cast off my own personal history and subconscious attachment to it at this point.  I do not know.  For better or worse, it will be part of the vestiges, the dying embers, of Western civilization for as long as their evanescent glow continues to faintly illuminate its final generations.  I still find its integration of lyrics and music—by singers and players performing their own songs (unlike previous chanteurs and chantesues in civilization’s ebb and flow) to fill an important void.  One of the most skillful (and successful) groups to perfect this art is Pearl Jam.
                I attended both of Pearl Jam’s concerts (each unique, like every Pearl Jam concert) at the Los Angeles Sports Arena over the weekend.  Each was a state of the art integration of sound and visuals from band and crew.  Over the course of the two nights, the band played all of the songs from their latest album, Lighting Bolt (Monkeywrench/Republic, 2013) except one; a remarkable cross section of their back catalogue; and a number of their favorite covers (I doubt anyone else covers Van Halen and the Velvet Underground).  Probably coincidentally, both concerts were two hours and fifty-six minutes long.  The Pearl Jam live experience is the last great amalgam of arena rock art in the culture.  Perhaps it is the most superlative of them all, the salvaged acme of a decades-long mistake.
                Appropriately enough, Pearl Jam is a synthesis of many genres and subgenres.  They synthesized the most salient virtues of their diverse influences while dropping said influences’ superfluous heavy baggage.  Like so many late period synthesizing non-innovators, they nonetheless improved on the work of the innovators.  Both weekend concerts at the Sports Arena underscored those virtues (while offering scarcely an eyeful or earful of their mentor’s vices).  (On the subject of vices: Gene Simmons was in the audience on Sunday night.)
                Fusing the arena rock of KISS, the classic rock of Led Zeppelin, the punk rock of the Dead Boys, the folk rock of Bob Dylan, the hard rock of Deep Purple, the funk rock of the Red Hot Shitty Peppers, the primordial all-of-the-above of The Who, the singer-songwriter aesthetic of Neil Young, and having it all mislabeled as “grunge,” the band exploded into national consciousness at the last possible moment for a band that melded introspective art and rock bombast.  No other band has done it quite like that, before or since.  Their debut album Ten dropped just a few months before Nirvana’s Nevermind knocked Michael Jackson’s Dangerous out of the #1 spot of the Billboard 200 and the nineties began, and if there was anything worth defining about the last decade of comparative freedom and culture before civilization’s final implosion, Pearl Jam defined it.  They were and are the last great rock band to achieve massive commercial success before American culture imploded a few years afterward.
                In the studio, they ran the gamut of styles and emotions and themes (if not ideas), from the warm burr of “Low Light” and the beginning of “Release” to the larynx-tearing of the end of “Release” and the tirade “Blood;” from the lugubrious, histrionic dirge of “Once” to the benevolent, avuncular, dulcet lullabye of “Around the Bend;” from the (not entirely consistent) contented egoism of "I Am Mine" to the hoplophobic, country grunge farrago of “Glorified G;” from the committed commitment and anti-fence-sitting of "Got Some" to the puissant, presto intransigence of “Whipping” and the straightforward, adagio intransigence of “No Way” to the contemplative, andante intransigence of “Indifference;” from the despair of “Black” to the resilience of “Down” to the euphoria of “Given to Fly” (much less an act of plagiarism than many “original” Led Zeppelin songs).  On stage in Los Angeles all of the aforementioned exemplars of late rock save “Glorified G,”“Around the Bend,” and “Whipping” had at least one airing during the two gigs.  The band, as usually, brought improvisation and “playing in the moment” (as frontman Vedder would call it) to the embalmed strictures of arena rock—without losing the basic bedrock of fixed song arrangements and collapsing into pathological jam band indulgence and over-extemporaneousness.
                Like the genre they capped and perfected, they have their foibles, and those should be acknowledged at the outset (they were evident during their November 2013 weekend in Los Angeles).  Intellectually and politically, they are very much children of their times (like most artists).  I will be the last to defend (most of) their horrendous (and sometimes absurd) leftist politics.  Eddie Vedder’s lyrics sometime border on impressionism, and they not infrequently bristle with platitudinous Endarkenment claptrap (“I don’t want to think, I want to feel;” “can’t defend fucked up man;” etc.).  They are not virtuosi.  Even by rock standards, there are far more skillful musicians to be found.  Many rock fans find them soporific, and they are not to all tastes (even rock tastes).  But contemplative consumers devoted to art (in a culture devoid of it) with a tolerance for post-jazz popular music could not find a better band.  As with all flawed entities in a dark culture teetering (and about to totter) on the brink of insanity, their foibles are not salient (and politics isn't everything).  What is salient is the melody, idealism, passion, and integrity they exude—to that extent, they are not children of their unfortunate times.  (I wish I had paid closer attention to them sooner.  Agreeing with their friends and Seattle neighbors in L7 that “the masses are asses,” I thought for sure that any “grunge” band that achieved mass popularity after their other neighbors Queensrÿche—and that helped to grant Queensrÿche in an undeserved reputation of anachronism and irrelevance—could possibly warrant any more than trivial interest.  Proving—again—that it is impossible to be consistently wrong, the asses who are the masses were right about Pearl Jam.  They have not been so right since.)
                While every Pearl Jam concert is as heterogeneous as their catalog, Saturday night’s, from  (usually) benevolent Uncle Eddie’s opening invocation of “Release” to the closing resolve of “Indifference” (which is anything but indifferent, in general)  was more stern, serious, and contemplative.  Vedder didn’t talk as much as he usually does.  He did mention the fact that it was their friend Bruce Springsteen—who, like them, loathes the sterile, antiseptic, corporate Staples Center—who recommended they play the old, quaint, smallish Sports Arena.  He noted that they had only played there once before, twenty-two years ago (he mistakenly said twenty-three), opening, with Nirvana, for the Red Hot Chili Peppers.  (He thanked the four of them—and especially original drummer Jack Irons, who introduced Vedder to the rest of Pearl Jam and later joined—and left  Pearl Jam--for “taking [them] under their wing.”)  He also recognized the under-recognized monitor mixer Karrie Keyes in her hometown (without whom the band would sound as bad as their detractors think they sound).  During and immediately after the arena rock standard “Corduroy” (one of the comparatively few songs performed both nights—see below for full setlists), he vehemently demanded that an apparently unruly gal be ejected from the general admission pit in front of the stage.  He is evidently still suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder from the 2000 Roskilde festival (when the band walked offstage in horror when they were told that several fans were being trampled to death in the general admission crowd); he alluded to that debacle the following night when a guy in  the pit needed medical attention (he was eventually fine).  To see and hear Vedder’s righteous, voluble, and profane imperiousness  was to see palpable scars seared into the frontman’s consciousness; he sounded like a man concerned about the prospect of imminent death.  His truculent scolding contributed an edge to the evening’s art and entertainment that was absent the following night.  Later, he did gently chide the alleged miscreant when she had moved to the side of the floor: “It’s OK, you can watch the show over there.”  To the rest of us: “She needed Johnnie Cochran to defend her, and it was getting to be a PROBLEM.”  The rest of the night did retain something of a pensive ambivalence.  At one point, Vedder mentioned how execrable 2013 was (if only he knew) and noted that the band would donate “some of the dough” from the night’s gross to Filipino friends and typhoon victims who were in attendance.  At another point, he denigrated George Zimmerman and called for "a few basic" gun laws (adding that, "I don't think I'm offending anybody").  The only "offense" I took was that someone whom I thought was generally sane and stable (especially compared to some of his peers and epigones) could think that the United States has not had "a few basic gun laws," and more, for decades.
One exception to Saturday's solemnity was a surprise cover of Van Halen’s signature guitar solo piece “Eruption” by guitarist Mike McCready.  In theory (and in practice, in the context of the ephemeral live experience), this worked fine, lightened the mood, and was an illustrative example of Frank Zappaesque contrast and relief.  It reminded some of the duller and more obscurantist “hipsters” in the audience that Pearl Jam’s diverse influences include some of flamboyant, “wanking” dinosaurs they allegedly made obsolete.  (Vedder joked that he woke up early in the morning because he had the misfortunate of having a room right above or below the other guitarist’s: “this is what I heard at 8AM.”  After the finger tapping exercise, Vedder waggishly exclaimed, “Good morning, campers!”)  However, while McCready is a stellar guitarist by mainstream, post-eighties standards (and is probably the best musician in the band, with the possible exception of their current drummer, Matt Cameron, formerly of Soundgarden), he is not Edward Van Halen in technical skills.  I suspect that listening to a playback of the performance would reveal the band’s limitations; perhaps there is a limit to diversity.  The band of all trades is a master of few.  Saturday night ended perfectly with 1993's "Indifference" including the new lyric, "I won't change direction, but I might change my mind" (it was, "I won't change direction, and I won't change my mind").  It is a sensible change that does not undercut the song's uncompromising theme.
                Sunday night was more jocose.  Gene Simmons, a seminal influence on the band, was in attendance with his son (Vedder acknowledged him from the stage in the concert’s final moments). Vedder played more guitar (and more Pete Townshend windmills), Stone Gossard played more lead guitar, and the band performed more covers (particularly Pink Floyd covers, for whatever reason).  (It is unlikely that Vedder could drink anymore wine than he had the previous night, though, and this is troubling for those who hope he can continue to preserve his voice.)  My vantage point shifted from the reserved seating area near the back of the floor to the first row behind the stage (one of the best seats in the house).  It is fascinating to watch this band and their crew from behind the stage.  From the back of the floor, not much besides Lighting Director Kille Knobel’s lights is visible without the aid of video screens (her multicolored lights remind the viewer that one is viewing a state-of-the-art arena rock concert—they contrast with the near-chaotic flux of audibles and improvisations that often comprise the aural aspects of the show).  (The only criticism of the lights: a repeated, rather puerile effect in which some of the more recognizable profane lyrical outbursts--e.g., "seemed a harmless, little fuck"--are highlighted and emphasized by intense white or yellow lights.  I do not know if this is lighting director or band's decision, but whoever is responsible--ultimately the latter--should know better.)  One row behind the stage, one can see the focused chemistry that Vedder, McCready, second guitarist Gossard, and bass guitarist (and upright bassist) Jeff Ament have developed over twenty-two years of touring (more recent additions Cameron and keyboardist Kenneth “Boom” Gaspar have integrated themselves admirably over the last fifteen years and ten years, respectively).  One can see the crew sedulously switching, tuning, and maintaining the instruments as well as Vedder’s lyric cheat sheets.  (The temperamental Vedder, visibly disgusted, tossed an apparently out-of-tune 12-string acoustic guitar at one of the beleaguered techs—I think his name is Scully—during the new song “Sirens.”)  And one can see the devotion of the fans on the other side of the stage, with signs emblazoned with song requests to requests for the band to perform an Israel to appreciation for “Matt Fucking Cameron.”  For this spectator, it is the best view in the house.  From the metaphysical bliss of “Oceans” to rarely performed songs like “Amongst the Waves” (some members of the band obviously went surfing earlier in the day) and the paean to idealism “No Way” to the closing celebration of “Rockin’ in the Free World” (played with the house lights on), it was more of a celebration than the previous show.  Exceptions?  The dolorous “Daughter” (with its improvised Pink Floyd vocal tag) was one.  (Fascinatingly, Vedder sang, “Preacher, leave those kids alone,” proving that he can change Roger Waters’s lyrics as much as his own.)  They covered Pink Floyd often: some of “Interstellar Overdrive” led into “Corduroy” earlier (as it occasionally does), and a rarer, fuller rendition of “Mother” was a highlight of the first encore.  The first encore of the second night was the highlight of the weekend.  Vedder mourned the loss of his friend Lou Reed prior to a solo electric rendition of The Velvet Underground’s “After Hours.”  That was immediately followed by the gentle, new “Sleeping By Myself,” with Vedder on ukulele (it could have used Ament’s upright bass, but, if my memory and notes serve, he played a Fender on this one).  Earlier in the evening, McCready’s “Even Flow” solo was sui generis, as always (the classic was omitted the previous night); “Daughter”’s solo is more embalmed (and he just about did it justice).  The anthemic “Given to Fly” (described as “a fairy tale” the previous night) and “Porch” returned (the latter in its familiar spot at the close of the first encore), with green lamps suspended from the odd lighting rig (it resembled a junkyard midden)  and a frontman swinging from one of them.
                At the top of the second encore, the band graciously played a song for the rear-stage audience: their overrated cover of Wayne Cochran’s “Last Kiss” (it was still welcomed).  Cameron stood behind a tiny kit, Vedder stood behind him on the drum riser, and the three guitarists joined the drummer.  After they returned to the front, an uncommon and uncommonly passionate cover of The Who’s “Love, Reign O’er Me” was a highlight of the second encore, Vedder's wine-soaked voice still soaring and intact (for now).
                In an Endarkenment, it is easy for the few who understand that it is an Endarkenment to turn to despair.  It can also be difficult to enjoy and cherish the pockets of enlightenment that continue to exist (especially if many of them are tinctured with elements of endarkenment themselves).  Perhaps the entire rock genre will be seen, in hindsight, as a mistake by a more civilized, rational culture.  As long as it is still here, however, and as long as the culture is amoral, cynical, and amateurish, and slipshod, few Pearl Jam fans are more thankful for the band’s flourishing, resilience, integrity, melody, and idealism (however misplaced it sometimes is) than this one.

Jeffrey Falk
Somewhere in the City of Los Angeles
Thanksgiving, 2013

Pearl Jam
Los Angeles Sports Arena
Los Angeles
Saturday, November 23, 2013
2013 Tour (for Lightning Bolt)

Long Road
Lightning Bolt
Mind Your Manners
Why Go
Got Some
Do the Evolution
I Got ID
State of Love and Trust
Spin the Black Circle

Yellow Moon
All or None
Come Back
I Believe in Miracles
Given to Fly

Unthought Known
Baba O'Riley

Pearl Jam
Los Angeles Sports Arena
Los Angeles
Sunday, November 24, 2013
2013 Tour (for Lightning Bolt)

Low Light
Present Tense
Interstellar Overdrive
Lightning Bolt
Amongst the Waves
My Father's Son
Given to Fly
Swallowed Whole
Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town
Future Days
Even Flow
Do the Evolution
Mind Your Manners
No Way

Better Man/Save It For Later
Daughter/Another Brick In the Wall Part II
After Hours
Sleeping By Myself

Last Kiss
Unthought Known
Love, Reign O'er Me
Rockin' in the Free World

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Rare Perspectives of Best Coast

Thanks to fortuitous luck (and some sedulous attention to and use of a popular social networking site I call “the f-word”), I had an estimable opportunity to see the inestimable Best Coast perform a set (twice) for a forthcoming television broadcast yesterday.
                Since I do not have cable and do not watch much television, I am unfamiliar with KCET’s program Artbound.  Yesterday’s performance (or parts of it) will apparently air on the program in about a month.
                Best Coast is difficult to describe (if a picture really is worth a thousand words, than a recording must have comparable value, and, in this age of YouTube, Spotify,  and the rest of the Internet, recordings are less than a dime a dozen).  Frontwoman and songwriter Bethany Cosentino sounds somewhat like the offspring of The Ventures and Dusty Springfield.  She and her collaborator (and ex-boyfriend?) Bobb Bruno evidently identify with more recent artists like their touring partners Green Day and No Doubt (relatively decent by today’s standards, for sure, but Best Coast are better than they—refreshingly anachronistic in their own contemporary fashion).  In the studio, Best Coast is Cosentino (vocalist, rhythm guitarist, and songwriter) and Bruno (multi-instrumentalist).  On stage, they are joined by a rhythm section.  [This rhythm section may have played on their forthcoming EP, Fade Away (Jewel City), which drops Tuesday.]
                After an interminable series of waits at KCET’s Borebank studio, a votary ushered me and roughly fifteen other spectators into a spacious, two-story room (a window overlooked the up-stage right area where staffers looked down on all of us off and on) that had the look and feel of an empty mini-warehouse while the stage quartet finished a soundcheck.  (I have been unable to identify the performing rhythm section.)  After expecting to hear the forthcoming EP in its entirety, the band actually performed most of it (with a few catalog highlights interspersed among the new material).  A director (?) had informed us that the band would perform their set twice and discuss the new songs in between performances.  (It worked out that way, more or less, though the surprisingly reticent Cosentino opted to skip most of the talking.)
                The band’s equipment was relatively spartan (though they have a fair amount of effects for an “indie” band, with three amply-accoutered pedal boards).  A standard, diminutive four-piece “indie” drum kit stood at the back of the room with a reproduction of the cover of the band’s second album and the letter’s C.C. (the drummer’s initials?) covering the bass drum head.  One seven-song setlist (see below) was taped next to Cosentino’s effects rack; the band proceeded to play it twice (in a slightly different order).  One lone microphone stood in front (the layered, multi-tracked vocals of their recordings are lost live).  Each non-drummer had a few electric string instruments on revolving stands (not all of which were used).  This reporter was struck by the shabbiness of the instruments (a Squire bass guitar is taking the “back to basics” aesthetic a bit too far), but this band massages opulent, smooth sounds out of their shabby, ragged instruments.
                The band and studio crew sorted out some technical difficulties which delayed proceedings even more (“This is like a real Best Coast show,” Cosentino quipped).  After an ostentatious off-camera announcement from the director-figure (only the musicians and a roving camera operator appeared on camera), the band started “This Lonely Morning,” the first track on the forthcoming release.  Cosentino strummed her favored black Silvertone guitar (as she would for most of the sets) while Bruno played textured, reverb-drenched leads and fills with his Ibanez Gibson Thunderbird copy.  The vocals were drowned out by the instruments (especially Bruno’s guitar and the drums) in the live feed (hopefully that will be corrected for broadcast).  Consequently, the listening experience reminded heterogeneous music fan (viz., this one) of  the instrumental mix of “I Get Around” on The Beach Boys’ box set (or the recording of the monitor mix of KISS’s November 15, 1975 Rockford, IL concert that circulates in the circles of fans with too much time on their hands).  Paul Williams (the Crawdaddy founder, not the songwriter) noted of the former that it sounds like a different song from the one most are familiar with, or at least that instrumental aspects and musical motives are apparent that were subtle (or unnoticeable) previously.  While I was hearing the new songs for the first time, I thought of Williams’s observation when I heard the old(er) songs from this fascinatingly skewed perspective.  Next was the strikingly titled (and written) “Fear of My Identity” (I think this was the tune with the line “I want it to be you but I know that it’s me”—I could not take notes during the taping).  Then, Cosentino introduced a song for the first time by informing the tiny audience that they were about to play the title track from their new EP.
                Bruno traded his Ibanez for an Evolution for “The Only Place,” the title track to their second album (Mexican Summer, 2012).  Cosentino the vocalist worked assiduously to project her lone live voice over the guitars, bass, and drums.  It was a different experience from the doubled (and tripled?) harmonies of the album, but she should be commended for eschewing canned backgrounds for the sparse immediacy of a more live sound.
                Cosentino didn’t talk much (especially during the first set) and looked somewhat uncomfortable in front of the cameras, but the sound of the performance betrayed none of that.  She did tersely note that the next song was about breaking up before starting “I Wanna Know” (also new).  The band followed that one with their best-known song, “Boyfriend” (the leadoff track from their 2010 Mexican Summer debut Crazy for You), the lyrics or which perhaps do betray its writer’s insecurities (and the drum intro of which sounds like it is straight out of Springsteen’s “Badlands”—apposite enough as the song is a self-conscious young woman’s badlands).
                For the final song, all three of the frontline members switched instruments (two of them for the first time).  Cosentino traded her Silvertone for what looked like a cream-colored Telecaster copy (the headstock did not have a logo).  Bruno picked up a bass guitar (he apparently plays all of the bass lines on the recordings).  The bass player picked up a big Ventura hollow body (which clashed somewhat with the song, most of which was rather raucous).  “I Don’t Know How” iterates much of Cosentino’s strengths and weaknesses as a writer in a few short minutes.  It is notably (almost mind-numbingly) repetitive (she is a child of her times in that regard), but it has a clever, unorthodox structure that throws a monkeywrench into the standard songwriting formula.
                Before the second runthrough, the director asked Cosentino to discuss the songs at length the second time around.  “You mean VH1 Storytellers style?”  She evidently was not keen on that idea.  “I’ll feel it out and see how awkward I feel.”  She was slightly more gregarious during the second set.  But only slightly.
                The not so fearless foursome adroitly performed the songs again to the same level of satisfaction with the same component of instruments.  The performances were much the same: Cosentino plucked rhythm guitar; Bruno played his textured leads (there were no solos); the bass player was a bass player; and the drummer attacked his diminutive set with a fierce backbeat and quick fills that were slightly more dexterous than one might expect from a relatively simple band.  It was mellifluous, emotive, jangly surf pop, musically ear candy but lyrically meatier, the best of a bygone (and better) era with a millennial spin.  This time, Cosentino elaborated on “I Wanna Know”: “This is a song about breaking up with your boyfriend, and his name’s Bobb.  It’s about Bobb.”  Afterward (introducing “Boyfriend”): “That was about breaking up with your boyfriend.  This is about making someone your boyfriend.  And then breaking up with him, so you can write a song about that.  It’s about Bobb.  Actually, they’re all about Bobb.”  (If there is more than a little truth to the above, the two should be commended for continuing to work together so effectively.)
                Hopefully KCET will air an unedited performance of all seven songs.  And if you live on the “best coast” (and, specifically, the southern part of it), there are two opportunities to see the band early next week: they headline a benefit for the Los Angeles Animal Rescue Group at the Fonda Theatre  on Monday, October 21 and play at Ameoba Music in Hollywood the following evening.

Best Coast
KCET Studios
Burbank, CA
Friday, October 18, 2013

This Lonely Morning
Fear of My Identity
Fade Away
The Only Place
I Wanna Know
I Don't Know How
This Lonely Morning
Fear of My Idenity
Fade Away
The Only Place
I Wanna Know
I Don't Know How

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Jimmie Corrieri: In Memoriam

Jimmie Corrieri was one of a kind, and he helped found a one-of-a-kind band.  He died last night.  Like too many musicians and composers (sung and relatively unsung), he left us too soon, perhaps in his prime, but we still have the sui generis songs (integrations of learned lyrics and infectious rhythms) that he composed and impeccably performed.
                A few decades ago (around the time that the vinyl age ebbed and the digital age flowed), at New York University, the young guitarist and composer met the incomparable vocalist and lyricist (and actor) Steven Schub.  I was not fortunate enough to witness this monumental meeting of the minds (a fellow actor of Schub’s of some renown apparently was), but I would imagine their paring and partnership was as ineluctable as hydrogen and oxygen atoms combining to form water molecules.  It is incontestable that, soon enough, the two had formed The Fenwicks [“the world’s greatest (albeit only) Afro-Celtic-Yiddish ska band”]).  Within a few years (i.e., in 1994), with the support of Lynyrd Skynrd’s Artimus Pyle and other impressed industry luminaries, The Fenwicks released a debut disc, Member of No Tribe, on Guitar Acoustics (the label imprint of Guitar, a.k.a. Guitar for the Practicing Musician magazine).  It the title were not a dead giveaway, quotes from Ayn Rand and Victor Hugo adorned the disc’s liner notes, as well as this mission statement:
“The Fenwicks are an idea … hopefully its time has come.  The idea is basically this—The Fenwicks are an acoustic duo, expanded into a 6-man ska-funk-folk-punk amalgamation, with a self-imposed mission.  The mission? To create a sound as of yet unheard, one that can provoke the primal in you as well as the intellectual, to actually make you think and dance simultaneously, to put a thought in your head and a fire in your loins in one auditory swop.  To that end and for that purpose, here are a collection of songs that should keep you fueled and fighting for a lifetime.  Ultimately and obviously though, the songs have to speak for themselves, so we’ll just hush up now and let ‘em speak, shriek, scream and squeal….
“Obsessively and compulsively, in blood and fire,
“Steven Schub   Jimmie Corrieri
“p/k/a The Fenwicks”
                The duo’s notes speak for themselves, but to expound: The Fenwicks and their boisterous-but-serious songs are equal parts erudition and ecstasy, profundity and physicality, mind and body.  The band hypostasizes the integration of mind and body in a culture in which they are nearly universally sundered (as much as it is possible to flout a law of metaphysics).  While both songwriting partners necessarily embodied (and emminded) both halves of their mind-body whole, Corrieri’s deft-but-often-understated, puissant open chords often served as the organic, accessible “body” to Schub’s “mind.”  His propulsive, sometimes percussive, rhythmic acoustic attack (he often did attack those strings on stage, where they were often electric) was the galvanizing get-up-and-go that undoubtedly went a long way in rousing the less inhibited Fenwicks fans to dance, “skank,” and shimmy.  Corrieri rarely took a solo, but, with his adroit, complex approach to rhythms and chord progressions, he turned the dying art of rhythm guitar into a form of soloing.
                Due the busy schedules of the various members (and, likely, other factors), it took seven years to follow up Member of No Tribe.  I wasn’t there, either, but I’m sure the shibboleth about “being worth the wait” applies.  Eudamonia (Flip-Dog Discs) is named after Aristotle’s conception of integrated mental and physical health (or, happiness on Earth—as opposed to happiness postponed and tailored for his mentor Plato’s World of Forms).  It lives up to its name.  One of the reasons it lives up to its name is Jimmie Corrieri.  This time, he wrote lyrics to and sang a song: “Your Life.”  (His recorded voice has a direct and gentle quality.  This Fenwicks aficionado hopes to hear a live recording of the song someday.)
                Eudamonia is all well and good, but eudemonia (at least as a Fenwicks fan) is not attained without live Fenwicks.  I had the privilege to see them live (and heard their music for the very first time) at Hollywood’s Club Lingerie ten years ago.  
                In these years of monotony (and worse), most rock bands have degenerated into such facelessness and homogeneity that the individual members of Pink Floyd seem like paragons of personality and uniqueness.  Normally, Steven Schub would provide enough for an entire band, but The Fenwicks (not a normal band) didn’t need him for that.  Jimmie Corrieri’s typical (for him) suit and tie and constant, infectious smile were enough.  Jettisoning his studio acoustic for a gorgeous electric Rickenbacker (see the video below), he helped bring many of the songs from Eudamonia to more vivid life with the same enthusiastic physicality (palpable on stage) that is almost visible on the recordings: a meta-eudamonia.  Corrieri’s dulcet, ringing use of all six strings provided a more musical sound that many of today’s “nü metal” and grunge bands bludgeon out of their own cacophonous, droning, enervating racket.  But Corrieri’s axe, by contrast, was always colorful.  The sonic palette was broadened by the propulsive polyrhythms of the rhythm section (bassist Ed Richardson and drummer Ken Nasta) and the horn section (“The Horn Dogs”).  As I have noted before, I try to avoid the personal pratfalls of subjectivity when writing about live music, but, sometimes, nothing else quite substitutes.   I walked into Club Lingerie that night my usual isolated, taciturn, morose, glowering self.  By the time the frontman extracted his bright orange radiation helmet at the dawn of "My Luck," I was grinning like an Eloi philistine on his way to a new Wes Anderson film.  ("My Luck" has a haunting, bittersweet punchline that should be saved for another day.)  By (the epistemological) “Desert Rat,” I think I was even dancing (by my definition, anyway).  When the lights came up, I was talking again.  (Actually, I was asking manager Jonathan Boyer for the setlist below.)  I was a fan for life.  If anyone in the audience wasn’t, I would have checked his pulse.  And for those who were not there (or never saw them), they were selling their then-new live album Truth & Memory (Flip Dog Discs: recorded the previous year, 2002, at Arlene Grocery in New York).  I promptly bought one from Jonathan Boyer.  (Alas: seven more years would pass before I would make the acquaintance of one of the performers.)
                Jimmie Corrieri and The Fenwicks never received anywhere near the respect and approbation they earned and commanded (he and they are, in many ways, a ska analogue of a certain melodiousmetal band with a monumental guitarist and composer who also died far too soon).  But they did attract a devoted following of discerning music fans.  And their work survives, and you should obtain it and listen to it (and, if you are so inclined, dance) if you have not already.  On those three albums (and especially on Truth & Memory), Jimmie Corrieri lives.