Friday, October 21, 2011

Band Review: The Viennagram

Referencing deconstructed, Syd Barrett era Pink Floyd as the basis for even more sonic weirdness, The Viennagram burst into your psyche like theater on acid. Geographically bound by Fall River, their overtly broad scope gives them much wider terrain to traverse musically. Add in thespian flair, a fairly extensive list of auxiliary members, and a high degree of showmanship, and you have something closer to musical theater than a traditional ‘band’.
     Aiming to ‘shock, excite and secretly soothe’, The Viennagram has been building up a comprehensive body of work since roughly 2006. Ranging from show tunes to Tom Waits to experimental electronic/industrial and 50’s pop music, the group’s ability to exist in several different genres simultaneously while maintaining a coherent identity is impressive.
     The brainchild of A.V. Vienna and Scott Peloquin, The Viennagram seems intent on straddling the line between kitsch and art. The anchor in this endeavor is the high degree of talent that is concentrated in this entity. This band can play. Bearing testament to this is their recent ‘Batman’ show at Firehouse XIII. This was the first real introduction to them for me.
     Attired as various characters of the Batman universe, and aided by what amounted to a small ensemble, the band set its own music within the context of a two act mini-drama pitting A.V. Vienna as Batman against the usual set of villains, including the Joker and the Penguin. Their penchant for innuendo was apparent when Batman started making out with Robin, played by Keri Lyn King. At that point in time, Danger Dan as the Joker popped out of nowhere and started proclaiming, ‘I knew it! I knew it!’ There would almost seem to be a sense of architectural completeness in the sense that this moment could be seen as prepared way in advance by the performance being opened by a fairly crass standup comedian.
     And of the performance itself, the foregoing has implied much. The actual musical core of the group is tight. On top of that is the ever-present flair that accompanies the whole spectacle. These guys acquit themselves in high style.
     As much as the references to Tom Waits are apparent in some of the music, there is something akin to a tripped out union of David Bowie and Kurt Weill, or even The Residents. Added to this is a fairly sophisticated harmonic sensibility. Various harmonic sequences and ‘formal types’ are employed effectively, including cycle progressions and a seeming grasp of standards and older types of American music.
    This ten-second analysis only covers what could be termed the more ‘conservative’ (traditional) side of the band. The bands experimental side could also come under consideration, as well as its ability to lay down a groove that is seriously ‘in the pocket’. There are times when their sense of groove has some kind of hip-hop flavor to it. In short, this band is a highly flexible and intelligent entity, which possesses a holistic view of what it means to be performers.  Experience this. You will definitely be engaged.

Check ‘em out at:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

musical theater is right.