Metropolis: The Wild, Pornography

The Wild: Eric Griswold, Ritchie Daniell and Sam Pankhurst. Image courtesy of Melbourne Recital Centre
The Wild: Eric Griswold, Ritchie Daniell and Sam Pankhurst. Image courtesy of the Melbourne Recital Centre

Eric Griswold is not alone when he says that the tribal drums, flanged guitars and beyond-the-grave reverb of The Cure’s 1982 album Pornography “hit a power-spot” in his suburban-adolescent psyche. Even if The Cure’s output was usually boiled down to a few de rigeur tracks on scratched mix-CDs by the time of my own suburban-adolescent encounter with the band, it was—and judging by the audience at last night’s concert, is probably still—an obligatory rite of passage for every disaffected youth. It is then entirely appropriate that Eric Griswold teams up with two younger Brisbane musicians, Ritchie Daniell (drums) and Sam Pankhurst (bass), as The Wild to reimagine the album in an extended piano trio.

To recreate the guitar’s distortion and flanging, Griswold prepared his Yamaha (presumably the Recital Centre didn’t let him near the Steinway!) baby grand with paper and card, holding down the sustain pedal to imitate the echo of Robert Smith’s voice. A range of techniques gives the songs a density not found on the original, relatively transparent recording. In One Hundred Years Griswold plays on a cluster of notes within the range of a fourth (about the width of a hand with the fingers held loosely) , occasionally punctuating the tight, writhing group of notes with higher or lower tones. At other times he uses forearms and palms on the black keys of the piano, creating a broad shimmering surface channeling Debussy more than Smith.

Griswold produces a remarkable polyphonic effect in Siamese Twins by playing on the keys while also plucking strings inside the piano. Pankhurst takes over the chords at this point, which are given a seismic inevitability by the deep tones of the double bass.

The Figurehead is the most conventionally-reproduced of all of the songs, except for a period of knuckle-bashing on the piano. The seeming lack of invention in The Figurehead is more than compensated for in A Strange Day by Daniell’s exciting extended drum kit solos. Bells, cloths, prayer drums, soft mallets, brushes and elbows all come out to create a sputtering, thudding, polymetrical feast, settling into a 120bpm backbeat for only four bars to allow a fragment of the chorus to appear before being swallowed again by the glorious cacophony.

As well as taking the audience on a nostalgic journey, The Wild’s Pornography traces a social path from alternative rock to New Music that has provided contemporary classical music with some of its most active and innovative players. It shows that experimentation with sound sources and musical structures is a common passion from alternative rock to art music, from the suburbs to the city.

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