with National Anthem and the Tom Collins
The Star Bar, Atlanta, GA • January 19, 2000
At ten o’clock, the Star Bar was already half full, what gives? Normally, people around here don’t come to shows until midnight. Maybe that will change, since everyone at this show got to see a rare treat: a great opening band. The Flakes’ utilize two guitars and drums to build songs out of thin air. Their music, in conjunction with a randomly spliced film show, consists of a variety of sounds and moods. Though they create spontaneously, their “songs” actually have beats, not just cymbal crescendos, like most improv groups. It’s not jam rock. There is no blues whatsoever. Nor is there the annoying band member that can’t seem to stop soloing. All three guys cooperate for the sake of the final result. That result is something that is unexpected, unrepeatable, and very satisfying to see and hear. Unfortunately, their set was only 25 minutes long, but that will pay off next time they play, as most of the crowd wanted more.
In contrast, both National Anthem and the Tom Collins displayed virtually no creativity, relying on blues rock/pseudo-metal clichés. The dual lead guitars of the National Anthem mimicked the sound of early Alice Cooper records. It’s a good sound, but what’s the point? Some people probably think cock rock reached fruition with “Toys in the Attic,” but I think there is still new ground to cover in that genre, why not try it? Apparently this was the final appearance in Atlanta for these guys, as one of their guitarists is moving. Considering that the two guitars and bass play the same parts 90% of the time, I don’t see why losing one guitar is cause for break-up. The only logical answer is that the guy who’s leaving “writes” all of their material. Although I don’t approve of musical copycats, let me say that these guys really have their macho rock moves down, and are very good at playing their instruments…I just don’t get it.
The Tom Collins are guilty of the same sins that the National Anthem committed. I had heard that they sound exactly like Led Zeppelin. I heard right. Admittedly, I only saw the beginning of their set, but it was enough to convince me that the Zeppelin shtick is obvious and intentional. The drummer wailed on a replica of John Bonham’s invisible Ludwig drum set, for Christ’s sake. And I do mean wailed. The guitar and bass wailed, too. The point is this: painting by numbers can be fun, but it’s not art, and it requires no imagination. A year or so ago, I saw the guitarist do a solo performance in which he sang and played HEAVILY Syd Barrett-influenced songs. I heard he needs a flautist for his upcoming Jethro Tull cover band.