The eclectic rock of Verdena: 20 years anniversary (and still I want more)

There’s a band, who wanted to be (the) Verbena but someone else got the name first, and so became Verdena, not the divine plant anymore, just the name of the best rock band I’ve gotten to know. With a lot of personal affection in it, yes.

Attonito, Wow, 2011

They started playing in 1995 in an old henhouse, just teenagers, two brothers and, couple of years later, a bassist. They started taking great inspiration from the grunge of Nirvana, publishing the first album, Verdena, in 1999, with the independent Italian Black Out, label born from the idea of promoting underground music with the means of a major, the owner Universal (and despite how it sounds, I would say it worked, considering also the other names supported).
Since their debut, and even before with their demo tapes, it is clear that Verdena have something special, a sound that is hard, melodic, complex, full of references from the greatest of rock, yet fresh and distinctive.

Il Gulliver, Requiem, 2007

Verdena grew up with me (or viceversa): I discovered them with their third album, Il suicidio dei samurai, and immediately started to listen to everything from their past. The result became an ongoing addiction.

Logorrea, Il suicidio dei samurai, 2004

Their cultural background is impressive but not surprising: they are big fans of the Beatles (that, ahem, I personally don’t like… yes I know, but), Interpol, Nirvana, Flaming Lips, to cite some. And every album expresses a new side, or maturity, of their sound, always carrying their timber, yet always unexpected and magnificent. When you think they have released their best album, the next one will change your mind.

Puzzle, Endkadenz vol. 1, 2015

So, what happened? Verdena, the first album, was grunge. Clearly. They were just 18, with introverted personalities, rebel: Kurt was the muse, their first inspiration. Solo un grande sasso (Just a big stone), the second album, is a new story: psychedelic and ambitious, with long complex tracks. The dark melancholy started with the second album gets emphasized in the third, Il suicidio dei samurai (The suicide of the Samurai), and almost disappears with Requiem, despite the title, that brings back their grunge but grown-up attitude. Then the double album Wow, Endkadenz Vol. 1 and Vol. 2… I prefer to leave (personal) descriptions aside and suggest you some tracks to listen to and get your personal idea.

Sotto prescrizione del dott. Huxley, Requiem, 2007

Since when I moved abroad, I’ve started to realize that, aside from the main genre, every country, even the closest ones (Austria and Italy, where I live and where I was born, for example), has a personal way to translate it, that implies that culture too. In my case, I am a big fan of the (old) Italian songwriters, I like that mix of tradition and sperimentation, that being politically engaged, poetic, idealistic; that decadent yet still brilliant flair of a brilliant yet decadent country. Lucio Battisti, Franco Battiato, Fabrizio De André, Rino Gaetano to cite a few. But I can also try (hard) to see it from an external point of view and understand that, together with the (indisputable) beauty of an execution, the emotional involvement plays a key role. That’s the best part of art. 

Fuoco amico 2 (pela i miei tratti), Endkadenz Vol. 2, 2015

 

 

Head image taken from rollingstone.it

Xiu Xiu – The sweetest torture for ears and tears

They are one of my first experiences with experimental music, the roughest, craziest, out-of-any-possible-box one. Their sound is dramatic, visceral, distorted, disturbing, sometimes an enchanted melody, sometimes a hammering noise. Xiu Xiu are the ever changing band of singer and songwriter Jamie Stewart, and represent, in my opinion, one of the finest expressions of aesthetics in music.

Get up, from Forget, 2017

It takes an effort to me to go back in the days, where I was a virgin disc to fill with the most interesting music. Music was coming from friends, from friends of friends, from magazines, even the library had (and I think it still has) a nice catalogue that gave me the roots, my background, after long hours passed just listening to music. Xiu Xiu were at the moment, for me and my circle, the ultimate sound. It was their beginning too. I was already in love with Nine Inch Nails, Sigur Rós, Björk, Radiohead, and couldn’t help connecting with their music. It was in 2006 at the Teatro Miela, an experimental theatre in Trieste, that I finally met them.

Do you know me? Jamie Stewart?Ian Curtis Wishlist, track from A promise, 2003

The funniest thing is that I’ve been knowing them since their debut, and still I was literally spelling Xiu Xiu (for me, Italian native). When you just need to go on their (Italian) page on Wikipedia to read that the pronunciation is “Shoo-shoo”, written in an Anglophone way…

When I got to know they were coming to Vienna I decided to update myself, damn they are still active and great and I’ve forgotten about their music…(Please don’t get me wrong, they are definitely unforgettable but I also listen to a lot of music). I think Xiu Xiu are one of the rare examples that can leave you puzzled about their music and at the same time about your critical abilities.

Before the concert there is already an intimate atmosphere, that peculiar connection that you feel among strangers when going to a special show that few know. I get interesting feedback from the people around: some are seeing them for the first time and very excited about, some are big fans, describing every concert as a new experience, from extreme experimentalism to regular and plain execution. And it is undisputable that they are true performers: when they finally start under a blue light the audience is immediately captured. I am lucky, I get a full-on piercing and distorted live, where my euphoria is equally mixed with the intensity of the performance.

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The songs are sweet and delicate, then getting harsh and sharp. Some people need to plug their ears, ’cause it’s too loud, or simply too much (but also for the small club Chelsea, thank you for having brought them to us!); meanwhile they play their hearts out, they dance like trapped in a state of trance (mainly Jamie, actually), they exchange, interchange the instruments, they read a poem: I am completely lost in the music. Sometimes I cannot even understand the lyrics; but the soft and tender, the shouted and violent, the simply passionate voice of Jamie Stewart brings me to a whole different level of communication. That’s the power of music, yes, but THAT is the power of Xiu Xiu.

Pumpking attack on mommy and daddy, from the new album Girl with basket of fruit, 2019