These Dudes are in Trouble

This could be Trouble.To hear some tell it, former and once-again Warrior Soul frontman Kory Clarke has a cult around him that swears by his every word. If it exists, I?ve never been part of it. When I heard singer Eric Wagner was splitting from original Chicago doomers Trouble to pursue less-Troubly musical ventures and that Clarke was taking over, I reacted the same way as I think a lot of fans did: “Huh? Really?

A respectfully self-released venture available exclusively through the band?s webstore, Live in L.A. captures a set from June of last year, and Clarke, who until recently could be found mic-swinging for Long Island beer rockers Dirty Rig, presents a raspy, whiskey-drowned delivery that no matter the conditions he?s performing under comes off as though he?s been on a bender for the 72 hours prior. It?s not that he can?t hit Wagner?s notes (that he can even attempt and not immediately sound ridiculous says something about his talent), but personality-wise and in terms of the sheer sound of his voice, it?s an odd fit to say the least. After seeing them on tour last fall, checking out the live record was a necessity, if only because it?s the first recorded outing with Clarke up front and as of press time he?ll be singing on the next studio album. Good to know what you?re getting into.

This 11-song track list touches on classics almost entirely from 1990?s self-titled onward, including ?The Sleeper,? ?Mr. White,? ?R.I.P.? and ?Come Touch the Sky,? but also makes note of 2007?s yet-unreleased-Stateside Simple Mind Condition by throwing in the title track and ?Troublemaker.? Instrumental ?Endtime? from Psalm 9 is welcome, but stands alone here in representing Trouble?s ?80s-era. To Clarke?s credit, he introduces himself apart from the band, saying, ?this is Trouble from Chicago. I?m Kory Clarke from Detroit.? It may sound on the record — and it did when he said the same thing at the New York show? — like he’s holding the place for someone while they’re in the bathroom, but he?s been around long enough to know the deal, even if the ?Middle East Vietnam? Ah dude, please don't puke on me. I just bought these shoes. (Photo courtesy of he throws into ?Plastic Green Head? on Live in L.A. is flat-out annoying. Hey buddy, war is bad. No shit. Sing the song.

Not that it’s audible on the CD, but when they hit NYC to play the Knitting Factory on a woefully empty weeknight — I think it was a Monday, but don’t quote me — the awkwardness of Clarke‘s on stage persona as it contrasted with the rest of the band’s was palpable and I think serves as a decent metaphor for how his voice comes across on this disc. He’s all leg-kicks and gyrations, where the other guys, while still showing they’re happy to be there, are far more subdued, less boozy and more laid back. Classier. If this is a permanent change, and in fact no one is coming out of the can in a couple minutes to take hold of the mic, it’s going to take some getting used to.

That said, Trouble are gods (you can see it in the tags below if you doubt me), and Rick Wartell and Bruce Franklin?s guitars would be reason enough to buy this disc no matter who was singing. And even though Clarke is a vastly different-shaped peg from Wagner, longtime Trouble fans can take my word for it: It ain?t what it used to be, but the world hasn?t ended either. The guy had been in the band maybe two weeks when Live in L.A. was recorded, and though I don’t think I’ll ever be a part of Cult Clarke, I’m willing to wait for the inevitable full-length before rendering any overly-harsh “You ruined Trouble!” accusations. Whether or not others will be so kind is anyone’s guess.

Live in L.A., not "Death & Raw"Trouble’s website

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One Response to “These Dudes are in Trouble”

  1. Jeffery Couse says:

    Great review, I thought he sounded pretty good on the stop-start riffs of Simple Mind Condition and The Sleeper. Also, he sounds OK on Touch the Sky, and Plastic Green Head. Surprisingly he didn’t ruin Mr. White either. The same can’t be said for RIP, which he absolutely butchers. Effects drench his voice beyond tolerable listening on Troublemaker and End of My Daze.

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