I'm currently going through a big Led Zeppelin phase. I realize how ridiculous that statement sounds; most rock fans maintain an easy allegiance with Page, Plant, Jones, and Bonzo that is as natural as the desire to turn their car stereos up too loud. But for me, it's been quite a while since a Zeppelin song has smacked me over the head in way that sounds fresh. I don't know specifically what it was about hearing "Dazed and Confused" the other day that cleansed my palate, but I spent much of my Thanksgiving weekend reabsorbing their back catalog. Aside from the sheer pleasure of rediscovering the importance of bassist John Paul Jones's role in the mix, I found myself slightly embarrassed to realize how utterly ridiculous so many of their lyrics are—and I'm not just talking about all that Dungeons & Dragons imagery. "D'yer Mak'er" may be catchy as hell, but taking Plant's lyrics in isolation is hilarious: "When I read the letter you wrote me, it made me mad, mad, mad/When I read the words that it told me, it made me sad, sad, sad." Gee, pal—why she broke up with you is no mystery. Get that man a pacifier!
Then again, many of the most enduringly influential bands didn't make lyrics a priority. Nirvana's Kurt Cobain famously noted that "music comes first; lyrics are secondary," and his heroes in seminal San Francisco noise punks Flipper clearly weren't aiming for a literary masterpiece when they wrote their most well-known song, "Sex Bomb." ("She's a sex bomb/My baby, yeah" repeated ad nauseam is about all there is to it.) Fittingly enough, those two bands are now overlapping in ways beyond mutual admiration and shared lyrical tactics. As I recently reported on Line Out, bassist Krist Novoselic is now an official member of Flipper, replacing amicably departed bassist Steve "Bruno" DeMartis.
"[DeMartis] left the band to focus on some business opportunities and his own band, Goofball," explains drummer Steve DePace when I ask him about their new member. "I looked at the situation as an opportunity to consider all possibilities and not just look in our own backyard. One day a friend from Seattle, Andy Davenhall, was visiting me in L.A. and I asked him who was around in Seattle who might be interested in playing with us. His first thought was Krist Novoselic. It hit me like a ton of bricks; that was a perfect suggestion.
"We had been invited to play All Tomorrow's Parties in England by Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth, who was curating the festival this year," he continues. "So I had Thurston contact Krist and extend our invitation to play bass with us at the festival." A few days later, DePace found out just how enthused Novoselic was about the prospect. "He told me that Flipper had been a very important inspiration to him early on. He agreed to do the festival, and the next thing we knew we were doing half a dozen shows with the Melvins in the UK and Ireland.
"Krist brings a fresh approach to Flipper that we haven't had from a bassist since Will Shatter [Shatter died of a heroin overdose in 1987]," says DePlace. "He says he wants to show respect for the songs as they were written and performed originally. All the other bass players we've worked with have brought their own flavor to the songs, playing them with a different style. This is a valid approach, and I enjoy playing with people like that, but playing with Krist really takes me back to the days with Will. Playing the songs as we originally did is really refreshing and it feels great." Seattle is one of only a few cities that will be able to witness this new incarnation of the band before their European dates—you can catch them at El Corazón on Friday, December 1.
Go-go boys and girls take note: The following night, Saturday, December 2, will mark the final installment of Chris Porter's Studio 66 night at Lo_Fi. For nearly three years, Porter has focused on spinning gems from '60s mod, psychedelic, and garage rock, along with a smattering of Brit pop, acid jazz, vintage soul, and the occasional live band. He'll go out with a bang with help from Tall Birds, the Zero Points, and Vince Saxon's Beat Slaves.