Lightning Bolt


©Scott Alario

Legendary duo from Providence, Rhode Island. It’s no exaggeration. Look at the last three decades of rock and few bands that will have caused such a shake-up in the foundations of a genre that seems destined to be saved from time to time – which isn’t even true. Germinated by Brian Gibson (bass) and Brian Chippendale (drums) at the inspirational Rhode Island School Of Design in 1994, they traversed the most urgent and honest American underworld for years, on the circuit of suspicious bars, houses, student unions, community lofts, streets, and places more or less improvised that is after all where the most vital and active energy to make things happen is propagated, always off stage and in line with Our Band Could Be Your Life – all very well documented in the inspiring documentary The Power of Salad – to reach a semi-stardom in 2003 with the classic Wonderful Rainbow.  The band’s third album on Load, in succession to a very lo-fi namesake album and the patented sound on Ride the Skies, causing due awe and reverence everywhere. Fair enough.

Chippendale’s frenetic but sure-footed drums and the distortion-soaked riffs, textures, and melodies of Chippendale’s bass, led by a voice echoing cantinas as memorable as they are hallucinatory, in an untimely music with a sense of tradition – and the Ruins might even be the most obvious antecedent – but breaking ground amongst its tropes. As a formula, always simplistic, it can be written with some shyness that they articulated the apparently irreconcilable experiences of three schools of and for life: the wide-eyed hardcore of the American SST, the vertiginous fuzz of the Japanese PSF, and the speed and abandon of the early years of the British Earache. And with that, they also created a school. Influence for lots of bands that discarded the guitar – and sometimes the bass – to assume the binomial of the power duo. Tumult that despite the electricity, adrenaline, and high volume is never assumed as confrontational but as an act of communion and collective ecstasy, something very clear in the dreamlike imagery of their titles and covers – work of Chippendale – and especially in the refusal of the stage as the centre of action, a refusal to the rock status quo. People like us.

After two years and without any concessions, Hypermagic Mountain advances through more inhospitable territories while cementing the band’s central role in the songs that matter the most, alongside names like Black Dice or Sightings. In 2008 they arrived in Portugal for the first time, in a concert programmed by ZDB in the unusual reverberant space of the Largo Camões car park, the memory of which still haunts many (all?) of those present. Earthly Delights and Oblivion Hunter close the band’s connection to Load, before it headed in 2015 to the imposing Thrill Jockey, proof of a status already perfectly consolidated but not conformed, reflected in the imperturbable pertinence of their most recent albums – Fantasy Empire and Sonic Citadel – that, if they sound more comfortable, it is also because we grew up with them. A continuous process of debugging that makes their music more instantly playable but no less challenging. Beasts like Runaway Train or Hüsker Don’t standing up to 13 Monsters, Dracula Mountain, or 2 Morro Morro Land in the pantheon of classics. Not to be missed. BS

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