Live in San Francisco
Castle Face Records, 2016
Review by Kent Manthie
The new, live album by San Francisco-based Bronze, Live in San Francisco, is an album that captures Bronze in their full live glory. Bronze has been making some rarefied music over the last nine years; music which consists of some grating dissonance as well as some, unabashed colorful, nonstop, ruminating lightning storms. Bronze is a trio, made up of Brian D. Hock, Rob Spector and Miles Friction. Bronze’s Live in San Francisco is one of several in a series of live albums, recorded in San Francisco by some of the great bands on Castle Face Records. Another Live in San Francisco CFR album which I reviewed about a year or so ago, was one by Tim Presley and the red-hot White Fence (you can still check that review out on this site, it remains in the archives of all reviews written over the past several years).
This new live album, a recording, obviously, of a gig, or gigs, in San Francisco, no doubt, one of many storied, legendary venues that are still operating, strongly, even though there used to be a number of great unforgettable joints in decades past to which one could go see any number of bills with what Bill Graham, the late, almost mythic promoter, used to throw together for one night’s show: something as disparate as, say, Miles Davis, Neil Young & Crazy Horse and the Steve Miller Band (yeah, but that, of course, was way over, on the other side of the US, at the closed-in-1971, Fillmore East, but still indicative of the sort of mixes and “mash-ups” who’d be thrown together to play to one crowd). Ahh – the good old days, before the advent of the corporate slave mentality that’s now permeated the mainstream of the music industry and why the only music that makes a real difference is so-called “indie” music, which, sorry critics, is not a subgenre; it is a definition of music made without the interference of greedy, obstreperous carnival barkers who throw their own, hired gun producers at you and practically babysit you, until you come out with the kind of album they want; something they have test-marketed and opinion-polled, and analyzed to death and when it does hit the streets, even the names sound ridiculous.
That isn’t so, though, with Bronze, another relatively new face and another great band from Castle Face Records, from whom I’ve recently had the pleasure of listening to and reviewing several new albums. This new release by Bronze, Live in San Francisco, starts of with “Dulcinea”, a wigged out jam, featuring haunting keyboards, with concomitant guitars, thundering drums, even samples of birds chirping! Then, singer, Rob Spector starts singing in a kind of flat, somewhat discordant, but not cacophonous yelping nor a viscous mumbling, but a kind of plaintive anti-melodic vocal, not unlike, say, Ian Curtis, but in an American, West Coast accent, or lack of one.
Castle Face’s John Dwyer, who is also a veteran of such bands as Thee Oh Sees, Coachwhips, Pink and Brown and The Hospitals, had this eloquent prose to write about Bronze and their ethos as one of the most interesting of modern indie bands today:
“For 9 years they have been slowly simmering in a pot
For 9 years I have been seeing them usurp every gig they have been on
I’ve never seen a bad Bronze show…they range from smiling and hypnotized dancing crowds
to a man getting violated and urinated on at a yuppie bar (everyone still smiling)
Always the entertainers
Always drunk with mad skills
With dashes of John Carpenter, Silver Apples, Liquid Liquid, Birthday Party, Harold Grosskopf, Klaus Schultze, Cluster, and Brian Ferry with a field recorder taped to his tux jacket
Ultra bottom heavy dance beats a la Brian Hock (shirt off/ shirt on, it’s all good to me)
Super hand-wringing oscillations home brewed by Miles Friction
and the ever-great Robert Spector delivering homilies from beyond the dimensional wall.
they bought a limousine to tour in
(which may be the raddest fucking thing I’ve ever heard of)
but its been parked in the bat cave under a car cocoon like San Francisco’s best kept secret
These guys should be on tour, eaten alive every night by ravenous fanatudes
but alas, they are like a rare treat these days
SO we’ve waited outside the bivouac for the flap to lift
and after many nights and cold rations they appeared and performed the great and fabled Bronze happening
for us to trap to tape
a mix of absolute old faves and new gears grinding
a great night indeed
recorded and mixed by the castle face crew
adorned with photos of the night
You are well set to feast on this release” – John Dwyer
This paean to Bronze speaks volumes about this Bay Area trio from one who’s been in close proximity to the band for some time now. I just had to include this passage of Dwyer’s here, as I am quite new to Bronze and, having seen this loquacious and elegant beatitude on Bronze, I thought it would add some solid praise and painted a beautiful picture of what Bronze sounds like and how exciting and pleasurable they are in concert.
All seven songs on Live in San Francisco portray Bronze just playing blistering live stuff, their sound is captured quite well. From the opening song, “Dulcinea”, on which Spector’s distinctive vocal style starts off with a slow burn which keeps smoldering throughout the rest, all the way, through “Maniac”, “The Angle”, “Golden Handcuffs” and the closer, of this album, “Showdown of Sorts”. Brian Hock keeps up a great, booming beats which keep their sets bubbling with a great rock drummer’s sensibility: a great timekeeper as well as an effusive percussionist.
Just listening to Live in San Francisco makes me want to get to the next possible Bronze show to which I can make. This document of their great live shows really gets me fired up – of course, I’m also curious to hear what their studio work sounds like as well. But I have a feeling, that a band that has this kind of gusto is going to do a great job in the studio as well.
For more information on Bronze, check out their official website, https://www.bandbronze.com or, you can go to the Castle Face Records after the March 25 release, http://www.castlefacerecords.com. -KM.