Mourning Sickness and The Silver Cord Saturday, September 6th, 2008 Larimer Lounge, Denver Better Than: Morning sickness, or so I would imagine.
Mourning Sickness was a three-piece act with the usual rock arrangement of drummer, guitarist and bassist. But the music this trio played was far from “usual.” Since it was a DARC event, I assumed that the band would be somewhat experimental. But I didn’t expect someone as weird as The Inactivists, who are weird in a completely different way. The tonal choices reminded me of early Devo, and the whole presentation was definitely punk rock from some imagined, earlier era when “punk rock” could encompass anything weird in rock that didn’t fit in with what jaded label types thought would make them a lot of money.
The show opened with “Sludge Blanket.” That song had restless yet meditative rhythms but absolutely demented singing and guitar work and for some reason, I flashed to the stuff Ranaldo and the Loaf were doing in the early 80s. The follow up was a song called “Skinhead Ate” about a skinhead who went around beating up the punks because he could. Much of the set had a kind of ska/reggae feel and sound but mixed in with something more aggressive and sonically ambitious. By the end of the band’s set, I realized that their singer and his guitar-playing reminded me ever so slightly of D. Boon -- except more deranged.
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The Silver Cord came in as a four piece for this show, which added dimension to the act’s overall sonic signature. Pseudochris providing live drums of late has brought an organic feel to a band whose music was always fascinating for its unrelenting cold and bleakness. The subject matter of the songs didn’t change for this show, but the live drums really gave the songs a punch and intuitive character to the performance that is not possible with a drum machine. The Cord opened with “The Veil,” a breezy, faster-paced song spectral keys and Ken Keifer’s desperate vocals. “Violate Me” has always been one of this band’s more disturbing offerings, especially when Karl Haikara virtually spits out a sepulchral response to Ken’s exhausted, resigned, dirgy call. Though the song is called “The Abyss” (one of the band’s oldest), and Karl starts it out with a neo-folky riff, it is ultimately one of the act’s most upbeat songs. Upbeat sounding, anyway, because I’m not entirely certain this band has a song that isn’t wracked with outrage, internal conflict and crushing despair and, of course, the will to over come all of it.
The show closed with an especially intense, if slightly loose, rendition of “My Faded Spirit.” Perhaps The Silver Cord has had a better show or three. But this one ranked among their finest.
Bias: I like atmospheric music that can also be intense, abrasive and, at times, scary. Random Detail: The Silver Cord had their old mascot, Gonzo, stuffed into Pseudochris’ kick drum to provide the padding usually provided by a pillow or some sort of heap of fabric. By the Way: Pseudochris is performing with his other project Pseudokiss Masochist at Café Cero on September 28th. -- Review and photos by Tom Murphy