Sunday, June 10, 2018

Marc Ribot's Ceramic Dog - YRU Still Here? (Northern Spy, 2018)

Guitarist and songwriter Marc Ribot acts as the conscious of social justice within the modern music community, with his passionate avocation for the rights of musicians. Ceramic Dog is his most provocative and political of his many bands, and on this disc he is responsible for guitars, keyboards and vocals with Shahzad Ismaily on bass and keyboards and Ches Smith on drums, electronics and vocals. The music has a DIY punk aesthetic that pushes the boundaries of rock, jazz and social commentary. They plant their flag in the ground right away with "Personal Nancy" declaring that the rights and privileges of American citizens are vital, no matter who is in power, and the lashing, slashing music makes the band's commitment is laser focused. There is a slinky groove to open "Pennsylvania 6 6666" but the lyrics make clear things are not as idyllic as they may seem, with racism, violence and intolerance bubbling just below the placid surface. Mauricio Herrera guests on congas with Doug Wieselman sits in on flute, developing a rhythmic powerful sensibility. They build a great fast paced groove with the extra musicians and adding some horn accents to the mix. Things get gnarly on "Agnes" with snarling guitars and pounding bass and drums with distorted vocals. The music courts danger, and the players are challenging themselves with the proggy synth smears, and funhouse vibe. "Oral Sidney With A "U" is an instrumental that has a gritty city connection to it, shot through with veins of electronics and experimentation. The thick electric bass and subtle drumming show the group developing an innovative style. The title track "YRU Still Here?" has a surprising acoustic quality, with world weary vocals, as the band fills in the soundscape gradually keeping the hint of the blues while framing the vocals and their sense of exhaustion, that takes off toward the end of the performance with some majestic electric guitar playing. The protest song "Muslim Jewish Resistance" is an absolute powerhouse with riveting music and chant along vocals that wouldn't sound out of place in a socially conscious hardore band. The vow of "never again" is particularly powerful when framed by squalls of free jazz and their opposition to and refusal to accept the status quo. The lengthy and atmospheric "Shut That Kid Up" is strong, no nonsense improvisation, aggressively swinging and finding a common ground where the Mahavishnu Orchestra meet Ronald Shannon Jackson's Decoding Society. "Fuck La Migra" is their most aggressive track, with the classic line stating that the "president is dumber than an artichoke." The album is a bracing jolt of energy that defies easy categorization moving from prog to punk and raucous electric jazz. YRU Still Here - amazon.com

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