Music News


I've never thought of ex-Pink Floyd leader Roger Waters as the nicest guy. Maybe it's all those bombastic songs delivered through clenched teeth in a voice reminiscent of a monocle-wearing SS officer. But at his performance in West Palm Beach June 4, he showed off a sweet side by paying respect to the band's original figurehead, Syd Barrett.

For anyone in the crowd who wasn't aware that Floyd's famous songs "Wish You Were Here" and "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" are, in fact, about Barrett, Waters (with a background projection reminiscent of a scrapbook) made it obvious that the acid casualty is still missed three decades after he was evicted from Pink Floyd. Barrett now lives with his mom in Cambridge, England, hasn't made a record or a public appearance since 1971, and spends most of his time painting. Kids, don't listen to the line about Barrett suffering from some undisclosed mental illness -- the guy fried his brain by dropping too much LSD. Remember: Take only what you can handle, and ALWAYS KNOW YOUR DEALER.

If you read last week's column, you'll know that local CD releases too often suffer from a lack of inventiveness and originality. We hold accountable the heat, Florida's educational system, guitar teachers who admire James Taylor, and above all Jimmy Buffett for poisoning our musical landscape. But it's not all thistles and cow pies left behind. Young Eric Alexandrakis from Miami is fighting the good fight, as evidenced by his new recording, I.V. Catatonia.

I.V. Catatonia comes packaged in a white cardboard box that looks capable of holding about half a pizza. Inside the box is a small arsenal of medical equipment, including an ID bracelet, gauze pad, tongue depressor, tourniquet, syringe, thermometer, surgical mask and gloves, and the like. Why? Evidently Alexandrakis avoided being placed in a box himself after nearly succumbing to Hodgkin's disease -- a nasty form of lymphatic cancer -- back in 1998. I.V. Catatonia is a musical play-by-play account of his yearlong illness and recovery.

Alexandrakis' tough sledding has, not surprisingly, made for some fairly abrasive music: the title track, for example, is shot through with genuinely unnerving screams. There's a ton of weird "instruments" like church bells, cuckoo clocks, popcorn tins, and so forth. Bagpipes, motorcycles, and an out-of-tune piano race through "The Big Crunch Theory," along with answering machine messages. On one song Alexandrakis' mom's admonition to "take your vitamins, please" is looped à la Steve Reich's minimalist mantra "It's Gonna Rain." Most often he accompanies himself on a heavily treated guitar that sounds like it's fighting an immune-system battle itself.

"Ill" produces a queasy, uneasy feeling as Alexandrakis' voice rises and falls. Not frequently enough, the music transcends the hospital room and shape-shifts into some beautiful, brief passages, like the luscious, orchestral "Good Riddance," and the ambient sitz bath of "Spaceport Cabaret." Several of the more pastoral, acoustic numbers of I.V. Catatonia's 22 selections bear more than a passing resemblance to the stylings of Robert Schneider frofychedelic popsters Apples in Stereo. That's not a bad thing, and it's the only readily available comparison for an artist as idiosyncratic and unique as Alexandrakis.

He recorded I.V. Catatonia at home -- between frequent cancer treatments -- on a borrowed four-track recorder. As such, the songs often feel like Alexandrakis has been draining his sickbed diary into them. The album artwork includes a few cautionary slogans, such as "Never Trust an Old Lady With One Eye Staring at You" and "Never Fear a Bald Woman at All." This advice doesn't make much sense but sounds worth heeding regardless. And even though there's precious little information available there, it's a lot of fun to visit

I.V. Catatonia puts forth a darkly humorous, detached, almost aloof view of sickness and near-death. Alexandrakis' attitude veers between exhaustion and elation. By the time the disc is over and you've perused all the documents and knickknacks that come with I.V. Catatonia, you'll know a helluva lot more about the lymphatic system than you did going in. That's a promise. (Y&T Records, 305-386-2486)

Fear for all: The International Extreme Music Festival pays an extremely loud visit to the Culture Room Tuesday night. Recommended only for the strong of heart, this festival promises an evening of entertainment both compelling and repellent. Scheduled acts include Dismember, Kataklysm, Krisiun, Shadows Fall, Azazel, and Hibernus Mortis. The majority of the groups, interestingly enough, hail from the city of Gothenberg, Sweden.

Count on hearing endless hours of scary Scandinavian death-metal, but don't confuse it with the even scarier black metal from nearby Norway -- those are the dudes who go around burning churches and so forth. Our Swedish pals are merely making albums like Massive Killing Capacity (that's the new one from Dismember), and Conquerors of Armageddon, Krisiun's most recent basket of joy. Tickets are $10, $12 at the door, though chances are if you bring a pet bunny along they'll give you some sort of a discount. It's just a guess, but we'll wager that these guys' definition of "extreme" varies substantially from the folks who make those Mountain Dew commercials.

On Saturday, June 16, you can a enjoy considerably less confrontational evening of music; namely, jazz in an tranquil setting. Duffy Jackson and His Band make an appearance at the Anne Kolb Nature Center in Hollywood as part of the center's Jazz at the Mangrove series.

On the 16th and 17th, Randy McAllister returns to the Bamboo Room in Lake Worth. Texas bluesman McAllister is blessed with a sense of humor and an ability to sidestep modern blues' tendency to paint itself into a corner. With his deep, 55-gallon voice, blazing harmonica work, and his trusty snare drum, McAllister never falls victim to the lazyitis that infects so much blues these days. Instead of boring old tales about losing one's job, wife, and dog, McAllister dives into the troubled lives of real people and usually emerges with stories worth telling. Witty, funny works like his recent Grease, Grit, Dirt and Spit album updates the stale roadhouse motif admirably -- and it sounds even better with barbecue.

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Jeff Stratton
Contact: Jeff Stratton