The Damned Things sound like a band that’s simply having fun 

click to enlarge A lot of bands succumb to clashes of ego and failures on the “business side of things,” but not The Damned Things.
  • A lot of bands succumb to clashes of ego and failures on the “business side of things,” but not The Damned Things.

While it may be a more subtle tendency in behavior, rock music seems to gravitate toward the larger trend in Western art, where creative endeavors are considered solitary affairs. While there are, naturally, some exceptions, like collaborative novels, symphonies or paintings, they are definitely not the rule. In pop music, collaboration is much more commonplace, but every collaborative project seems to eventually have a head-on collision involving the musicians’ egos and/or the dreaded “business side of things.”

The idea of rock “supergroups” inevitably brushes up against both of these problem areas. The most successful and well-regarded supergroups throughout the decades were generally very good business for their labels. Put Eric Clapton and Stevie Winwood together? In 1969, that was bound to make a few bucks. Join Chris Cornell and Rage Against the Machine? In 2002, that was bound to make a few bucks. But supergroups are also understood to be temporary, at best a bright flash that dies out quickly. Did anyone really expect Trent Reznor and Maynard James Keenan to see eye-to-eye for very long in the fabled “Tapeworm” project? (Well, yes and no, I suppose — while this tragic era is now forgotten, there was roughly a decade of Tapeworm rumors and falsely tagged songs on the likes of Kazaa and LimeWire, but there were never any official releases.)

The Damned Things, who take the Black Sheep stage on Wednesday, May 22, tick quite a few of the supergroup boxes. The group’s talented lineup represents a wide swath of rock subgenres, with Scott Ian of Anthrax, Keith Buckley of Every Time I Die, Joe Trohman and Andy Hurley of Fall Out Boy, and Dan Andriano of Alkaline Trio. (I, for one, never anticipated even one degree of separation between Anthrax and Fall Out Boy.) Their 2010 debut Ironiclast topped the Billboard Heatseeker chart — supergroup numbers, if you will.

But the band’s second album, High Crimes, released April 26 through Nuclear Blast records, sounds remarkably relaxed and organic, like the work of a band that’s dodged those aforementioned supergroup traps and is simply having fun writing a set of rough-and-ready rock ’n’ roll songs.

While Scott Ian and Joe Trohman’s guitar riffs are usually a little too intricate to fall in the “hum-along” category, there’s plenty of engaging variety to be found in the band’s heavy rock sound. “Cells” and “Let Me Be (Your Girl)” bring the high-octane mayhem in spades; “Omen” points things in a bluesy, Southern rock direction; and “Carry a Brick” features Thin Lizzy-esque, twin lead guitars to thrilling effect. “Storm Charmer” opens with swirling organs and synthesizers before lurching into a Melvins-worthy stomp, and good luck getting the cheerleader chant (“Y-E-L-L ... all of my friends are going to hell”) on “Something Good” out of your head. If nothing else, it’s the heir apparent to Faith No More’s “Be Aggressive” when it comes to cheerleader vocals on rock records.

Profound kudos are owed to singer Keith Buckley, whose formidable vocal talents are given ample opportunity to shine throughout High Crimes, and whose alternately soaring and ferocious performances go a long way in giving the album its charm and charisma.

Speaking of collaborations and unlikely team-ups, next month offers an intriguing pairing indeed, as the Colorado Symphony explores the intersection of Radiohead and romantic-era composer Johannes Brahms in “Brahms vs. Radiohead,” held at Denver’s Boettcher Concert Hall on Saturday, June 1.

On the surface, it seems like a somewhat odd stylistic marriage, but Radiohead lead guitarist Jonny Greenwood is now well-versed in writing symphonic/art music, though his work carries much more influence from 20th-century composers such as Krzysztof Penderecki, Gyorgy Ligeti and Olivier Messiaen. Brahms’ take on romanticism was certainly forward-thinking and meticulous in its construction, but often featured pronounced folk influences and a steadfast eye for traditionalism... more of The Bends than Kid A, if you like.

However, the concert’s premise of weaving together tracks from Radiohead’s standout 1997 LP OK Computer and material from Brahms’ first symphony finds the band and composer on somewhat common ground, and certainly stands to be an interesting experiment.

Plus, there’s always the similarity that both Radiohead and Brahms were lucky enough to enjoy adoration in their own time. Radiohead has received critical acclaim throughout their celebrated career, and Brahms was famously put in the league of Bach and Beethoven — the “Three Bs” — by one of his contemporaries, conductor Hans von Bülow. That’s pretty much the 19th-century equivalent of getting a 9.8 in Pitchfork.

Send news, photos, and music to collin@csindy.com.


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