Where Were You When It Happened?
Sometime last year I went to see Silver Jews play in the intimate surroundings of London's ULU. On entering I couldn't help but notice the crowd congregating avidly round some sort of commotion occurring in the middle of the venue. The stage was clear so it couldn't be the band, but what was the source of the deafening noise that was pounding through my very soul? In order to get a better view I took up position on the balcony and to my surprise I saw, at the very heart of this scene, three sweaty, bare chested beasts who were masquerading as humans. The drummer pounded a very scant looking drum kit to death while the guy making most of the noise shrieked so violently into his contorted fist you'd think he was about to swallow it. As if that wasn't enough, in a sudden burst of reserved superhuman energy, they picked up the drum kit and ran out of the hall, mid song. While everyone looked around puzzled, they emerged on our balcony still playing the drums and still maintaining the howl. Anyway, to cut a long story short they ended up hanging from the balcony, drums in hand and played out the rest of the song, legs dangling, throat straining and most certainly crowd gawping. It was without a doubt the most exhilarating gig performance but to be honest I couldn't tell you much about the music, this was secondary. But with this, their first full length, the music speaks for itself and is impossible to overlook.
Their 2008 EP Body Language unleashed a short, sharp glimpse of what this band had been doing all round their hometown of Tel Aviv since 2005. Channelling the raw energy of bands like the Stooges but with the muscle of Black Sabbath, their sound was as uncontrollable as an unmanned, gushing fire hose. Where Were You is no different but seems to benefit from slightly denser production. Yonatan Gat's riffs loom large and often chug with meaty forcefulness over Ran Shimoni's erratic drumming. The star of the live experience is clearly front man Ami Shalev and I suppose one difference here is that he manages to fit in quite comfortably around his music and doesn't overpower the brute force that surrounds him. This makes the record gel in a much more coherent way and ultimately packs a better punch.
Things seem to have been considered more here. The rawness dominates every part of this, but not in an uncontrollable way. It has all the unpredictable energy of the live show, but keeps its eyes focused on the plan and churns out some mighty examples of old school rock filth. Set Me Free is the best example of this and is one of the only songs that allows space for the listener - opening with a sparse rhythm that is slowly joined by grinding guitars. The song takes its time and changes pace throughout the duration showing off an element that wasn't part of their earlier repertoire. Of course this is all obliterated on Spit It On Your Face and the musical hose pipe gives over to the spasms once again. Having been banned from most of the venues in Tel Aviv we can only hope that this scuzz dripping rock circus will spend more time on our shores. But this time it wont be just the live antics that dazzle.
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