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Record Review - 1 August 01 2001

A great deal of attention has been given to the history of San Francisco trio Pleasure Forever. Formerly known as Slaves, they began playing together in the mid-'90s as the VSS, a noisy art-rock band that influenced many of the more post-punk leaning new-wave bands of recent years.

Pleasure Forever's self-titled debut is the sound of smothering in absinthe-drenched velvet and of escalating footsteps in long sanitarium halls. There's an element of irrational fear, yet an invigorating chill of excitement. Pleasure Forever are the lost cousins of Nick Cave's Bad Seeds, a sinister encampment in an avoided forest, pounding out martial rhythms by the flicker of campfire.

Or maybe it's the flicker of an oil lamp, the light bouncing to the rhythm harshly dealt out of an old-timey tack piano, swelling like excited men in the audience as painted ladies prance on stage. The musicians, however, aren't concerned with the audience's enjoyment. The music is indulgent and opulent, a feast of organs and calliopes, fuzzy bass and sharp guitar for those who hear it. It's not laid out for others, but rather the sound of a band being devoured by its own attention to tense rhythm and dark melody.

Pleasure Forever attempts to bring back flamboyance to the underground, like the Damned or David Bowie before he went disco. The music has an uneven, intruding edge, with a powerfully stalking, swampy stomp that anchors it. Pleasure Forever makes you well aware of mortality, but wasn't rock meant to scare people to death? Maybe you shouldn't neglect the past.

Pleasure Forever plays MJQ Concourse Thurs., Aug. 2.??