Sunday, September 02, 2007

Lebanese "post-punk": Scrambled Eggs

From the Daily Star, a useful account of one of Lebanon's most prominent rock bands, the post-punk Scrambled Eggs. Go here for some photos of Scrambled Eggs playing last summer at an event called, "Musicians against Monsters," during Israel's murderous bombing campaign. Go here for more info and to listen to a couple of their songs. Their myspace page is here.

The photo of Scrambled Eggs (thanks Jim) is Ousama Ayoub, and from AFP. The caption: Young Lebanese revellers gather inside a bar in the Gemmayze area at the heart of Beirut late 04 July 2007 as part of a campaign to revive night life in the fashionable area not far from where anti-government opposition parties have been camping for the past eight months. Gemmayze, once vibrant with shops and cafes, is now struggling to cope with a drastic fall in passing trade and diving sales. The area has been abandoned by revellers in favour of roof top bars to which Beirutis have flocked for fear of recent bomb at attacks at street level. AFP PHOTO/OUSAMA AYOUB

A luta continua!

Here's the Daily Star article:

"Scrambled Eggs on the back burner: Beirut's post-punk pioneers take five (months or so)
Members will use hiatus for studies in America, possible shows in Europe, new material"
By Bojan Preradovic
Special to The Daily Star
Friday, August 31, 2007

BEIRUT: When the local post-punk outfit Scrambled Eggs took to the stage at Basement last week, it was to play their last show in Beirut for some time to come. The band, made up of vocalist and guitarist Charbel Haber, guitarist Marc Codsi, bassist Tony Aliyeh and drummer Malek Rizkallah, is putting itself on self-imposed hiatus for the next few months, pending Rizkallah's return from studying in the United States.

Scrambled Eggs has been a prominent member of Beirut's alternative rock scene for a solid decade now, and, despite the band members' taking a much-needed break, there seems to be no end in sight as far as their creative antics are concerned.

"The band will pick up again around January," Haber says, "but we may do some concerts in Europe in the meantime."

Haber and his bandmates are generally delighted to offer a long list of obscure, experimental ambient-electro artists as their influences, but they are also equally careful to mention that most of their writing is done through improvisation, evocative of the technique spearheaded by jazz legends such as John Coltrane.

The members of Scrambled Eggs are, however, renowned in Beirut as partisans of now-classic acts such as Sonic Youth, who, among other New York groups in the 1980s, pioneered the so-called "no wave" movement in art and music (a special brand of indie underground music permeated by a re-evaluation of punk rock credos).

The band's love affair with experimentation, improvisation and, more notably, with atmospheric resonance and feedback, seems interminable, at least for the moment. In addition to those shows in Europe, Haber has his record label Those Kids Must Choke to think about, and it is likely Scrambled Eggs will take advantage of some down time to start assembling material for the band's next album.

"I am too busy right now to even think about the label," Haber admits, "but I can do 500 records, and they'll all be the same twisted underground stuff," he says, laughing. "I don't want it to grow beyond that or diversify - that's the spirit of the label and that's what I'm sticking to."

In terms of the band's music, he explains: "We are currently heading in the same direction, but at the same time, we never know for sure where the next album will take us.

"It should feature the familiar punk vibe, with our own brand of ambient, but again, the way we compose in rehearsal is by improvisation, which obviously implies unpredictability, so you never know.

"I draw the inspiration for the lyrics from human relationships and the spirit of the times - the songs are about people you love, those you hate, and those you don't hate," Haber says.

When asked what he is currently listening to, Haber exclaims, with a mischievous smile: "Nothing, zero!"

Scrambled Eggs' concert last Thursday began more than an hour behind schedule, but the band's repertoire for the night certainly lived up to its reputation: Aliyeh drove his fingers across his bass for the improvised opener, generating a haunting, oriental-sounding melody, which was repeatedly drowned out by the howling feedback from Codsi's and Haber's guitars. If those in the audience who had never been to a Scrambled Eggs show before were at all thrown off by the plush sonic sounds that filled the room as the band sank deeper into the proverbial maze produced by their instruments, the entrance of Haber's vocals dispelled any doubts with respect to these musicians' punk credentials.

Haber's meaningful yet somehow sarcastic wails signaled a break from the singing style he employed on such Scrambled Eggs releases as "Human Friendly Noises" from 2002. But at the same time they positioned him clearly as an heir to the Sex Pistols' Johnny Rotten.

Haber's lack of inhibition in expressing his sensitivity as a songwriter comes out in lyrics such as "I don't want you to see me cry," displaying a covert vulnerability parallel to a show of strength, itself synonymous with the brave face most young Lebanese performers have had to put on during these taxing times the country is enduring.

Haber reinforced that point with a defiant allusion to Lebanon's current situation: "See you in Beirut, whatever happens," he said, before launching into a song bearing the same name, showcasing an industrial-sounding mid-section and a twisted, anthemic chorus.

During the instrumental sections of songs, Codsi shredded what appeared to be a Fender Stratocaster, a guitar typically played by puritan rock and punk musicians. The simple yet overwhelmingly potent single-note guitar solos, played at a pace reminiscent of Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo, supplemented each song with an appropriately authoritative closing statement.

"Murder" opened with an organ sample that sounded like a musical excerpt from a horror flick. Then Rizkallah took over the rhythm section. The drummer's startlingly simple set-up - consisting of just the basic toms, snare drum and one or two cymbals - reverberated throughout the club in a sequence that most accurately resembled the sound of war drums.

The band rolled through the night's musical menu, with songs such as "Bleeding Nun," "Salt and Sugar" and "Lightning Bolt" finding their way onto the set list. "Russian Roulette" featured a straightforward two-note progression in the verse played by Aliyeh, with Codsi occasionally harmonizing to Haber's vocal lines.

Offstage, Haber lamented the intractability of some members of the audience: "It's difficult to move them, and I would attribute this to the 'culture' of the audience and how in touch with rock music they are, as well as how many live shows they've been to.

"It wasn't always like this, but generally, the younger people in the crowd are the ones jumping around," he adds with a smile.

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