NAKED LURCH: Singer Van Christian wants everyone to join him and Naked Prey at the Pueblo Inn at 350 S. Freeway (I-10 and Congress Street) on Saturday, January 6, to celebrate the release of their new album, And Then I Shot Everyone. Although the album was officially released on October 31, prior committments with Friends of Dean Martinez prevented him from properly launching his new Epiphany Records release. With a bit of time in his otherwise busy schedule, Christian is ready to express his genuine excitement over the record.
Christian is a blue-collar guy who, whether by accident or design, wound up playing left field for culture. He is drawn to the same disenfranchised skid-row and working-class folks who captured the attention of John Steinbeck and Jack Kerouac generations ago. Christian has found them often compromised and confused, surviving in more brutal conditions than John or Jack would have liked to imagine. Sometimes, they know how to have a good time in spite of it all. His songs are raw and direct, delivered with a shout or a rasp, straight from his formidable gut. Christian, along with Howe Gelb, Dan Stuart, Al Perry and Rainer, are credited for having defined "desert rock," which has found a large and appreciative audience in Europe.
And Then I Shot Everyone begins with "El Grande Market," an observation of random violence with an expression of gratitude for not being part of it. In its abstraction, the somber yet edgy "Space" shares more insight about megalomania than you'd find in volumes of psychological texts. Oddly, neither of these cuts is depressing, probably due to the fact that Christian's heart doesn't bleed. He's more of a reporter, sifting through the remains for a little truth.
His lighter side does shine through on the charming "That's How Much I Love You," and the boozy and loopy "Lucky Lager." "Mop It Up" is classic Christian form, growling and rocking full on.
"Most of my songs are a reflection of myself," Christian says. "I write the music first and the lyrics come later. I want to give people a glimpse of my reality and open a lot of windows to myself at the same time."
Christian is joined by Naked Prey regulars, guitarist John Venet, drummer Tom Larkins and bassist David Herbert, along with guest stars including Randy McReynolds, Joey Burns, John Convertino, Craig Schumacher, Rainer, Chuck Prophet, Bruce Halper, Colin Scott, and the lively Dillon Christian, who is featured on the quirky "Dillonious Skunk."
So why do Tucson bands find success in Europe while they struggle to reach a domestic audience? And why is it that Tucson tends to produce bands of a more experimental nature, while Phoenix bands sound more mainstream?
"Phoenix is a cultural wasteland," Christian says. "It's true that Naked Prey isn't a Star Search kind of band. I mean, you're not going to hear one of our songs and say 'There's a hit!' It has been difficult to find our niche. Back in the '80s, R.E.M. defined alternative for radio and major lables. Now it's, 'Alternative to what?' They want everybody to sound like Pearl Jam. The dollar is the lowest common denominator in this country and everyone places too much value on celebrity. Nothing seems to matter anymore unless it's on TV."
Don't hold your breath waiting for him to tailor Naked Prey's sound for radio, or anyone else for that matter. He is comfortable with his musical direction and being his own man.
And why has he chosen to host the release party at the Pueblo Inn?
"I just wanted a new venue," he says. "I used to go there to hear a band called Rampage, who did a really good job of playing Santana and War covers. I always liked the place and I think that other people will like it, too. Al Perry is going to open for me, which will make the whole night really great. They'll also be selling Richies chili dogs there."
Once again, Van Christian wants to take us someplace new. Color me there. Call 622-6611 for ticket information.
LAST NOTES: Don't miss Dan Stuart at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St., on Friday, December 5. His lastest release, Can O' Worms (Monkey Hill Records), represents the soul searching which comes from producing a body of work that has received praise from the likes of Rolling Stone, Spin, The New York Times, etc., and wrestling a lot of Demons along the way. That which did not kill him provided material for the impressive new album. He doesn't play here very often, so don't wait until the next time rolls around. Al Perry and 35 Summers open, with everything set to start at 9 p.m. Tickets are $4.
TESLA roars onto the stage at the Outback on Friday, January 5. Doors open at 4 p.m.; showtime is at 9 p.m. Tickets are $17.25.
Finally, I must apologize for the egregious error I made on my 1995 top ten list last week concerning Jack Kerouac and John Coltrane. To set the record straight, Kerouac expressed a desire to be able to write the way Charlie Parker played the horn. That is what I get for writing at 4 a.m. Congratulations to those of you who caught it.
What can I say about Coltrane? He's godhead.
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