By Benjamin Leatherman
By Glenn BurnSilver
By Glenn BurnSilver
By Troy Farah
By Roger Calamaio
By Mark Deming
By Glenn BurnSilver
By Brian Palmer
When Stanley Kowalski mumbled, "What are you, a bunch of queens or something?" in A Streetcar Named Desire, he wasn't fixing to pay his wife and nutty sister-in-law any compliments. But if he or you or anyone else were to burst in on the very sane women of W.O.M.B. with that highfalutin' assessment, they'd have to agree with you. And they'd be right.
Because in the last five years, sisters Marta and Cristiana Wiley and longtime friend Debbie Lorray have created an artistic musical kingdom over which they alone have dominion. Where else can you see three intelligent, beautiful women with exquisite harmonies who are also accomplished fine artists and who bring their sound paintings to the stage with video representations? And even if you could, what are the chances they'd be singing about Halloween, Zeus, the forces of nature, blood money, food getting cold, witch covens and the politics of freaking people out?
Attempts to pigeonhole these self-anointed "Warriors of Make Believe" in our cookie-cutter Phoenix music scene just haven't worked. The obvious all-female band umbrella doesn't fit -- our few remaining girl groups consist of gum-chewing punkettes whose vocal range extends only as far as their lips and the ashtray. And if our folk scene is really only happy hour Eddie Vedders who sing about the weather and girls who don't understand their Staind sensitivity, our rock scene, in the main, consists of those same happy hour galoots back an hour later with electric guitars and the same set list.
While you folks playing along at home fish around for some pencil and paper to come up with your own new W.O.M.B. categories, here's Marta Wiley with some past winners.
"People who write articles about us say 'Post-punk folk genre,' 'multimedia neo-hippie girl group,'" she laughs. "We had to come up with a new sound for ourselves. I decided I'm just going to make music and let other people talk about it. That's what you do as an artist. You paint the painting and let history decide where it's going to hang."
Cristiana chimes in emphatically, "Our genre is kinetic music. We've decided on that." Debbie agrees before all three burst into giggles. Talking to W.O.M.B. is a lot like listening to their vocal stylings: one voice overlaps another, and another whispers or moans what the other person has just said.
"It is really kinetic," Marta continues, "this motion that rips apart old paradigms. Not in a violent way. But when we play live, it does make your paradigms pop. We've had people come up to us at shows and tell us they've had a religious experience. We don't really even know what it is we're doing, but for some reason, if there's a tragedy happening, we'll go there. We're like light workers or something. I know some people don't believe in that sort of thing." She pauses before talk turns to the most recent of tragedies and the fact that W.O.M.B. found itself in New York for the CMJ Convention.
The music industry was in questionable shape even before September 11 -- what with the Internet and all. Consider what it must be like now, with unsolicited tapes being irradiated and checked for white powder. There were plenty of no-shows at this year's seminars, like Jane's Addiction guitarist Dave Navarro, who canceled appearances in the wake of the World Trade Center terrorist attacks.
In a rare moment of free time, W.O.M.B. and the band's road aide de camp Vincent Capece managed a pilgrimage to Ground Zero, but whether the video footage they shot there will work its way into a future audio/visual presentation or painting is uncertain. Like all artists, the women of W.O.M.B. feel the need for their art to be up-to-the-minute, and in light of recent developments, Cristiana moans, "I almost feel like the new CD is outdated because everything seems so different now."
Bismillah! No! Who says you've gotta be Nostradamus to make records anyhow? Look at Dream Theater, a band whose blockheaded misfortune it was to release a live CD with a picture of New York being blown to bits mere days before September 11 and who spent the better part of that terrible week apologizing and denying any Muslim ancestry. If people need anything right now, it's music from a more idyllic time, even if it's kinetic music made and mixed a little over a month ago. If the dullard anti-bin Laden songs we've already heard are any harbinger, let's bring back the Charleston, too.
Second thought, grab hold of a copy of Kinetic Music for the People and you hear pop music reminiscent of another idyllic time, the mid-'80s and early '90s. It didn't seem so idyllic at the time, watching the all-powerful music video dictate who'd be stars and who wouldn't. Yet it was probably the last time Top 40 celebrated the eccentricity of the individual. Sure, there was lots of posturing, and directors imposing their skewered world visions on a clueless recording artist, but anyone with half a brain could separate the Belindas from the Sineads, the Pixies from the Dishwallas.