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Jethro Tull: Can anyone name a single song these self-dubbed "old farts" have produced since the late '70s? Neither can anyone in this office. But the band (playing in Sunrise on Friday and Saturday nights), still under the stewardship of singer-flutist Ian Anderson and guitarist Martin Barre, keep pumping out albums on whatever tiny upstart label will have them; this summer saw the release of a new band project, J-Tull Dot Com, and an Anderson solo album, The Secret Language of Birds. Both were issued by a company called Fuel 2000 Records, and both go to great lengths to prove just how absurd Jethro Tull's 1988 Grammy victory was, when the group took home a trophy for Best Hard Rock/Metal performance. The two new recordings (especially Anderson's album) veer sharply toward the slumbering land of New Age.
Bandwidth recently spoke to Anderson, who, as author of the band's 1976 tune, "Too Old to Rock 'n' Roll, Too Young to Die," has some explaining to do. Anderson says that at a supple age 52, he's not that old and outs 57-year-old ex-Police guitarist Andy Summers as the true closet geriatric of rock.
"The inevitability of old age imposing itself on the practicalities of playing music for a living is something I've touched upon in a few songs," Anderson says. "The idea of being out of fashion or out of time are things I can point to, and I recognize some of those inevitabilities."
But as Jethro Tull enters its 33rd year, the group is touring more than ever, performing all over the globe, and still making albums. That does require the sort of stamina the Backstreet Boys may well lack.
"I feel very fortunate that I'm not a pop singer in a boy group who might have a fairly limited life. I'm lucky I'm not a football player or a tennis player, because my career would have been over 20 years ago. Luckily I'm the sort of musician who should be able to go on for a bit longer after the bones are too creaky to adequately play the flute or the voice has faded away into nothingness. Muddy Waters and Beethoven worked most of their old age, and some of us will be fortunate enough to do the same."
In other words expect the thin, ersatz trickle of Tull/Anderson releases to flow even as the nursing home beckons. Ever optimistic, Anderson had some interesting observations regarding the state of progressive rock, which he feels is alive and well. He even went to great lengths to outline just what constitutes the genre and mentions Depeche Mode, U2, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, and Radiohead as the progressive rock staples of their day. "I'm quite happy to be considered a progressive rock band," continues Anderson in his inimitable Scottish burr, "because my peers are not simply limited to a few years at the end of the '60s and the beginning of the '70s. It's over three or four decades."
Whatever, buddy. Today's Tull in the same league as Radiohead? See if you feel the same way after trying a few tracks from J-Tull Dot Com on for size -- they're about as progressive as Jimmy Swaggart's Guide to Dating.
What's with local bands flaking out lately? First, Bolting Like Michael's singer, James Austin, stopped showing up for the band's last few performances. At a FU*BAR show on Saturday, June 10, the band just played without him.
And at the Poor House on Tuesday the 13th, a modest crowd turned out for an anticipated appearance by local funketeers Hashbrown. But what they found was neither hash nor brown: the band's drummer was AWOL, and the rest of Hashbrown sat cooling heels outside, looking not pleased. But that attitude could have been a result of Bartow's Swamp Daddies' (how's that for an original handle?) attempt to deafen the building's occupants. Two guitars, a fiddle, and a harmonica don't have to be amplified with a thousand watts of power to fill the Poor House with the sound of down-home blues.
The music may have been good, but it would have been twice as good at half the volume. Then again, the violinist's attempt at an Elián joke -- delivered with an inappropriate Speedy Gonzalez accent and total lack of political correctness -- would have been better left back in Bartow.
But on the horizon looms hope. Rocking Horse Winner, a young quartet with its members' origins spread throughout Davie, Pembroke Pines, and Boca Raton, turned in an impressive set of songs Saturday, June 10, while opening for Ed Matus' Struggle in Fort Lauderdale. Turns out it was only the band's third performance, but what the group lacked in experience it more than compensated for with graceful, breezy pop songs reminiscent of the Sundays or Velocity Girl.
The band's focal point is a toothsome young woman with a soft, sympathetic voice. With minor-key guitars and mellow but surprisingly anthemic songs, Rocking Horse Winner was effortlessly musical. The result was easy to love but in a way that differs from almost everything else around here. Rocking Horse Winner is working on an album and expects to release a few songs next month through a Washington state label, Destined to Fail.
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