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Viewed in that philosophical light, Rice's work becomes less a black-heart and white-noise assault on the listener and more a chiaroscuro portrait of the man who writes the music. If you choose to focus on one element of his work, you lose one-half of his intent. And perhaps the element you choose says more about you than it does about him. The flame of the album's title is both the Promethean flame of enlightenment and creativity and the black flame of destruction. It is a foregone conclusion that the "Alpha" will terminate in "Omega"; Rice allows you to enjoy the space between the two points as the soundtrack for the Big Bang and the destruction that presages the last whimper. Receive the Flame rewards open minds and imaginations alike with subtleties and delicate shifts that become evident only after multiple listens. You must consider all possibilities first before deciding on the one you find most attractive.
Still, this is an election year, and Rice has been targeted in the past as an artist whose work could have a dangerous influence on young minds. All it takes is one of those "other outsiders" who enjoy Non to focus on the darker elements of the music and then take that short walk from loner to lone gunman; does the prospect of being tenuously linked to some violent tragedy by the evening news worry him?
"I believe music can have a myriad of influences on people, but you can't legislate sanity. How many people saw Taxi Driver, but only one person shoots the president? You can't approach your art with that one person in mind. Some people will appreciate it, and only a few will have that totally emotional response that makes them go out and kill. But if you turn that around, can art be ennobling and pull you up the evolutionary scale? If it's powerful enough to pull people down, can it be powerful enough to pull them up? England has wonderful (television) programming -- it's intelligent PBS-type documentaries. But it's still a nation of churlish thugs who eat garbage for breakfast."
All of this makes for interesting discussion, but what should really get your blood a-boilin' is the fact that for the first time ever, Boyd Rice will be performing in St. Louis. People from as far away as Switzerland have called the Firehouse to get directions for the show, so you'd better drag yourself down there without any of the usual complaints. Rice will be playing "a full spectrum of Non material," he says, and he'll be doing it guitar-free. "I used to have this guitar with a fan on it. The blades of the fan would strike the strings and make this noise, like a squadron of planes taking off. Now I use ... well, I don't say what I use, because I don't want other people imitating me." Unfortunately, such an occurrence is not bloody likely.
Boyd Rice appears with Chicago's Luftwaffe on Saturday, Aug. 26, at the Firehouse. Rice's new compilation album, The Way I Feel, collecting the best of his collaborations with various artists over the past 15 years, should be out any day now.
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