Sunday, June 23, 2013

CD Review: Ceramic Dog - Your Move

Ceramic Dog
Your Turn
(Northern Spy)

Marc Ribot is not the type of person who will hold back, whether he has a guitar in his hand or the phone to his ear, giving an interview. (We spoke about a decade ago, and Mr. R struck me as a loveable wiseguy. Which is different than a grouch, or a tough interview.) But truth be told, I wasn't feeling it when I heard Ceramic Dog's 2008 debut, Party Intellectuals. One of the great things about Ribot is how he can jump from jazz to rock to free improv like some people jump to conclusions. And he has no inhibitions or second thoughts as he does his thing. But Party Intellectuals sounded like abrasive playing without any of the vitality that has fueled nearly all of his work. It's pretty likely Ribot would have told you he didn't give two hoots about what people would think of the album as he made it, and would relish the thought of pissing people off, but it felt noodly.

All that's turned around with Your Turn. The trio (Ribot, bassist Shahzad Ismaily and drummer Ches Smith)  have turned into a fierce, focused rock machine. In much the same way that the original Tony Williams Lifetime sounded like jazz guys playing psychedelic rock, Ceramic Dog sounds like jazz guys playing post-rock or indie rock, and whipping the pants off all those bands obsessed with playing riffs in odd time signatures. In many cases, they do it with simple structures. The title track is built on a two-chord groove with Smith hammering a solid 4/4 while Ismaily plays it 5/4, and Ribot starts with a feedback howl and lifts the bandstand. "Ritual Slaughter" does almost the same thing, sonically, with some added breaks thrown in.

Ribot's vocals appear on several tracks, starting with "Lies My Body Told Me" another two-chord grabber that builds in suspense and volume as he spins his unique tale of lust gone wrong, sounding like some indie folk player who knows how to use his instrument to release the feelings he's vocalizing. "Masters of the Internet" almost sounds a little overdone in its sarcastic condemnation of people who don't pay for music (complete with a Middle Eastern melody added in the chorus), but the visceral sound of the whole production makes up for it. Same goes for "We Are the Professionals," which sounds like a Beastie Boys tribute, with trade-off rabid vocals over some delightfully sloppy funk, with horns and dinky keyboards.

In other spots, they play "Avanti Popolo," a marching band vignette that sounds like it's going to turn into "You Are My Sunshine," before it gets overcome by guitar noise and fades into "Ain't Going to Let Them Turn Us Around," a fairly straight-laced tune with a reggae lilt to it. Then there's the song that probably will get mentioned in every review -  their noisy version of "Take Five." Ismaily sounds like he's sticking to the main riff without making the changes, but again, the spirit of the performance (with more overdubbed horns adding punctuation, courtesy of Ribot) takes this to a higher level. Violinist/vocalist Eszter Balint (who needs to make another album of her own soon) and skronk forefather Arto Lindsay guest on a few tracks, but Ceramic Dog are the ones in the spotlight here. Hopefully these cats are playing punk rock gigs and blowing the kids' minds. Guys - come to town soon. Everyone else - drop everything if they're headed your way.

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