When it comes to digesting new records by bands I love, I have a theory I call "the Star Wars effect." This refers to the odd experience of initially disliking a record, and later coming to adore it. When I first saw Star Wars at the impressionable age of 7, I hated it. Not because I thought it was bad—I thought it was the most amazing movie I had ever seen—but because I was so traumatized by Ben Kenobi's death at the hands of Darth Vader. A well-meaning usher followed me as I ran out of the theater crying, trying to assure me that the Jedi Knight would live on "in the Force," but I would have none of it—it just seemed so unspeakably cruel and sad. Three months later, I was on a family vacation in Scotland and my parents thought it would be fun to experience Star Wars in a European theater (aforementioned trauma apparently didn't resonate with them). Evidently I had finally absorbed that usher's reassurances about Kenobi's immortality, because this time around, I loved every minute of it and soon turned into one of those dorks who anticipates the release of each new action figure with the zeal of an evangelical waiting for the Second Coming. Similarly, the first time I heard Fugazi, I hated the music because it seemed far too abrasive and unpredictable. Many months later, I realized it was simply punishingly good and I was too much of a wuss to appreciate something that challenged me.
I bring this up because the Star Wars effect clearly shaped my views of ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead's Worlds Apart, their second full-length for Interscope. When they released it last year, it garnered mixed reviews, most notably by Pitchfork, who revoked the band's indie-darling status, issuing them a 4.0 rating (they gave their previous record a perfect 10) and calling the intricate, prog-oriented opus a "sadly pompous, overreaching monstrosity." I wrote it off, as well, for similar reasons (when things get too prog-rocky, I tend to run), but when I accidentally revisited the record this weekend via the beauty of iPod shuffle, I was forced to recant. It's a gorgeous sprawl of a record, replete with schizoid samples, choral vocals, and some of the best drumming modern rock has to offer. Sometimes what seems like a questionable evolution is really just a gutsy move.
In the case of the Comet's recent ownership change, I'm starting to believe that the latter may be the case. At the grand reopening party this past Saturday, the place was pleasantly packed and vibrant, with an enthusiastic crowd rocking out to the Heavy Hearts, the Cops, Pleasure Boaters, and the Limbs, while doting booking agent Michelle Smith (AKA DJ Mamma Casserole) looked on. The decision to apply for a hard-liquor license seems wise and the plans for further acoustic upgrades are long overdue. I look forward to seeing what Smith is going to do with the Comet's live-music calendar in the coming months.
For those of you who worship prog, you'll be happy to know that former Yes drummer Alan White is once again involved with this year's John Lennon Jam. White, who played drums on Lennon's Imagine record, will be joined by an array of local musicians this Friday, September 1, at Seattle Public Theater, located at the Bathhouse on Green Lake. Proceeds will help raise funds for (Just Like) Starting Over, the forthcoming play about the last day in John Lennon's life.
Another living legend will be in town that night, when Australian punk-rock heroes Radio Birdman take the stage at El Corazón. Their new record doesn't live up to their cult status, but that's of no real consequence when you think about the opportunity to witness such an important band in the confines of a small club.
You can get yourself warmed up for Bumbershoot at the High Dive on Thursday, August 31, when Madraso celebrate the release of their strong new record, The Theme of Consequence. If you have any energy left after taking in the festival on Saturday (plan your attack on our Bumbershoot page, located at www.thestranger.com/bumbershoot), you might want to stop in for the Rat City Rollergirls' Bumbershoot afterparty at the Showbox, featuring DJ Bobcat and Rock-A-Roke with CFO.