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Published: 2006/07/19
by Brian Gearing

Transformations Live: For the People – Particle

Shout Factory

Particle’s announcement of the departure of guitarist Charlie Hitchcock generated plenty of web chatter among their fans: some mourned the loss and, like Hitchcock himself, cried foul at his abrupt and unexpected lay off; others lauded the decision, claiming the coveted alpha male spot for keyboardist Steve Molitz. Whatever the reality of the situation, it was obvious to anyone with a critical ear that a change was needed.

Fans on both sides of the split greeted the band’s next announcement with almost universal approval. Not only would Hitchcock be replaced by the highly touted RANA guitarist, Scott Metzger, but the band would add a second guitarist, Ben Combe, to the mix. After a few weeks of rehearsals, the quintet hosted a pair of coming-out parties, the first at L.A.’s Henry Fonda Theatre, and the second at San Francisco’s Great American Music Hall. Their new double-CD set, Transformations Live: For the People, documents the band’s grand re-opening.

The buzz for the shows rose significantly with the announcement of special guests Blackalicious, DJ Logic, Joe Satriani and Doors guitarist Robbie Krieger, and the new line-up’s reception was generally positive. As its title makes clear, however, the album and the shows it represents were intended “For the People” — Particle people, that is. Those already smitten with Particle’s danceable, electro-funky rock before the split will find plenty on Transformations to gush over, while others will be less likely to share that sentiment.

“Particle People” opens the record with Blackalicious’ brief greeting to the hometown Fonda Theatre crowd before segueing into Beck's “E-Pro.” Sometimes cathartic in person, live hip-hop often gets lost in its translation to record, and while the Beck tune stands close enough to the rap-rock border to be listenable, Transformations’ first two tracks show why there are so few live hip hop records out there. The band’s foray into vocal territory is certainly a step in a new direction, but their thin, shaky voices and vague, contrived lyrics on “Losing It” and “Thanks,” Combe’s two new contributions to the repertoire, leave the band’s directional instincts in question.

The Meters’ “Fiyo on the Bayou” stands out as a powerfully driving number and the Doors’ “L.A. Woman” reveals Particle’s potential with standard song form. However, while “Triple Threat” and “Ed + Molly” offer fiery keyboard and guitar solos, at 20 minutes-plus they often revert to those old droning rhythms. Transformations should please Particle People but if the purpose of the roster change was to get the band’s inspirational waters flowing again, the band's first performance as a quintet suggests that they remain a bit impeded.

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