Older and calmer, indie-rock survivors set for intimate shows

Tow well into the post-summer season, many of the capital’s smaller indoor venues, traditionally closed for summer, are building up their winter schedules. Several interesting dates in the rock music segment have already emerged, most of them courtesy of the Small Music Theater (33 Veikou, Koukaki, tel 210.924.5644), the pint-sized Athens club which has developed into one of the city’s more active, and interesting, musical focal points for local and foreign artists in recent seasons. The venue’s agenda at this point includes upcoming performances by worthy indie-rock survivors from the 1980s, namely Julian Cope, formerly of the post-punk band Teardrop Explodes, as well as Chuck Prophet, who emerged in the mid-1980s as the lead guitarist of country-rock revivalists Green On Red before eventually going solo. On a larger scale, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds are expected to pass through Athens early in December as part of a European tour now under way. The local show’s date and venue, however, remain unconfirmed. Prophet, one of the least heralded guitarists of the 1980s and ’90s, who has also developed songwriting skills to match his instrumental prowess, has been booked for two performances on November 18 and 19 as part of a European tour. They will be his first in Greece as a solo performer following a visit with Green On Red in the late 1980s. Though relatively unknown to the masses, Prophet’s contribution to rock music cannot be neglected. As a band member of Green On Red, Prophet helped keep guitar-dominated country-rock alive at a time when the roots style was largely viewed as passe. A wealth of younger acts, among them Beck, Will Oldham, Calexico, and, more recently, Iron and Wine, as well as Sufjan Stevens, have all since successfully delved into American roots music, including country and folk, and brought these usually pensive styles to the music scene’s fore. Perhaps it is the troubled world of today, the escalating tensions being generated in global politics and the general disillusionment being felt over any real solutions that has provided a hospitable home for the mostly melancholy sounds being rendered by acts such as the aforementioned. Years ago, the music scene was less friendly for acts such as Green On Red who, amid the heavily «yuppified» era of the ’80s, possibly came across as die-hard hillbilly-minded rockers. But they seemed to thrive on it. At the time, Green On Red, for example, put out raw and honest-sounding albums that strongly depicted the underbelly of society with songs about outsiders living, or forced to live, on the fringe. The feeling of bewilderment was well captured on Green On Red’s «Gas, Food, Lodging» album, which was released in 1985, around the time when a younger Prophet joined the already swinging band. Later that decade, the band’s early members began departing, but Prophet, along with frontman Dan Stuart as the core duo, continued the act’s ramshackle run with the help of various musicians before the two traded in the madness for quieter lives. Prophet has continued on his solo career, which he launched in 1990 with «Brother Aldo.» Several more releases have followed, including «Homemade Blood,» a live-in-the-studio set that highlight’s Prophet’s talent on guitar. Last month he put out his seventh solo release, «The Age of Miracles,» which follows 2002’s critically acclaimed «No Other Love» album. When asked to cite the influences behind its making, Prophet noted: «All roads lead to [Bob] Dylan I suppose. Beyond that, if I mention one influence I’d have to leave out a hundred. One definite influence on this record is my increasingly acute awareness that we’re living in the modern age.» Hailing from quite a different scene, Cope, who is scheduled to perform at the Small Music Theater later this year, on December 12 and 13, originally surfaced as frontman of Teardrop Explodes, one of the more influential bands of the late ’70s that emerged from a fertile scene in Liverpool. The band’s wayward mix of neo-psychedelic rock and electro-pop caught on, but amid the abundance of wild rock-and-roll adventures, as well as legendary feuds between Cope and the act’s record label boss, Bill Drummond (himself a highly controversial figure), Teardrop Explodes disbanded in 1983. Cope has since put out album after album, many of them quite engaging. He signed with the major label Island Records in ’86 but the deal fell through in ’92 after his album «Jehovahkill,» one of Cope’s strongest, failed to draw a wider following. Ensuing releases have, nevertheless, come at a steady rate. Besides the music, Cope, an active figure in various fields, has also committed himself to writing his memoirs over two volumes, 1993’s «Head On,» and «Repossessed» in 2000. Sharply written and detailed, both surprised fans expecting hazier accounts by a man who had often portrayed himself as a drugged-out rock musician.