MIRROR (independent) Rating: NNNN
In the music business, fame and fortune rarely come with being first, as Tom Anselmi understands.
"Tom who?" you may be wondering.
For starters, his superbly slobbish Vancouver band, Slow, was grunge before the Sub Pop label turned it into a marketing gimmick. For an encore, Anselmi's next group named themselves © before Prince became known as "the symbol guy," and then knocked out a progressive rejoinder to alternative rock before Radiohead released their debut single.
But rather than sit around griping about the money he missed by being slightly ahead of the crowd, Anselmi kept pushing ahead in his search for new means of expression, and that's led to his current independent recording and performance project, Mirror.
If you can imagine an Andy Warhol-style Exploding Plastic Inevitable happening directed by David Lynch and scored by Serge Gainsbourg, you'll have some idea of why the Vincent Jones-produced Mirror recording (see myspace.com/mirrorav) is really just an introduction to Anselmi's darkly twisted audio/visual extravaganza.
"It's my way of trying to break free of the conventions of rock, where you have an assembled audience watching four dudes with instruments on a stage," says Anselmi.
"You know how on The Lawrence Welk Show, when they were going to do a country song they'd have the stage set up with a couple of hay bales and maybe a cardboard cut-out of a fence as a sort of visual suggestion to accompany the performance? Well, the presentations we've been doing are kinda like a television variety show where the songs are performed as vignettes in various areas of a space set up with appropriate visual cues. What happens in each room is broadcast onto a big screen so the audience can see everything unfold. As much as I hate the term ‘multi-media,' we are using holograms."
Much as a filmmaker uses characters to tell the story, Anselmi says, he employs notable voices like celebrated Depeche Mode baritone Dave Gahan, who turns Mirror's opening ballad, Nostalgia, into a stadium-sized anthem, with some brilliant keyboard contributions from David Bowie pianist-of-choice Mike Garson. A video clip of Gahan singing Nostalgia went viral in Europe a few months ago, causing a serious stir amongst the Mode hordes and a significant download windfall.
"Originally, I envisioned the song as something out of a Disney movie sung by Snow White to a little bird perched on her finger. That changed when Dave got ahold of it," says Anselmi.
Tom Anselmi discusses the origins of Slow's influential sound which added a 70s hard rock crunch to ignoroid punk.
Slow's disastrous appearance at Expo 86 in Vancouver has become part of Can-rock lore. Anselmi recalls what actually happened.
Contrary to popular belief, Slow weren't entirely ignored by major labels.