Friday, May 8, 2015

Iron Doves, The Narrator, and The Skintones -- Rocket Bar, June 4, 2004

Maybe it was the pints of coffee that the fine folks at Rocket Bar supplied me with in lieu of al-key-hol. Maybe it was the fact that The Skintones were just a trio of cheesy-ball slobs playing sleazy rock ‘n’ roll with some obvious influences ranging from Girls Against Boys and Speedealer. Or maybe it was just the fact that vocalist/guitarist Pete “P-Ray” Ress was wearing white leather shoes not unlike those Randy Quaid gave Chevy Chase in National Lampoon’s Vacation. The bottom line was I really liked the Skintones, despite part of me saying, “How can you like these goofballs?” Skintones preceded their set with the humorous countdown of, “Twenty-one seconds to rock down. Three seconds to rock down!: Their set unfolded with punctuating rock kicks and plenty of goat horn hand gestures. Satan would have been very proud. Guilty pleasure that they are, the Skintones were a fine start to the evening.

The Narrator’s debut EP Youth City Fire frankly doesn’t do the band justice compared to their sound and presence in a live setting. Playing intricate and varying post-punk described by their label as “Trail of Dead cemented in Pavement,” the kids in the Narrator were eerily gelled as a unit. While each member appeared to be zoned in a world of their own, their sound never faltered. Guitarist and vocalist Sam Axelrod climbed on top of the Galaga video game to the left of the stage. Bassist James Barron and guitarist Jesse Woghin turned their backs to the audience for long portions of the set. Overall, the Narrator had an air of confident perfectionism. This was illustrated after the set when Axelrod mused that he wasn’t pleased with their performance due to a broken guitar string. If that makes for a bad set, then I’d like to see them when they’re dead on. Keep an eye on these guys; they’ve got something special going.
I can’t imagine something more annoying for a musician than being in a successful band in your early years, and having that band later become a benchmark for which every new outfit you play in is judged against. Iron Doves members Dan Campbell and Brian Marshall (formerly of the very successful Back of Dave) know this feeling all too well. While Marshall was relatively inactive, Campbell went on to join Five Deadly Venoms, Keyop, and Asia Minor. Of Campbell’s new bands, Back of Dave comparisons would inevitably be brought up in private conversations among friends. “Well, they aren’t Back of Dave–ish enough.” Or “When Five Deadly Venoms got their second guitar player, their material was a lot more Back of Dave–like.” While BOD have played few shows since their breakup, the band’s shadow continues to linger over the heads of all of the principal players.

Well, guess what? Iron Doves sound nothing like BOD or Keyop or Asia Minor or Five Deadly Venoms, and amen to that brothers and sisters, because they rock in a totally different way.

Iron Doves are not emo; they are not post-punk or indie rock. Iron Doves are a Sabbath-influenced rock band and they do bring the rock mightily. With Campbell on guitar and vocals, Marshall on that four-string thingy, and Lynn Sipole on drums, the Doves created tunes that rumble with tons of meat and muscle. While it is true that they are more metal than any of the aforementioned defunct outfits, I wouldn’t consider them metal. Their set was brief, but it left me wanting more. Back of Dave? Who is this Back of Dave you speak of? 

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