Pendulum @ SF’s Grand Ballroom 3/12/09

Pendulum came to San Francisco’s Grand Ballroom on 3/12 and played a periodically compelling, highly uneven show which was far more effective at hitting the trance-dance notes than you would think from the group’s ultra-tough stage image. Similar to the late ‘90s group Limp Bizkit, which joined Vanilla Ice-style hip-hop with System of the Down-style grunge, Pendulum is a group whose self-conscious genre-blending, with a kind of punk/house/hip-hop (almost a full sentence in itself), is wholly, embarrassingly inauthentic, and only too obviously catering to white head-bangers with ill-expressed suburban-angsty image problems.

But the show wasn’t entirely without merit. The band began as an Australian drum and base group who were signed to 31 Records after their first album and subsequently relocated to London, where they proceeded to shed their d&b roots and re-make their image. Their d&b side was the most compelling — they’ve got a good sense of rhythm and synthesizer, and a little metal-punk instrumentals thrown in there actually makes for a pretty arresting, adrenaline-pumping effect. MC Bob Verse, however, the only member of the group who seems to give Pendulum a hip-hop-type sound, was completely unnecessary… and mostly inaudible. You can tell he’s got a thick Australian accent, you can tell he’s enjoying himself and playing the crowd, trying as hard as he can to get us excited about whatever it is he’s saying — as for what he’s actually saying, your guess is as good as mine. My guess would be that no one in the crowd had any idea.

Of course, Bob Verse’s real purpose is to prop up the group’s image — apparently hip-hop is also cool and tough in the U.K. and Australia. And if their aim is to masquerade affectively to immature teens, than I guess they’ve probably succeeded (this was the only show I’ve been to through MCMB where much of the discussion by fans in the ticket line was about whether the fake ID would actually work this time). If their aim is to hit on an original sound un-compromised by all that it tries to be, however, than Pendulum has failed horribly.[This piece originally appeared on MyCrazyMusicBlog, and cannot be reproduced without permission. Thank you.]

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