Dead Meadow and JENNIFER GENTLE at the Horseshoe (370 Queen West), Friday (March 30). $12 advance. 416-598-4753. Rating: NNNNN
There's a temptation to damn Dead Meadow with easy banner labels, tar them with opaque descriptors like "stoner rock."
As a culture, we're still coming to terms with expansive forms of rock, unwilling to credit that they might be better than 60s and 70s prog wank. Godspeed You Black Emperor's Sturm and Drang chamber punk slips by on a violin and stand-up bass. And the IDM kids built their own clubhouse to block out the jeers.
But if you dare get trippy with a traditional rock ensemble (guitar, bass, drums), prepare to be retro-graded.
"That's the modern world," laments Dead Meadow singer/guitarist Jason Simon from a hotel room in (where else?) Austin, Texas. "Nobody wants to have any space in anything. They just want it so-o-o tight. The pacing is so fast, and people have become so attention-deficited that they need everything given to them 'on-demand.'
"We need more space in music. It's kind of like ragas. It's about capturing a mood and trying to hold it for as long as possible. You can't feel something if it's wound too tightly."
Dead Meadow's new album, Feathers, is true to Simon's sensibility. The nine songs breathe freely, with meditative simplicity, somehow making familiarity and surprise natural partners in the musical experience.
"It's political in the sense that it's an attempt to counteract some of the trends in modern thinking, stop people's imaginations from atrophying," he says. "Just the way, myself included, people can't stay focused on something unless it's being delivered without room for speculation."
Simon's lyrics aren't obscure. He tells entire stories. Psych rock hasn't favoured this sort of guileless directness since Spacemen 3 fell out of orbit.
"Those guys get overlooked by pop history, but it's amazing how influential Spacemen 3 are," Simon notes. "They're the forefathers. They brought that aesthetic out of the 60s and made it current. They made it spare and immense at the same time. So many bands, us included, owe those guys a debt. They made this type of music a tradition rather than genre.
"Giving a song space doesn't mean you give up on making a good song," he expands. "It's really important that there be something classically simple at the heart of it. Like with the Beatles. They could write, aiming for for simplicity, and still conjure complexity.
"Whether it's a film, a book or a song, it's always far more interesting to have a simple story told well than to have it hinge on some clever twist. The clever twist is a cliché."