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Published: 2008/06/23
by Brad Farberman

Party Intellectuals – Marc Ribot’s Ceramic Dog

Pi Recordings

Even if you haven’t heard of Marc Ribot (“pronounced REE-bow,” according to his website) by name, chances are you’ve heard him play guitar. Your inner intelligent rocker, for instance, has heard him play with Tom Waits (on Rain Dogs, Franks Wild Years, Mule Variations, Real Gone) and Elvis Costello (on Spike, Kojak Variety, Mighty like a Rose, Cruel Smile). The downtown experimentalist in you has noticed him on any number of albums with John Zorn and John Lurie’s Lounge Lizards. And your jam-friendly side knows that he’s appeared on a trio of MMW records, a live one from Club d’Elf, DJ Logic’s Project Logic and Trey Anastasio’s Surrender to the Air.

Basically, the guy is in demand. And always has been. But for good reason: he’s one of the best, and most versatile guitarists you’ll ever hear. And you’ll know it from the opening moments on Party Intellectuals, the first proper release from Marc Ribot’s Ceramic Dog.

Understand this, however: Ribot’s own music in no way borrows from his employers’ musics. The guitarist is his own man: Ribot’s music, on Intellectuals at least (it’s always changing), is a brutal, fuzzy, experimental funky freak out, like no one but Marc Ribot could produce.

Supported by drummer Ches Smith (also of Xiu Xiu) and bassist Shahzad Ismaily, Ceramic Dog is what’s become of the power trio by 2008. And it’s no Cream or Hendrix Experience. It’s heavier and weirder than that. And more danceable. Their album-opening cover of The Doors’ “Break On Through” says it all: the sounds are distorted, and sloppy, and loud, and screaming, and sweaty and cathartic. And rump-shaking. It’s beautiful.

But the title track offers another side of the Dog: electronic disco-punk, with Mr. Ismaily switching to synthesizers. And “Todo El Mundo Es Kitsch” takes us to yet another land, where the indigenous music is some form of avant-soul complete with female vocals (on top of Ribot’s own) and playful lyrics about seeing the world: “In Barcelona, we viewed the Gaudi/In Frankfurt, we drove in an Audi,” they sing. Then, things get scary again on “When We Were Young And We Were Freaks” and half-way through “Digital Handshake.” There’s a lot of variety on this disc; maybe Ribot has combined every sideman gig he’s every done into one crazy album. Sounds good to me.

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