November 15, 2002
Republic's punk art hardware still stimulates
By Steve Hochman, Special to The Times
Have the members of Savage Republic ever
thought that if they'd just
painted themselves blue and spat marshmallows at each other, they
might be rich and famous today?
Way before Blue Man Group started making
music with PVC tubing and
oil drums, these Los Angeles art-rockers were making similarly
powerful, rhythmic instrumentals, just with different hardware and
without the conceptual comedy.
Wednesday at the Knitting Factory, Savage
Republic, reunited for the
first time in more than 13 years, showed theirs to be a more nuanced,
more sophisticated and more viscerally stimulating brand of music
than the azure upstarts'.
With five of its six members rotating on
electric guitars and basses,
anchored by martial drumming and at times extra beats banged out
their own oil barrel, SR's majestic music evoked Pink Floyd playing
surf music, or Dick Dale jamming with German space-rockers Neu.
Mediterranean tones melded with epic sonic sweeps and, in a few
songs, poetically polemic vocals.
Perhaps performance art renown was never
in the band's destiny, but
it probably could have found success creating film scores and
But then, mainstream fame never seemed a
priority to them or to the
three other veteran L.A. punk-era, art-oriented acts on the bill.
Human Hands (with three original members)
still offers L.A.'s answer
to early Talking Heads or XTC. The Urinals found an unlikely middle
ground between PiL and Brian Wilson, and Mike Watt's new band, the
Secondmen, finds his thundering bass complemented in intricate
compositions by organist Pete Mazich and drummer Jerry Trebotic,
showcasing new material of near-operatic scale.
It was challenging yet approachable -- the
hallmark of this night of
distinction without regard to commerce.
November 12, 2002
noise from '80s-era Savage Republic
By Natalie Nichols, Special to The Times
Savage Republic's '80s-vintage Southern California
logo, a palm tree
with crescent moon and star, still best conveys its mashed cornucopia
of global beats, industrial noise, lilting melodies and variously
disturbing and soothing vocals. These post-punk experimenters --
reunited after 13 years for a five-city tour supporting their new
boxed-set retrospective -- pounded on 55-gallon drums, oil cans,
pipes and the like long before Blue Man Group.
"The edges of the mainstream have moved
a little bit closer to us,"
says guitarist-percussionist Ethan Port, whose San Francisco-based
Mobilization Records released the four-disc collection. Charting
Savage Republic's shift from noisy art-punk to more instrumental,
epic sprawl, it includes the albums "Tragic Figures,"
"Jamahiriya Democratique ... " and "Customs."
"A lot of the music is
actually pretty accessible," Port says. "Punk is now mainstream,
the audience for electronic/trance/ambient and world music sounds
huge as well."
Founded at UCLA in 1980 by guitarist Bruce
Licher and drummer Mark
Erskine, Savage Republic has had numerous incarnations linked only
Licher. He's best known as the owner of Independent Project Press,
whose distinctive letter-pressed packaging is seen on releases by
Camper Van Beethoven, R.E.M. and, of course, Savage Republic.
Licher and original keyboardist Robert Loveless
will be joined at the
Knitting Factory Hollywood on Wednesday by later Savages Port, Thom
Fuhrmann and Greg Grunke, along with drummer Joel Connell.
The bill also includes class-of-the-'80s
local artists Mike Watt and
the Secondmen, the Urinals, and the Human Hands, but don't expect
"We aren't the same people we were 13
years ago, and we're continuing
from a fresh perspective," Port says.