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Tag: Dan McGowan guitar

The Tea Club Bring Their Psychedelic Art-Rock Epics to Williamsburg

How smoky is the Tea Club‘s latest album, Grappling? It sure is mighty, and psychedelic – and streaming at their merch page. The obvious influence is early, Peter Gabriel-era Genesis: theatrical, dancing vocal lines, an endless succession of tricky tempo shifts, odd meters, spiraling keys and guitars and an epic sweep. The unenlightened might hear bits and pieces of this and think, “Ugh, Yes,” but the music is infinitely more purposeful and entertaining. Among this era’s bands, one good comparison is Brooklynites Wounded Buffalo Theory. Speaking of Brooklyn, the Tea Club – Patrick and Dan McGowan on vocals, guitars and keys, with Jamie Wolff on bass, cello and violin, Reinhardt McGeddon on keys and Tony Davis on drums – have a rare gig coming up there on Dec 17 at 7:30 PM at the Knitting Factory; advance tix are $15.

The album’s opening track, The Magnet sets the stage. It’s not clear whether its pilgrim narrator is alive or dead – at one point, a centipede crawls up the poor guy’s arm as the guitars and layers of organ and synth intertwine, rise and fall, hit an interlude that’s more atmospheric and then rise with a big Peter Gabriel-inspired chorus.

Remember Where You Were, an uneasy, midtempo wartime epic, opens with lush string orchestration, chiming Steve Hackett-style guitar overhead, pulsing along over a river of organ that grows smokier as the grim band of revolutionaries make their way across the battleground to confront the enemy ruler’s army. The song winds up at just under eight minutes with an ominously allusive guitar solo.

The sinister, futuristic nuthouse narrative Dr. Abraham opens with cumulo-nimbus guitar riffage over macabrely bubbling organ. The mad doctor gets to trade grand guignol verses with his hapless victim, ramping up the gothic drama over eerie piano tinkles, mighty stadium rock guitars and a vast, oceanic sweep.

Acerbic strings and precise folk-rock guitar mingle as the apocalyptic anthem Fox in a Hole gets underway, slinking through a trippy Bach-like web of counterpoint between guitars, piano, electric harpsichord and organ. The album’s catchiest track, Wasp in a Wig is also its darkest, a lavishly doomed minor-key waltz with a tasty, icy guitar solo amidst the chilly rivulets of keys. It segues into the album’s coda, The White Book, which seems to offer guarded hope for something other than a grim ending to this tale. A choir of synthesized monks sings a fugue against warpy keys and blippy organ as the vocals reach operatic proportions, the song shifting from vast deep-space twinkle to pounding, earthy anthemics and then a hauntingly allusive, Middle Eastern-tinged guitar interlude to wind it up. Very cool that even though it’s been a long time since the dinosaurs of the 70s ruled the earth, bands like the Tea Club still make music that’s every bit as formidable.

The Tea Club Bring Sweeping, Epic Grandeur to a Chill Little Williamsburg Room

The psychedelic art-rock epics on the Tea Club‘s third album, Quickly Quickly Quickly are closer to Peter Gabriel-era Genesis, Nektar or Boston neo-art-rockers the Brew than, say, the Mars Volta.  They’re playing the back room at the Gutter bowling alley at Kent Ave. and North 12th St. in Williamsburg on August 2 at around 9: if trippy, majestic, symphonic grandeur is your thing, see this band.

The opening track, Firebears, is eighteen minutes long. Yup, pushing Pink Floyd Echoes territory. Not for people with ADD, but for those with a long attention span and an appreciation for catchy hooks, there are thousands in this one. Patrick and Dan McGowans’ guitars roar and clang and jangle and mingle nebulously over Jamie Wolff’s growly, melodic bass and Joe Rizzolo’s flurrying, clustering drums, keyboardist Renee Pestritto adding neoromantic flair on synth and elegantly pensive piano. The Nektar influence is everywhere, from the dreamy, opiated interlude that reminds of that band’s Dream Nebula, and later the long symphonic crescendo that wouldn’t be out of place on the Recycled album. And while the arrangements are ornate, and majestic, and often sweepingly beautiful, they keep the tunes simple. It’s easier to picture someone in the band saying to another, “Wouldn’t this sound great as an audience singalong at the Garden?” as the closing vamp gets underway, than it is to visualize the band actually playing the entire epic  all the way through in a rehearsal room (although they must – and it might cost a fortune!).

The second track, The Eternal German Infant is about half as long and kicks in immediately without the two-minute intro. A litany of surreal images – “She hid the meteorite keys?” A “peaceful pepper witch?”- gives way to a triplet theme that winds down gently and rises again. The guitar and synth textures are tasteful and purposeful: distortion, jangles and washes mingle and interweave without wasted notes, a rarity in this kind of music. The same is true of the rhythm section: Rizzolo doesn’t go overboard, and Wolff often serves as a third guitar lead. As with the first track, a peaceful interlude rises to a big orchestrated swell. And the dream sequence takes on a disquieting tone: “When I looked back the house turned to flame, and everything turned black.”

The album’s shortest song, Mister Freeze opens ominously with wah bass, pensive acoustic guitar and a dark wash of string synth. It’s got more of a dark, folk-rock atmosphere: think the Strawbs circa Hero and Heroine but with vastly better, more down-to-earth production. The brooding instrumental break midway through evokes the doomy interlude midway through Iron Maiden’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner. It segues into the album’s final cut, I Shall Consume Everything, shifting from a moody Pestritto flute solo, up and down through alternatingly sinister and soft passages with harplike keys, once again evoking Nektar as the guitars go more and more unhinged.

On one hand, there are plenty of ponytailed old stoners out there who would trade in their extra copies of Yes records if they knew this band existed. On the other, the element that every year discovers Pink Floyd and has their lives changed forever by that experience will also love the Tea Club. Bet on them being around thirty years from now and making a good living places like B.B. King’s.