Areola 51

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SXSW Live Shots
Photo By Gary Miller

Areola 51

Room 710, Wednesday 13 Leo Fender had a great idea with the Stratocaster guitar back in the Fifties. It combined tonal versatility with sturdy maple-and-ash construction. Its sweet clang gave its sonic signature to tunes by Buddy Holly, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and countless others. In the hands of former Scratch Acid/Sangre de Toro guitar anti-hero Brett Bradford, however, it sounds something like machinery running out of oil and grinding to an agonizing halt. Shirtless, he gets his guitar face on while Honky's bass player Jeff Pinkus and drummer Max Brody churn out a swirling cacophony that compares with the dB levels of a Boeing 747 at takeoff. Not much in the way of hooks, solos, conventional song structures, or even melody to be found in the songs of Areola 51 ... just an overpowering blur of noise, with Pinkus sounding like a freight train running off the tracks, while Brody holds the whole thing together through neck-jerking changes of meter and tempo. Lyrics? Hard to tell, with Pinkus and Bradford bellowing like bulls snared in barbed wire. At one point, a rather square fellow from the audience came up and sang a nice little song about Chee-tos, but in all honesty, they could have all been about Chee-tos, Chevrolets, or Chihuahuas, for all the audience could tell. Lots of bands have gone down the same path as Scratch Acid/Areola, but in their case they make it work and hold it together. The last song brought out some samples of police sirens, machine guns, satanic laughs, and breaking glass -- a nod to Buttholes vet Pinkus and his old band. It ain't for everyone, but what the hell did you expect? Anne Murray covers?!?

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