April 2006

Thanks For
Coming Out

The Worst Pop Band Ever | Thanks For Coming Out
April 19, 2006The Rex Jazz & Blues BarToronto
Beer and Pop
by Joyce Corbett with photos by Roger Humbert
The four guys beside me had just come in for a beer. The doorman came over to collect the $5 cover. "There’s a band coming on," he explained, "it’s The Worst Pop Band Ever”. This pronouncement was met with some puzzlement, before he could finish with “that’s the name of the band”. Not all of the four had heard. One asked the others, “What do you think? There’s a band, do you want to pay the cover?” “How much?” “$5”. “O.K.” It was decided.

Tim Shia started putting his drum kit together on the stage and Chris Gale appeared, saxophone in hand. “So,” one of the ‘hadn’t heards’ from the Four Guys asked, “is this blues or jazz?” “I don’t know” was the reply, “they’re called The Worst Pop Band Ever”. “Oh.”

So, who/what are The Worst Pop Band Ever? Safe to say they are a quartet — drummer and bandleader Tim Shia, saxophonist Chris Gale, keyboardist Dafydd Hughes and bassist Drew Birston — joined by turntablist Leo037 on some pieces. Are they the worst pop band ever? Maybe. They are “nearly-popless”. They have snap and crackle, lots of crackle, but pop? They ‘covered’ Bjork’s “Army of Me” admirably and they also played with her “Cocoon” (vocal-lessly) but... is Bjork pop or is she simply category-resistant? Post perhaps — whatever...

Tim Shia
I’d say The Worst Pop Band Ever is a 21st century jazz band with a catchy moniker. A unique band very much of its time with lots of subtlety and musicianship, exploring and playing what they find interesting. How do they see themselves and what they do? The description on their website reads: “Pop tunes played in a modern jazz vein; upsetting to pop and jazz purists alike”. Tonight’s show was celebrating the release of their first CD, Thanks For Coming Out.

Right off the top, The Worst Pop Band Ever with Leo037 on turntable showed their strength at slow-building atmosphere with saxophonist-composer Michael Blake’s complex and interesting “Lemmy Caution”, despite ‘technical difficulties’. The second piece, lyrical, with some judiciously employed melodica and a melodic bass solo featured great composure under pressure as Dafydd Hughes took screwdriver to Rhodes and gave the nod to Chris Gale for an extended solo while he made some repairs. “How did you like our new performance art piece?” asked Tim Shia. “Dafydd wrote that tune, he just doesn’t like playing his own tunes so he made us play it by ourselves”.

The next piece was Dave Holland’s “Dream of the Elders”. Drew Birston was impressive on the solo bass introduction and I found myself thinking about how far this instrument has come since the days it was relegated to ‘just’ keeping time at the back of the stage. Much more is expected now and Drew delivers, bowing, plucking and even hitting the body of the bass.

Dafydd Hughes now had a fully functional keyboard to work with as well as his melodica and various pedals. He plays with his sounds like a painter with his colours and has an interesting, spare comping style. Tim Shia uses his drum kit with great finesse, setting moods, placing accents or driving on through. Chris Gale? Beautiful, lyrical and out there; soft to crazy. The Four Guys for a Beer were engaged.

The Worst Pop Band Ever continued with originals and Dave Lunn’s “Sky Transformed” from their new release. Our standard for the night was “Stardust”. Tim Shia’s “Those Crazy Hens” was dedicated to his twin girls, born in the year of the rooster and “Chroë or Gloë” was titled after Tim Shia’s daughter Chloë or rather, his parents’ mis-pronunciation of her name. “Those Crazy Hens” had a driving drum section and sharp rhythms, hectic at times. I thought I heard the suggestion of a siren. “Chroë or Gloë” was mostly mellow and meandering with moments whimsical and turntable effects that added to the composition.

When we got to Drew Birston’s composition “Onzième”, Tim explained that it was inspired by the birth of Drew’s eleventh child. Just joking — I assume.

Chris Gale

Four Guys for a Beer seemed to enjoy The Worst Pop Band Ever, though they only stayed for one set. Most of us came for the music and we stayed.

We welcome your comments and feedback
Joyce Corbett
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Roger Humbert
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The Live Music Report

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