4 December 2006
Originally hailing from Norfolk, the London-based White Rose Movement is a hodgepodge of '80s sounds, echoing Depeche Mode, Devo and The Cure, with a contemporary, guitar-driven backbone...
The Metro Club is absolutely dead at 9:20. Nobody is waiting to see Mudbone, a Baltimore-based blues band with a modern skew. Mudbone himself, real name Gary Cooper (no, really), has been wandering around in the club talking to people and prepping for the show. It's unfortunate that nobody's bothered to show up, for it is unarguably the case that bands that look like they are having fun are invariably the bands that are the most fun to see live.
Mudbone is, at the very least, having fun. Wailing and caterwauling like the Southern blues men of old, the band behind him plays an eclectic and unique mix, something like Lynyrd Skynyrd by way of Sublime. While the lead guitar and bass are pretty much standard accoutrement, not too many of the soul men had a scratch artist or a female MC backing them up.
Despite Mudbone's prominence in the title, the other members of the band deserve a closer look. Standing beside the drum kit, in a less prominent position than most lead guitarists would've chosen, Neil Wilson doesn't have the usual name or look for an axe-man. Above his wraparound sunglasses sits a big white-boy afro; don't let this fool you. Keeping with the manner, if not the makeup, of old-school blues guitarists, Neil's solos are good enough for the affectionate name "face-melters".
Even better is his presence: when bassist Billy Nelson Jr. wrings a perfect bit of rumbling noise from his guitar, Neil just gives him the Nod, the iconic, unpretentious gesture just to say, "Yeah, that rocked". Nelson, who helped to create Parliament Funkadelic after he began working with George Clinton in a barbershop, certainly knows how to roll. Unlike a lot of bassists, who insist on complicated, overbearing blasts of low notes, Nelson knows when to just caress the strings and let the gaps between his playing speak more than the excesses of the less talented.
More unusual, if not more impressive, is the talent of the MC. Female MCs are rather rare: other than a few standout commercial success stories like Missy Elliot and Queen Latifah, the world of the rhyme-sayers is almost exclusively masculine. Nadirah-X, the aggressive voice behind Mudbone's smoother tones, is a notable exception. She's beautiful, which is an easy way into the hearts of approximately half of the crowd, but she also seems that she might not let you live if you tried to chat her up. That sort of terror/attraction mix, especially for a female vocalist, is ideal.
It's difficult to quantify the appeal of Mudbone himself. His contributions to the songs are rather minimal: while the DJ and the guitarist have a competition over whose solo is better, Mudbone just sways back and forth in a top hat and sleeveless shirt. Often he'll just use an understated blues mumble to accentuate Nadirah's rhymes. However, there's something to be said for a man who can make hitting a cowbell seem cool. Actually, there's no one on earth who could make hitting a cowbell seem cool, but Mudbone at least makes it seem like it's not uncool. That's saying something, though since he's mumbling and the guitarist is turned up so loud it's not exactly clear what it is.
- Nicholas Carter