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Dan Melchior's Broke Revue - Bitterness, Spite, Rage, & Scorn

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Artist: Dan Melchior's Broke Revue

Album: Bitterness, Spite, Rage, & Scorn

Label: In the Red

Review date: Dec. 5, 2002

Garage d'Or

According to legend, King Melchior brought the gold. His namesake Dan brings the noise.

On his second In the Red release, the New York-based Londoner continues to treat American roots music with generous jolts of garage-punk electroshock therapy. Over the last few years, of course, such things have become fashionable, but Melchior's version of garage rock is one that stands apart from the crowd. Rather than having a shiny, four-car-walk-in-garage-with-automatic-doors feel, Bitterness, Spite, Rage, & Scorn suggests that Melchior's garage is a prefabricated postwar single-car model, piled high with junk and with its door barely intact. And that's the reason this record is so good.

It's difficult to talk about authenticity in popular music, given the continual process of cutting and pasting, hybridizing, and recycling that spawns the so-called new. The more successful recent pastiche reinventions of '60s garage rock are a case in point. In its 21st-century incarnation, this genre is paradigmatic postmodern pop: inspired by rock's rawest, primal, most authentic moments, yet divorced from its original context, performed ironically, and highly commodified. But although it's naive to seek authenticity in rock and although Melchior's music is as much a product of its influences as anyone else's, Bitterness, Spite, Rage, & Scorn shows that he has a more passionate connection with his influences than many of his higher profile peers. His music also displays genuine humor, rather than getting lost in a hall of mirrors of fashionable irony.

Various ghosts of punk past make their presence felt here as Melchior and his Broke Revue cohorts gleefully put rock 'n' roll through the lo-fi wringer, often with knock-down, drag-out results. With its hand claps and driving guitars, "You're My Wife" nods to the Stooges, or perhaps the Sex Pistols doing the Stooges, since Melchior sounds more like Johnny Rotten than Iggy. There's also something of Rotten's adenoidal snarl in Melchior's delivery on the short sharp "Hungry Ghost," which could almost be a highly abridged punk-rock translation of "Bob Dylan's 115th Dream."

The real winners here are those stripped-down, dirtied-up numbers with a stronger blues feel. A crucial ingredient in that regard is Melchior's slide guitar, particularly on the instant classic "Me and J.G. Ballard." The track starts out with a rigid, angular riff evoking Pink Flag-era Wire, but piano and slide guitar soon flesh out this manic tale of everyday life next door to the author in question. It's not so much about discussing Crash or The Atrocity Exhibition over the garden fence as it is about competing with the writer for the last bag of frozen peas at the local supermarket.

As well as its chugging beat and blasts of bluesy harmonica, "Ladies' Underwear and Airline Socks" has the brilliantly shambolic, repetitious quality of Fall classics like "Eat Y'Self Fitter"; indeed, Melchior's rambling rant here finds him sounding something like a southern (England, not U.S.) Mark E. Smith. Elsewhere, fuzzed-out riffs and piano make "Gatecrasher" the most pop-friendly interlude, albeit in a bouncy pub-rock way.

So if you're tired of the current crop of garage-rock poseurs, don't get mad, get Bitterness, Spite, Rage, & Scorn. Dan Melchior's Broke Revue really could be your new favorite band.

By Wilson Neate

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