The Expectations of a Common Word…
Murder by Death
April 4th 2008
The Bowery Ballroom
Many shows have a consistency to them. It is typical that bands chosen for the lineup exist in the same sphere of style as one another. The Murder by Death show last Friday night was no exception. Yet the show underscored how artists that have similar components, influences, and style still produce different qualities of music. I was very excited to see Murder by Death. I do not enjoy their last two albums but I hoped to hear a few standards from their earlier work on Like the Exorcist, but More Breakdancing and Who Will Survive, and What Will Be Left of Them?. While I was not denied this opportunity, I was sadly disappointed by their performance. This show was all about expectations. What one would suppose would be a perfect pairing, turned out to be a bust. Murder by Death and O’Death, what could be better?
As for Kiss Kiss, I had no expectations for them. They set up their gear, played a fairly bland set, and then scurried along. Their hardcore distortions, violin, and synthesizers had all the makings of a fine zombie rock experience, but their Castlevania shtick, though cool in concept, didn’t mesh well with Joshua Benash’s power pop vocals. It wasn’t an excruciating first act to sit through, but no one likes to unwittingly walk into a My Chemical Romance show, thanks again Eyeball Records.
O’Death’s reputation is only exceeded by their actual performance. As they thumped into a psychotic Appalachian episode, the center of the crowd began flinging and throwing themselves into one-another. The romping and stomping looked and felt less like a mosh pit and more like a pagan festival, the majority of violence being committed by a group of skinny girls. The more brut-like characters in the crowd were only too happy to comply. Soon enough the entire audience was arm-in-arm, swirling up close and personal into a salacious hoedown. With their energy and style, O’Death certainly tops the list of bands to see in 2008.
Murder by Death’s loss of Vincent Edward and Alex Schrodt was the loss of the very elements that made the band worth listening to. Sure Murder by Death’s Americana appeal was something to be heard, but it was the contrast between their electronic fuzz beats with the organic tones of the cello and guitars that elevated the music. Adam Turla’s vocal were more aggressive and pointed before the loss of their percussionist and keyboardist. It is clear that they wanted a change of direction. The band reshaped itself to exploit Turla’s Johnny Cash drawl and adopted a rockabilly persona that unfortunately tramples all over the experimental qualities that made them relevant. Murder by Death receded into the blasé, they resigned to worthlessness and typicality, provoking the multitudes that once grinned at the clever nuances of I’m Afraid of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf to balk and confront the music with a resounding “So What!”