Screamers' Tomata du Planty.
Photo: Gary Pearlson
the uninitiated, it should be noted that despite their name and appearance,
the Screamers have little in common with your typical punk group: For
that matter. they have little in common with any group.
A Screamers show less resembles a standard rock concert
than a new form of therapy. The role of the audience is to play analyst
and to observe lead singer; psychotic patient Tomata du Planty as he
reveals his innermost fears, desires, guilt complexes, etc. Judging
by the audience readily at the Whisky, it was as much a cathartic experience
for the doctor as for the patient.
Beginning with the opening number, the audience was
thoroughly captivated by du Planty as he poured forth his disturbing
emotions with frightening intensity. One especially powerful moment
was a duet between du Planty and his alter ego (played by a sinisterly
made-up female) in which his initial frustrated cries of "I want to
love" finally gave way to his screaming confession: "I want to hurt."
In witnessing gut-Wrenching screams of pure id (as opposed to mere David
Lee Roth rock and roll yells), the audience truly seemed to be in awe.
One of the most compelling visual performers to come
along since Iggy pop, Tomata is as much ado: as singer (he was formerly
a Theater Arts student at UCLA); at the Whisky, the impact of each song
was enhanced by his marvelously bizarre yet evocative facial expressions
and body movements-he sort of resembles a Marcel Marceau on acid.
Musically, the Screamers are as interesting as they
are theatrical. Their usual line-up of synthesizers and drums (that's
right, no guitars) was augmented this time by a baby grand and two violins
(played by two non-band members). For the heavy songs (notably, "I Want
to Hurt" and "Be Punished Or Be Damned"), the eerie textures of the
music served to create an appropriately ominous background for the vocals.
However, on several of the faster and more syncopated numbers, the music
itself was more prominent and was actually rather catchy, in a DEVO-ish
sort of way. Especially appealing was "vertigo,'' a fast-paced nightmarish
song with a memorable "falling'' synthesizer riff adding to Tomata's
With their Whisky engagement, du Planty and company
reinforced their standing as one of L.A.'S most important and most popular
bands--it's a wonder that they're still unsigned. It's also remarkable
that they are as popular as they are (selling out all six shows) considering
the fact that they've never released a single record. However, with
new manager Rory Johnston (formerly associated with the Sex Pistols)
and as powerful a live act as ever, it seems unlikely that the Screamers
will remain in the ranks of the unsigned bands for long.