Silver Apples – The Lexington, London
Unstable brilliance from a true tomorrow man of yesteryear
Words Steph Kretowicz
When people talk about modern music being more of a complex and indefinable beast than ever before, they obviously don’t have Silver Apples in mind. As a proto punk precursor to ’70s Krautrock, ’90s underground dance and anything you’ll ever hear in a contemporary DIY setting (see: Brooklyn ambient pop, deconstructed techno or whatever), the ’60s rock and electronic hybrid from New York’s East Village was pretty much half a century ahead of its time, flouting conventions before there were any conventions to flout. That’ll probably explain why the Lexington is packed with more people on the younger end of the age spectrum, there to revel in these sounds-of-today-created-yesterday, take cameraphone photos of the famous ‘Simeon’ oscillators and watch an elderly Simeon Coxe III shout at his iPod.
It might not be what they were expecting. Because, in the same way that The Simeon has been upgraded and downsized for mobility, live drummer Danny Taylor — lost to cancer back in 2005 — has been replaced by samples, while Simeon the man, well into his 70s with limited mobility following a near-fatal car accident 15 years ago, is playing sparser compositions of old tracks along with the new. Needless to say, there are no “hands, feet and elbows” controlling the unrelenting bass pulses and endless droning synth lines of songs like ‘You And I’ and ‘A Pox On You’. A steadily thinning crowd points to it being a disappointment for some, but what the capricious heritage-band junkie often fails to recognise, is there’s no stopping the flow of time; people and contexts change and you should probably just get with it.
Where no one can replace Taylor’s instinctual drumming style and the unstable energy of a makeshift synthesiser on the edge of total collapse, an almighty dance drop during the rolling cloud of first album track ‘Oscillations’ has Simeon’s enduring audience squealing with excitement. And that’s not for sticking to the 45-year-old program, which, as a highly unpredictable man-meets-machine set up, never actually existed.
Instead, it’s an ongoing sense of playfulness that permeates this set as people eventually let loose and dance to music that I thought was made for lying in bed and crying to. It has less of the lumbering weirdness anyone weaned on the two defining albums of the ’60s might expect and more unexpected bounce, with an incredible ear for melody. As Simeon repeats “I can’t play ‘Ruby’, I got no banjo!” and ploughs on with a new track for his encore (after announcing “a nap” to follow) he shows us that there’s no other reason for listening to music except that it’s “just so damn fun”.