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I guess you’ve reached a certain age when your favourite bands start doing “reunion” tours, as happened to me seeing Faith No More a couple of years ago. Similarly seeing the Secret Chiefs 3 at the Garage in London last week felt a little like revisiting some of my favourite gigs and memories of the last 20 years. Seeing SC3 in Sydney at a jazz club under the Harbour Bridge in 1998 would be right up there with my best nights of live music.
I think at around 16 you are ready for new influences and that happened to me when I was played a tape of Mr Bungle in 6th form. It was the diversity of what they did that I loved, mixing and switching between carnival organs, death metal, rock opera, jazz, ska; moreover not just over an album but within single songs. With a young Mike Patton on vocals there was a juvenility and sarcasm to their lyrics which was very appealing to me at the time. They were a band with technical ability and musical imagination who were also seemingly not self-serious or pretentious and had a sense of humour. Most other bands it seemed to me failed on at least one of those points.
Secret Chiefs 3 is a Trey Spruance project, a former Mr Bungle and (for one album) Faith No More guitarist, and the band has included other former Mr Bungle players in its various lineups, including drummer Danny Heifetz on the current tour. Like Mr Bungle they plow through genres with ease but with a common, more consistant base of Jewish/Middle Eastern, 60′s surf rock, 60′s/70′s movie soundtrack influences and atypical time signatures. It is a more focused and less chaotic feeling project.
Perhaps the magic will never return quite the same as when you are young and wide eyed but it was an enjoyable evening and the band were in good form. If I have one criticism of SC3 it is that they lack the humour that Patton brought with Bungle. If comparing them (live) to Bungle it is also hard to replace Patton’s stage presence but that feels a little harsh as they’re still great value. They probably benefit for being Spruance’s project as opposed to some of the sometimes intrusive pop/soul influences that Patton seemed to bring to Mr Bungle and Faith No More later on, which didn’t really play to either band’s strengths. Here’s hoping for a Mr Bungle tour one of these years though, there will be a lot of interest. In the meantime it’s great that their members are still active and out there performing.