Monday, 24 March 2014

Dave Brockie, gone but never forgotten.

The news broke today that Dave Brockie, lead singer and creative force behind The Dave Brockie ExperienceX-Cops, and GWAR, had died at the age of 50 on March the 23rd. The cause of his death is currently unknown, but that isn't that important right now. What is important is that a great musician & performer is gone, and we are unlikely to ever see anyone else like him for a while.

In someways the Weird Al Yankovic of metal, in many ways just a great entertainer and lovable character. He was able to observe the absurdities of heavy metal, and produce something that highlighted it excesses, ridiculing its excesses with mock revelry, but also tapped into the core positive sensibilities of community, freedom, and escapism from the dull realities of the world. Yes, his bands all wore exceedingly silly costumes and did overblown theatrics (often featuring 10+ performers on stage at any one time) with insane lyrics. But its easy to forget that each of the projects was simply an extension of what was already being done in the scene anyway, and rather than taking the music to the logical extremes of death-metal or black-metal he took them in the direction of the illogical, and far more accessible, extremes of Saturday morning cartoons.

With GWAR misogynistic sexism was replaced by impossible levels of perversion (often with the female characters coming out on top), stylish disinterest in the audience was surpassed by a wish to destroy the planet, suggested violence was bypassed with regular death on stage (always including major celebrities, normally picked form the local to cause maximum upset), and a hip-upbringing story was replaced by galactic myth and outright bullshit of the first order. All done with a massive respect for the rest of the world and a total appreciation that what they did was ridiculous but, most importantly, that that didn't make it any less important or stop it from being wonderful. And they could play, be it sleazy fast rockfunky dance metal, songs about killer penguins, possibly the most metal song ever, or 70's classic AOR, because no-one gets to do something for 30 years unless the basis of it is solid skills and talent. Always bubbling away at the edge of social acceptability with Grammy nominations and Beavis and Butthead mentions (even managing to get a gig on Fox News for a while), they have always been too out-there to break big yet always great enough to always be unmissable. Sadly Brockie's death is likely to give them the fame they always deserved, mostly because with such an unpredictable band its going to be safer playing the tapes than letting them into the studio.

Meanwhile X-Cops (always criminally underrated IMO) was the answer to the question "what happens if a bunch of pissed off police formed a band" (and also 'how badly does a band suffer if they are their own support on a tour") when tracks like "Cop Killer" were all the rage and the LA Riots were still kicking up a storm of dissension. It was antagonism and ridicule at its highest, as well as tapping into the raw politics of what you could and couldn't sing about as a rock band. The Dave Brockie Experience was just weird, with simple, almost punky, little tunes about things like being a squirrel because why the hell not. Minimal irony or post-modernism, simple good fun.

So 'Thank You' Dave, for three of my favorite bands ever, and for an unrelenting willingness to be utterly serious about doing things for a joke. Thank you also for one of my favorite live performances ever, which much like your death ended abruptly and with me (and others) hungering for more. You are gone too soon, and we will miss you.


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