Monday, April 7, 2008

Carbon/Silicon


Hmmmm.....Looks like Mick Jones is phoning this one in.

So, there we were at the 9:30 Club, on the first soggy Sunday in April, knowing little about Carbon/Silicon but their new, full length CD, the catchy pop of "The Last Post," and not really being sure what to expect. The band's two more illustrious names, the Clash's Mick Jones, and Generation X alum Tony James, needed no introduction.

What I didn't know is that the band had been around for six years and several EPs released prior to that, all available from their website (www.carbonsiliconinc.com) as downloads, although now getting distribution via Amazon and other music services. Ex- Big Audio Dynamite bassist Leo "Eezykill" Williams, and drummer Dominic Greensmith made this eclectic combination sound far better live than the kind of tame, heavily produced CD would imply, but their sound leaned far more toward B.A.D. than its punkier ancestors. Still, sometimes there was an edge to the more contemporary, radio friendly selections as they did an hour or so of well-rehearsed songs in a fast-paced, upbeat and surprisingly sonorous set.

Matt Pond PA was an impressive opening act, and like some of the other talented opening acts I've seen over the years at the 9:30 Club (Elbow, Ohm, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals), I wouldn't be a bit surprised to see them headlining in the not-too-distant future. The band's sound is kind of hard to capture, but some tasty leads by guitarist Stephen Jewett, and punchy drumming by Dan Crowell, as well as Pond's distinctive vocals, made for an interesting mix. Elements of 70's classic rock, postpunk, and modern college radio indie rock were part of a beguiling blend that brought many in the audience there just to see them. I was hoping that bassist NY Matt might drop me a line to give me a set list, but I never heard back from him. Still, the band was solid and I plan to be more familiar with their music by the next visit...

Carbon/Silicon's set was short, and relied heavily on their latest recording. The band opened with The Magic Suitcase, followed by I Loved You from their 2006 release, "Western Front." War On Culture, one of the better songs off "The Last Post," and the anthemic single The News, hinted that the irony and angst that marked their prior work was still percolating just below the surface, but was never really addressed. Generally, we instead received an amiable "nudge nudge, wink wink" as Jones joked with the crowd. He made reference to returning to Washington, noting it was his first visit to the Capitol in twelve years.

But if anyone there was expecting indignation and fury, they would be disappointed. Even What The F*ck, also from the new record, sounded less outrageous than cliche, a tired observation from a jaundiced eye that has seen too much, and is too worn out to do anything about it. Soylent Green (dedicated to the late Charlton Heston), Really the Blues, and a seemingly out of place rendition of the Faces' Reason To Believe, delivered in an altogether original orchestration, were much stronger. However, eagerly anticipated Gen X and Clash covers were conspicuously absent, as a few old-school punks, now in their 40's and 50's, thrashed and moshed briefly (before their Geritol fizzled out!) to the new material. But the band ended on a high note with Why Do Men Fight? with Mick thanking Conan O'Brien for allowing the band to perform it recently on his show.

Mick and Tony both looked well, each sporting gray, two-piece suits (and matching gray hair) that would have looked politically incorrect during their late 70's heyday. Tony James' guitar resounded with characteristic power and gusto, and Mick's vocals (while not particularly strong) were usually dependable. Williams and Greensmith played with far more fervor than their better known frontmen, who laid back, smiling Cheshire Cat grins. But the new material, while tight and mostly enjoyable, still fell short of the expectations one could reasonably have for something with more crunch, and more substance than the occasional wry observation that world continues to spin on, inexorably.

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