Saturday, March 17, 2007

Jagged shards of electric guitar

It is never my intention that Join the Road become a series of gig reviews, but what can I do about these things as they happen? Music is an all-consuming passion for me. It shapes the way I think, it chooses my path in life. For better or for worse, and I never complain.
Wilko Johnson is a bona-fide guitar hero. Four decades into his career, beginning with 'seminal' (for once a use of that word with real resonance) Canvey Island R&B crew Dr. Feelgood, and still up there stronger than ever. And there I was too, been there before, knowing, needing another jolt of what Wilko provides. What only he provides.

No electronic tricks, no pedals or Pro-Tools, Wilko's guitar spits venom. His eyes piercing the gloom of the grimy room and, clad as ever in black, he sprays forth an unending stream of angular chopping stabs and sawed-off shards of notes pouring from the blackest of all Telecasters. Truly guitar as weapon. Sheer musical invective, addictive to behold. It's a purifying, almost binary noise. From hands to strings to pick-up to amp to your ears. You can feel the ching like you're playing it yourself, and you can smell the metal of the strings.

Heroes begat heroes, and Wilko's is Mick Green. The 1960s pioneer of a style where a single guitarist in a band is forced to fill the shoes of both the rhythm and lead playing. Rhythm is the rock solid basis, the lead part is the manifest excitement. Precision timing is required, all at 100mph. Couple this philosophy with Wilko's angular stage strut, once famously described as like a clockwork mouse fixed on a rail, and you have a stage performance to truly behold.

Wilko always did leave in his wake a sea of disbelief and shaking heads as people try in vain to comprehend the man's playing style. Unique and almost impossible to replicate (believe me I'm constantly trying). Your eyes seem to witness the calm rhythmic motion of a hand moving across the strings that does not, surely cannot, correspond with the sputtering, stuttering staccato aural fireworks to which you are listening.


KaH said...

With the shop closing, or possibly having closed now, what are you planning on doing? I think you should submit some of your reviews to a newspaper because I swear you can get a job as a gig reviewer!

Charlie said...

Two more weeks to go, hopefully not in the blazing heat I was baked in today, and then we're gone. Not sure of new plans yet though.