GROOVIN' ON UP: Back when I was a wee University of Arizona student, all my hippie friends used to get really excited at the prospect of Major Lingo making a Tucson appearance. And while I liked the Grateful Dead as much as the next patchouli-reeking, Guatemalan clothes-wearing, VW bus-driving seeker, I also thought that the majority of the then just-natal jam band scene was merely a bunch of meandering wankers looking for the elusive groove to lock into. Whereas the Dead had the chops to occasionally meander, because you knew they'd always emerge virtually unscathed back into said groove, most of the amateurs were in way over their heads--just 'cause you've seen Jerry and the boys 60-something times doesn't mean you can play like them. But, alas, Major Lingo did indeed stand apart from the hacks.
Begun all the way back in 1983, Lingo was the first band that I remember seeing that successfully merged a variety of world beat musical forms with the now-ubiquitous jam band aesthetic. And true to its self-described "beats for heads and feet," the band was extremely danceable while injecting a little more substance than your average let's-see-how-fast-we-can-make-'em-spin practitioners.
Cut to 2000: I hadn't heard a note from Major Lingo for about a decade--that is, until its brand-new disc, Pagan Moon (self-released, as are its other numerous recordings), floated across my desk. Though the disc showcases a band that has retained the core of its original lineup (only the drummer has changed over its 17-year existence), it also shows how much a band can grow if it decides to stick it out.
After a brief symphonic introduction, ML rips into "Thousand Songs," wherein the distorted guitar blaze approximates the difference between the Dead's "(That's It For) The Other One" and Pavement's "Two States," juxtaposed with Sally Stricker's half-speed ethereal Middle Eastern-inspired vocals lilting over it all. ML follows this up with the country ditty "Reason," buoyed by a jaunty little slide guitar part--courtesy of multi-instrumentalist Tony Bruno--and some fine boy-girl vocal harmonies.
The oddest moment comes courtesy of the new wave "No Time For Pottery," which is reminiscent of vintage Oingo Boingo. And longtime Lingo lovers won't be disappointed either, as the band sticks closely to its roots on the reggae-inflected "No Key," the seven-and-a-half minute slow burner "Oblivion," and the angular ska-based dance-happy "Pagan Moon."
The band's lyrics have always been its weakest link, and while they are still occasionally wince-inducing, they've improved markedly over the years. My advice is to not try too hard to understand what it is they're saying, and just admire them for their versatility. And for God's sake, just get yer groove on--that's what these guys are all about, after all.
Catch Major Lingo at 9 p.m. on Saturday, July 29, at Nimbus Brewery, 3850 E. 44th St. Cover charge is $4, and you can call 745-9175 for more information.
RIDING THE WAVE: Scott Stanton was a professional skateboarder in Florida--corporate sponsorships 'n' all--before he had a really bad wipeout, landing directly on his face, breaking his nose. While recovering he decided to put his skating career behind him and start a band.
Not just any band, mind you. No, Stanton would reinvent himself as a pseudo cult leader--Causey--who spouts hyperbolic nonsense about, well, something, and to back him up he'd gather a crew of non-musicians (with the exception of the drummer, who also pounds the skins for Man or Astroman? and Servotron). He wouldn't have shows or gigs; he'd have "services." His band wouldn't play a brand of punk rock that is highly infused with surf rock and new wave overtones that would garner it comparisons to Dead Kennedys, Devo, and Man or Astroman?; it would play "pulpit punk" and "New Testament Wave."
They'd call this band The Causey Way, and its first EP, released on Put It On A Cracker Records, would be titled WWCD (i.e. What Would Causey Do?). Oh, and just to make sure everyone was certain, they'd issue bumper stickers with the motto, "The Causey Way Is Not A Cult." They'd go on to get signed to Jello Biafra's Alternative Tentacles Records for their first full-length release, With Loving And Open Arms, which showcases a band that, indeed, sounds like a three-way collision of the aforementioned bands, with Causey's Jello/Buzzcocks/Black Francis/helium-drenched vocal cords commandeering the proceedings. And they would go on to win over fans, congregation members, if you will, night by night, room by room, one town at a time, filling them with love and warm, fuzzy feelings.
Nikes are optional, but I'd stay the hell away from the Kool Aid if I were you. Learn how to do it The Causey Way at 9 p.m. on Tuesday, August 1, at Solar Culture, 31 E. Toole Ave. Local surf rockers Zero To Sixty will open the all-ages show, which will set you back five bucks. Questions? Call 884-0874.
FLAMENCO WITH FLAIR: Anyone who caught one of Fresno, Calif.'s Cerro Negro shows at the now-sadly-defunct Plaza Pub was witness to something truly special: Guitarists Shane Gonzalez and Frank Giordano along with percussionist and vocalist John Martin transcend the usual modern flamenco-as-New-Age pap that many of today's practitioners push. Careful to stay true to flamenco's roots while adding an edge courtesy of jazz chords and percussion, they make flamenco and rumba accessible to people normally not interested in this type of thing, and even better, they do it without dumbing it down.
This time around Cerro Negro will be playing at Plaza Palomino, at Ft. Lowell and Swan Roads, which should provide the perfect ambiance for the show. This latest installment of the PP's Courtyard Concert Series will start at 8 p.m. on Saturday, July 29. Advance tickets are available for $14 at Hear's Music, The Folk Shop, Antigone Books, Brew & Vine and Enchanted Earthworks. They'll be $16 at the door. For more information or to charge tickets by phone call 297-9133.
ON THE SCENE: A couple more notable shows this week-- Chicago's Frisbie has just released its debut album, The Subversive Sounds of Love, on Hear Diagonally Records. Fans of Big Star and its ilk will be pretty-pleased at the band's sticky-sweet harmonious pop confections, which recall the heyday of AM rock radio. The band appears at 9 p.m. on Thursday, July 27, at 7 Black Cats, 260 E. Congress St. For details call 670-9202.
For those who just couldn't get enough Goldfinger or Dynamite Hack at KFMA Day earlier this summer, good news: The two bands pull back into town this week for a gig at the Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St., at 8 p.m. on Saturday, July 29. Advance tickets are $16 plus service charges, and are available at all Ticketmaster locations, by phone at 321-1000, or online at www.ticketmaster.com. For additional info call 798-3333.