By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
Photo by Cola Greenhill CasadosCreate (!) is a jazz band. And a psychedelic band. And a punk band, a prog. rock band, a hip-hop band, a funk band, a metal band, a noise band and a classical ensemble. And if this Long Beach instrumental collective has any wide-eyed, lofty dreams about making it big, well . . . they don't. They can't, not as long as they're scattering Britney's fans from their gigs, as they once did. Not as long as their "songs"—more like aural sculptures, really—range from 43 seconds long to more than 10 minutes. Not as long as these songs have such titles as "Rocking Madness in the Bowels of San Pedro While Observing the Maximum Occupancy Rule of 7" (try cramming that onto a Billboard chart), inspired by a set they performed in a Pedro coffeehouse at which there were exactly seven people.
This is because Create (!) are not interested in the simplistic structure of the modern commercial pop song. Nor are they much into coming up with catchy hooks or crafty choruses. They are stocked with ample grooves for proper ass-wiggling, but the band frequently seems to tire of a groove soon after it latches onto one, preferring to abandon rhythm for barrages of freakish, experimental electro squonking or a distortion-pedal solo.
Self-described avant-gardists, Create (!) are the sonic equivalent of a Jackson Pollock canvas: messy and untamed on first look, but deliberate and well-choreographed if you stick around long enough to notice.
Take a recent live show, for which drummer Steve Richardson and bassist Orlando Greenhill did their faces in white tribal makeup. Guitarist Chris Schlarb zinged away on his guitar, though some of the noises he made didn't sound like any guitar most of us would recognize. A pair of horn players lent the set a New Orleans R&B feel. Then there was the Rhythm Game, in which Greenhill yanked a woman out of the crowd and made her the honorary band conductor, who led Create (!) through a gamut of breakneck tempo switching, from slow, loping, near-country crawls to Bad Brains-like thrashcore. It wasn't very clean or professional—but the spontaneity is the message.Patterns, the album they sell at shows, gets even weirder. There are random guitar screeches, hip-hop drum patterns, poetic raps that instantly recall the Watts Prophets or Gil Scott-Heron, and turntable scratches—all in less than a minute. This ain't no ordinary rock record. Elsewhere, they throw out doorbell chimes, silly raps about Pippi Longstocking, breakdancing cops and the Tiger Woodstockpalooza, taps, frenzied licks suitable for either chilling or moshing, "Amazing Grace," and bizarre buzzes that sound as if they went and amplified a bunch of electric toothbrushes. A fascinating listen, for sure, and when it's nearly over, you have to agree with the voice on a track called "Comprehension vs. Enjoyment": "I don't know what all that fancy jive means, but I like the sound of it." Create (!) get off on all this improvisation, forcing themselves to carve something fresh for each new performance, taking that nervous energy and inertia and possibly creating something groundbreaking with just a mere twisting of an unplanned bass riff, relishing the risks of what might happen. "Every time I play," Greenhill says, "I wonder what I can do that'll really freak people out. It's humbling because you want to think of something new each time. I'm always thinking of different noises I can make with my instrument."