The Lost Sounds: A Doomed Broadcast from Deep Space
These days, scores of bands seem to be falling all over themselves in variously successful attempts to resurrect the twitchy skinny-tie vibe that was New Wave music. Yep, it's true. Punk's perky little brother is hip again. And the Lost Sounds, from Memphis, find that bothersome.
"Ninety-nine percent of the bands that are trying to be 'New Wave' right now are a bunch of emo kids who got New Order records," explains Jay Reatard, who trades keyboard, guitar and vocal duties with co-LS frontperson Alicja Trout. "It's a little bit irritating to us. We were never trying to be a New Wave band or anything. We are influenced just as much by Norwegian metal as we are New Wave music."
Not that 'Wave associations are unwarranted when it comes to the Lost Sounds, perhaps the most bizarre musical combine in recent memory to crawl out of the cradle of rock and roll. However, their debut CD, Memphis Is Dead, casts a long, dark shadow over today's retro dance party of asymmetrical haircuts and wrap-around shades. The band nurtures a dark, corrosive experimentalism, tinny prog notions dressing up punk rock's self-destructive impulse. Spooky analog keyboards chill death-ray blasting guitars. Half-alive vocals beam in from deep space, then rage like the undead rocketing from the crypt. The structural dialectic going on with the Lost Sounds is, if anything, not very nice.
"I feel like what we're doing is a lot more evil than all those disco dance New Wave bands everyone wants to be in right now," says Reatard. His former band, the Reatards, was known for primo rage and unfettered garage-punk fury. With the Lost Sounds, things have just gotten nastier.
"I'd say it's more hateful than the Reatards or any other band I've done. The Reatards was, like, more surface hate. You know, 'I'm-pissed-off-at-you.' I feel like the Lost Sounds is stepping back and not just looking at a girl or somebody and stepping back and saying, 'Yeah, everything's fucked up, so who cares.'"
But is Memphis dead?
"Well," says Reatard, "I went to the Elvis candlelight vigil last night and it looked like it was alive. I suppose. Memphis just lives in a vacuum. It's a weird place. The heat, the poverty, it just seems to keep everybody just one step above being dead, like being a vegetable that just walks around. Everybody is just...blehhhh. They can't be inspired to do anything."
Not so with the Lost Sounds. Where most bands have only rekindled a trite nostalgia gimmick, the Lost Sounds explore a bold new frontier in techno primitivism. Take their new double LP, to be released next month on Empty US. Frankly, the name says it all.
"It's kind of cheesy," says Jay. "It's called Black Wave. Like it's our genre of music we're arrogant enough to think we've created." Sam Dodge Soule
The Lost Sounds play Friday, Aug. 24, at Dante's, 1 SW 3rd Ave., 226-6630. Fireballs of Freedom, King Louie and Starantula also appear. 9 pm. Cover.
AN EXTRA HELPING OF CREAMY MUSIC NEWS
Hiss & Vinegar
On a sunny August afternoon, all seems right at Ozone Records, the record store on the corner of Southwest 11th Avenue and West Burnside Street. A dozen customers rummage through Ozone's teeming assortment of indie rock, punk, electronic, experimental, hip-hop and genres yet unnamed.
Open Ozone's sticker-crusted front door, though, and you see trouble brewing not 20 yards away. There's the Brewery Blocks project, an ambitious transformation of the old Weinhard brewery into upscale housing and retail. With this development pushing rents in the neighborhood upward, Ozone owners Janel Jarosz and Bruce Greif announced this week that the store will close when its current lease expires at the end of January.
"It's very sad news," says Greif. "We had a good deal here, but with the changes to the neighborhood, property taxes have gone up." As a result, say Greif and Jarosz, rent at the prime street-corner location, in a building with an assessed value of $353,970, was set to ratchet up significantly.
Ozone came into being in February 1993, when Jarosz's previous store Ooze merged with Greif's Outer Limits. In the near-decade since, the store has survived the alternative boom/bust, the rise of hip-hop and electronic music and the never-ending Balkanization of the independent music market.
"When we first started, we had about five genres we dealt with," says Greif. "Now all the genres have splintered into a million different directions. It's a challenge, but it's also part of what's cool about owning a record store. You get to watch those changes happen."
Both owners say they might seek a new location, or perhaps just go their separate ways. Jarosz runs an indie label, Wicked Witch Records; Greif just had a kid.
"The '90s were great," says Jarosz. "But things are changing in this town and in the music scenes. It's a good time for us both to do something different."
"This is a great time to shop here," adds Jarosz. "We're pulling out all the old, weird stuff from the basement. There's going to be some great stuff for sale here, and we're going full-steam to the end."
"Our attitude is, for the next six months we are Ozone Records, and we're not going to compromise," says Greif. "And then, come January, it's party time."
COPS STILL PROBING RAVE DEATH.
When 19-year-old Melissa Flaherty collapsed and died after a rave at a Southeast Portland warehouse in March, it sparked a wave of media furor over Portland's electronic-music scene. While that uproar has died down, questions surrounding Flaherty's death haven't faded.
As a brief item in the Crime Stoppers column of the Aug. 9 issue of The Oregonian attests, Portland homicide cops are soliciting tips regarding Flaherty's death. The O item states that Flaherty "died of an overdose of the drug ecstasy." While the term "ecstasy" is almost universally applied to the chemical MDMA, Flaherty's autopsy report actually attributes her death to an overdose of MDA, a more potent, related chemical.
Detective Mike Larson of the Portland police's homicide squad says his investigation centers on efforts to reconstruct Flaherty's movements the night she died. "We don't know at this point if there's any criminal culpability," Larson says. "We want to know who she was with and what she was doing, and there's about an hour of her time that's unaccounted for." Larson asks anyone who had contact with Flaherty the night of her death to call the Portland Police Bureau at 823-0457.
In related news, someone is circulating an anonymous flier attacking Northwest Rock Medicine, the organization that provided first-aid services at the March rave. The flier claims that the 6-year-old organization is under investigation for negligence in Flaherty's death. Seth Grant, the medic who leads Rock Med, says the flier is likely the work of a disgruntled former member of the organization. Det. Larson says that Rock Med is not a focus of his investigation of Flaherty's death.
A STRING CHEESE "INCIDENT": UNKIND WORDS BACKSTAGE AT JAM-ROCK FEST.
Thousands of mystic questers and merry pranksters gathered at Horning's Hideout two weekends back for the String Cheese Incident Summer Camp, a three-day jam-rock festival organized by Portland's Peak Experience Productions. Despite the good vibe promoters aimed at, though, not all was happiness and light.
After one of the half-dozen sets they played during the gathering, members of Colorado's String Cheese Incident could be heard furiously harshing each others' mellows backstage. Bass player Keith Mosely seemed a little ticked at guitar player Bill Nershi over the choice of Friday night's encore. Nershi responded with the exquisitely insensitive "Kyle (Hollingsworth, the band's keyboardist) and I agreed, and that's what counts!"
Mosely was then conspicuously absent from the band's Saturday night set. No further details on the "incident" were available at press time.
Last week's Hiss & Vinegar incorrectly stated that tonight's performance by 30 Odd Foot of Grunts, a band fronted by Australian movie star Russell Crowe, was sold out. At press time, tickets were still available. H&V regrets the error.