Review by Darren Gawle
Photography by Rodney Gitzel
"Yeah, we love Canada! It's hard not to love something that loves you back -- that, or you have to hunt it down and kill it..."
Tom Rowlands of the Chemical Brothers, 1997
Now that it's 1998, it's come to pass that there's a new apple of Canada's electronic eye, and its name is the Crystal Method. It's not hard to mistake Americans Scott Kirkland and Ken Jordan's attitude towards their neighbours to the north, as they greet us with a bombastic "WE LOVE CANADA!" that would seem more at home at a Bon Jovi show.
Mind you, this is the unit that cites the first five Led Zeppelin albums as major influences, so if the Meth's brand of electronica sometimes seems more at home in a pair of leather trousers than a funky toque, then fair enough. The Crystal Method, far from content to twiddle knobs in relative underground obscurity, are going for the jugular and fighting white boy guitar rock on its own turf. Small wonder the Kids are abandoning Marshall stacks for Akai samplers.
Backed by a phalanx of vari-lights, Kirkland and Jordan tonight blast through a relatively short set pulled mainly from their debut album, "High Roller" sounds more earth-crushingly huge than ever, only adding to the asthma-unfriendly atmosphere of cigarette smoke in the Palladium's balcony. "Busy Child" and "Keep Hope Alive" segue into each other virtually seamlessly and stand as tonight's twin pillars of bacchanalia for the crush of ravers in front of the stage. Our duo on stage still don't appear to lend themselves to patent rock antics like mounting the monitors or executing karate jumps off the mains -- at least, not until that bane of the 1980's, the SynthAxe, makes a comeback, and we all pray that it doesn't -- but they do now seem to shake their keyboard stands a bit more roughly than they did three months ago. Rock and Roooooll!!!!
But the most interesting part of the show isn't the music so much as the vibe that the industry promo-fest generates around it. Something along the lines of the American music industry's inability to restrain their glee at breaking the stranglehold the British have held on 'electronica' until now, what we have here has vague undertones of a traveling Crystal Method dog & pony show featuring an overzealous emcee and BT along for the ride.
BT, consisting of a programmer and a percussionist, sound not a whole lot unlike any other band that would fit in the electronic music category. The music is more fluid and less 'dirty' than the Crystal Method's, resulting in a cooler, more rave-like atmosphere than that of their compatriots. BT do display a penchant for filling up every available channel on the mixing board with stuff, though, and the groove does tend to get lost in the shuffle every now and again (e.g., the almost completely inaudible hand drumming). Not that BT don't fill the dance floor to near capacity, with several dozen choruses of "BT! BT! BT!" raining down on them at the end of their set.
Of course, you just knew that the hype machine wasn't going to stay mothballed once the execs got wind of how much money they could make off this electronica lark. You also get the impression that with the Meth's recent appearance on Electric Circus (!), Kirkland and Jordan really don't care, as long as they can crank out their tunes while jerking as much cash out of the label as possible.
And as far as this attitude goes, rock & roll and electronica have never been as closely related.
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