|4 November 2000||NME||44/ 00|
|Issue of NME with reviews of Russell Simins live at New York Irving Plaza and the Public Places album.|
|NEW YORK IRVING PLAZA TEXT:
New York Irving Plaza
Bill Hicks’ famous measure of The Beatles’ drug intake was that they were so high they even let Ringo do a couple of tunes. Even leaving Phil Collins out of the story, the singing drummer has enjoyed a decidedly mixed press. What’s Russell Simins going to do about it? Well, the man who’s thumped Jon Spencer’s tubs to such vehement good effect over the years has filled a stage with guitarists, backing singers and percussionists displaying varying degrees of dementia. The audience is full of his mates. And he’s decided not to play drums.
Not all the time, anyway. Which for a group that seems to consist mainly of people hitting things seems sensible. For as things stand, the Russell Simins live experience isn’t the most tightly drilled affair, so when our man does retire behind the kit we’re confronted with a beat jam that fatally over-eggs on the latter in pursuit of the former. But, when out front, shaking his mane in time to the fusion of disco high-drama and trad NY scuzz rock guttersniping of ‘Public Places’, suddenly the proposal makes sense in a shouldn’t-work-but-it-does Lou Reed sings Kool & The Gang kinda way. Less blues explosion than funk reaction, if you please.
PUBLIC PLACES TEXT:
Everyone gets sick of their day job now and again, and even if you’ve spent eight years of your life in rock’n’roll nirvana – behind the drumkit of the spasmodically mighty Jon Spencer Blues Explosion – something can still be missing. For Russell Simins, it’s a void that only a solo album will fill.
‘Public Places’ is the showcase for his more – shall we say – mature urges. A worrying prospect? Well, let’s look at the evidence. Occasional dalliances with hip-hop, a mildly risque title track about alfresco sex, and, on ‘Jim’s Problems’, the lyric “I’m with the wrong girl/And I hate my job/I want everything that I haven’t got”. They’re all signs that Simins is undergoing one almighty mid-life crisis.
But weirdly, since Simins ditched the juvenile racket of the Bloooooze Ex-plo-shun, proper songs have just started writing themselves. And some of them are great: the rock’n’roll freakout of ‘I’m Not A Model’; the perky power-pop chug of ‘World Over’; or the swoony ‘Comfortable Place’, an acoustic ballad as raw and honest as Bob Mould.
Sure, you can spend your whole life talking about the blues. But ‘Public Places’ demonstrates the merits of broader horizons. (8)