Concert Review: Collider, Martly (Valentine’s, Albany, New York, January 25, 2003)

Some over-thinking, music-criticizing journalist type once crafted an analogy between the music made by Collider (the band) and the products produced by colliders (the favorite toys of your friendly neighborhood particle physicists). It was a wanky, pretentious analytical stretch, sure, but it did capture a key element of Collider (the band)’s allure, in that they’re really good at smashing things together that don’t normally even frequent the same neighborhoods, creating fire and smoke and carnage, heat and fear and danger in the process.

The New York City-based quartet sure crunched all sorts of things together to great effect during a massive set Saturday night at Valentine’s. Collider offered pure punk rock power, for instance, played with King Crimson-caliber technical precision. They poured molten buckets of guitar noise over our heads, then feathered us with fancy keyboard filigree. They shouted and screamed like hopping, bopping cretins, but when we pieced together the words that flew out of them, we realized that they were some of the most thoughtful and entertaining things we’d heard in ages, about such way cool topics as trilobites, Joey Ramone, white kids with dreadlocks, Farmingdale High School’s class of 1991, Korn, the last two letters of the alphabet, lovers who don’t come back when you set them free, the trees, roundhouses to the head, America, God, man, love, hate, you name it, it was in there, and then some. Prego.

Collider even offered up a bracing Faith No More cover (“Be Aggressive”), then topped that with an awe-inspiring, to-these-ears-definitive take on Jonathan Richman’s “Pablo Picasso” (done John Cale style, mind you, not Modern Lovers style). And how often can you use the words “Faith No More” and “John Cale” in the same sentence about the same concert, and have it make sense, huh? Well, that, in a nutshell, is the Collider magic: the fact that you could pretty much hear some facet of just about every type of popular music from the past quarter century somewhere in their set’s high speed swirl of hyper-accelerated sound and energy. Well, except for Rush. There is no Rush in the Collider sound. None at all. Nada.

So how do they pull it off? Well, keyboardist-vocalist-songwriter (and Albany ex-pat) Jed Davis writes and sings some awesome songs, and has for ages, so we expect that from him, but the Collider that I saw Saturday night was a lot more than just the Jed Davis Experience or Jedmania or The Jed Matthews Band. Collider are one tight group, get me, and they were firing on all cylinders at Valentine’s, with Sean Gould channeling the ghosts of guitar gods past, present and future, Mike Keaney playing bass guitar the way Keith Moon might, if Moon wasn’t a drummer, or dead (Keaney also sang the aforementioned “Pablo Picasso” and “Big Hot Monday,” a classic track by Collider precursor band Hanslick Rebellion), and drummer Joe Abbatantuono making the whole thing rocket along like a criticality accident in a crystal meth laboratory. You just can’t argue with results like that. Vote Collider for Congress.

Last time I caught Martly in concert in 1998 or so, they still had the word “Style” in front of their name, and John Delehanty was twiddling their knobs behind their soundboard. These days, though, Delehanty’s up on stage with a sweet black and white Rickenbacker, creating some fabulous, Television-esque twin guitar parts with fellow string bender Chris Conti. They and their bandmates had it going on like nobody’s bidness Saturday night, offering a great set of striking songs (which nicely merged three-minute-pop style melodies with ambitious, free-form experimental structures) and working the crowd well as they did it. Great stuff from a great band who have grown tremendously over the past few years — yet still seem primed and ready for more.

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