Monday, August 14, 2006

Tribe of Judah – Exit Elvis

Van Halen: The Where Are They Now Extravaganza - Part III

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Tribe of Judah – Exit Elvis (2002)

Tribe of Judah’s Exit Elvis is an excellent example of a great debut album by a band not many people ever heard of. Why didn’t anybody ever hear of them? Any number of reasons really…timing, marketing, climate, band members. Band members you ask? Band members, I say. Tribe of Judah came into existence with an EP release in 2001 by members Steve Ferlazzo, Leo Mellace, Mike Mangini and Pat Badger. Any of those names starting to look familiar? How about this one, Tribe of Judah was/is fronted by none other than Van Halen’s last, and seemingly most loathed (by everyone except me), frontman Gary Cherone.

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The reason I asked about the names starting to look familiar is that when added to Cherone, Mike Mangini and Pat Badger make up three quarters of the seemingly recently reformed Boston based band Extreme. In many ways, Tribe of Judah is a rebirth of Extreme, sans Nuno Bettencourt of course. You can hear aspects of the old band, but placed in a new and more modern context. Aside from their first album, Extreme always seemed to be much more progressive than their contemporaries and not just in terms of their musical technicality but also socially and politically.

Take that existence, add in the more sonically experimental aspects of Van Halen III and incorporate all of the technical advances in music and the bands that came after who helped redefine the sound of music into the new century and you begin to have an idea about the sound of Tribe of Judah. There are layers of industrial and electronic music mixed in to the heavy guitars and theatrical vocals that are Cherone and were Extreme…and Van Halen for that matter.

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The album, taken as a whole, is tight and an altogether different experience than one might expect. There are, as with most things, parts that don’t work so well, but as an album it creates something interesting and unique. Exit Elvis is an experience as much as it is an album. There is a certain theatricality running through it, which concludes with the album’s title track, that seems to make it a little heartier than your average disc.

It’s hard not to wonder if Tribe of Judah would have been better known and Exit Elvis would have done better had Cherone’s tenure in Van Halen gone over better with the public in general. In my opinion, Van Halen fans weren’t ready to hear a new band, which was just what they got when Gary joined. It wasn’t Roth and it wasn’t Hagar and it never was going to be…and, people just weren’t ready for that. It’s unfortunate, because I think a second Cherone era Van Halen album would have been something that had the potential to be very special as the band would have had the time to gel and explore each other musically. I guess that’s something we’ll never know. On thing is certain though, if Van Halen III did better…Tribe of Judah never would have existed, and that would have been unfortunate too.

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