By Ian S. Port
By Tony Ware
By Emma Silvers
By Gary Moskowitz
By Alee Karim
By Ian S. Port
By Ian S. Port
By Derek Opperman
Seemingly more of a cult with ever-morphing lineups than a rock band proper, Indian Jewelry taps into psychedelia's darker, more tribalistic veins with often equilibrium-upsetting results. Starting life in Houston as Swarm of Angels, Indian Jewelry "began in a shitstorm in 2002," says guitarist/vocalist Tex Kerschen with characteristic understatement. With confusion as its watchword, the band performed under an array of monikers like Turquoise Diamonds, Corpses of Waco, and Perpetual War Party Band. In 2004, the group solidified or rather liquefied under the name Indian Jewelry. "Our motivations are always suspect," ventures Kerschen. "A band is a band. This band is a suspect."
As you can gather from Kerschen's comments, Indian Jewelry is of the trickster persuasion. One would assume from the liners to its crucial 2006 debut album, Invasive Exotics, that the band's core configuration is a trio, but with room to greatly expand in live settings. Kerschen sets us straight.
"Actually, our core configuration is a multitude. The trio is just handier for photographic purposes until we get flush enough to hire a newsy with a wide-lens camera. Members [are] selected from those friends with a jones for rhythm and a hankering for disorder. Over the past month we've been playing as five. By the time we reach San Francisco, however, we might be significantly leaner."
With so many people involved (22 names appear in the press bio), it makes one wonder about IJ's creative process. Critics have griped about Invasive Exotics' lack of cohesion, but when the stylistically scattered results are as interesting as this album's are, slack must be cut. Consistency and coherence are overrated. Brilliant inconsistency trumps predictable coherence any time.
"Our songs are written in the usual ways and thereafter undone, revised, exploded, and, of late, expanded," Kerschen explains. "After that we pick and choose, kill off and resurrect. Regarding any lack of cohesion, allow us to quote Oscar Wilde: 'Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative.' Regarding critics, let us simply refer you to the farting bug from Naked Lunch."
Anything but unimaginative, IJ's music brings to mind sonic subversives like Savage Republic, Butthole Surfers, Suicide, and Excepter. What largely makes IJ's songs work is that these fine influences are obscure and subtly incorporated into the band's own distinctive vision. The ominous rock of "Lesser Snake" opens Exotics with relentless waves of crunchy guitars and stomping drums, like a more lumbering "Trampled Under Foot" by Led Zeppelin. "Powwow" follows, its dirty, growling keyboards and surprisingly buoyant bass line projecting the girth and power to disrupt normal heart function.
The fury diminishes, but the weirdness intensifies on "Dirty Hands," a vortex of sooty, droney psychedelia that makes you feel like you're being sucked down a whirlpool of filth while on magic mushrooms. It's eons away from the peppy, antiseptic indie rock that's heard on too many NPR and pop-centric college radio stations. In fact, Exotics' most FM-friendly tune, "Come Closer," still isn't going to win over the world's Nic Harcourts, as it sounds like Mazzy Star infused with the Crash Worship's lusty appetite for six-string clangor and tom-tom abuse. The disc concludes with "Lost My Sight," whose irrepressible Suicidelike throb, replete with reverbed vox and strident analog-synth oscillations, builds almost unbearable pressure. It's a suitably cataclysmic capper.
What can people expect from Indian Jewelry's live show on this tour? Faithful recreations of Exoticssongs or strange tangents thereof?
"We are using strobe lights," Kerschen threatens. "We request that anyone with epileptic preconditions please bring dark glasses and/or a blindfold. Musically, [expect] the three Rs: repetition, repetition, repetition. "