Live Review: Triclops, the Nod at Lion's Lair

Triclops, The Nod Saturday, August 30, 2008 Lion’s Lair, Denver Better Than: A full line-up of stoner rock bands.

With a name like “The Nod,” I expected a druggy, stoner rock band and not much more. Not that that vibe wasn’t prevalent in the music, but there were a few other elements that set them apart. The act’s rhythms had a nice, fluid character that helped to turn even the most aggressive and angular guitar lines into something that breathed a lot more than this type of music often does, while the group’s Tony Iommi-style guitar riffing was infused with a bit more hardcore than you’d expect.

On “Twisted Romance,” with its spoken word section, the Nod’s singer, recalling a stoner rock Doug Stanhope, displayed an unexpected poetic sensiblilty – unexpected because, let’s face it, a lot of heavy music is stupid or wallowing in an adolescent mindset of underveloped imagination. Granted, the outfit closed its set with a song called “Escape From the Prison Planet” that flirted with ham-fisted science fiction storytelling, but it came off more as a comment on society in general and not a weak attempt to come off like hardened badasses. Overall, the Nod was notch or three above the metallic music we usually get to see.

San Francisco -- the city in which Triclops, who was up, next hails -- is a mixed bag, musically. But it has also produced some of the most creative, crazy, experimental music we’ve ever seen going back four decades and more. It’s a town that produced the Residents, Flipper and Dead Kennedys. But that’s long in the past and these days, punk rock has gone the way of fetishistic museum piece throwbacks or self-parody. Even so, sometimes an act like Triclops comes along to inject some much needed creativity into an art form in desperate need of it. The Bay area group hit the stage with more force and energy than I’ve seen in a punk rock band in far too long. Although the musicians played with a fast and furious verve and singer John No hurled himself into the crowd at the very beginning of the set, it was the music, which was expansive yet hard-hitting at the same time, that stood out. The way John No’s treated, falsetto vocals sounded as though put through a tremolo pedal amid the well-cadenced, urgent music reminded me in moments of Alice Donut. The sheer physical presence of the band was palpable and unrelenting throughout the show in a way that I’m not sure I’d seen much of since Minneapolis’ the Stnnng were last in town.

No was out in the crowd more often than he was on stage, and his dual-flashlight/microphone was like the lantern of Diogenes not looking for one honest man in town but instead taking long-forgotten punk rock truths about social criticism, confrontation and using your imagination directly to the public. Big surprise, since the guy used to be in The Fleshies. The insistent, brutal yet free-flowing rhythms and the archly atmospheric and desperate guitar sound would have pushed this band into post-punk territory, but its powerfully visceral presentation and angular, headlong pacing put the act into a category all its own. Not wasting a moment of stage time, Triclops were a raging ball of inspired fury that set the line for punk rock further than it’s been taken in years.

-- Tom Murphy

Critic’s Notebook

Personal Bias: I often sneer at psychedelic hard rock (aka “stoner rock”) because it became so uninspiredly prevalent, but I like a lot of it anyway. Random Detail: Triclops had these weird T-shirts with pyramids seemingly set in a Dali universe but didn’t have any in my size. By the Way: Triclops is on the Alternative Tentacles label, and their beautiful vinyl album included a CD version.

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