Eyes Adrift

April 29, 2002


The musicians onstage at the Double Door Saturday night included one who's sold millions of records, one who's a revered cult hero, and one who fit both those descriptions, as well as having made the sort of impact on his generation that the Beatles made on theirs.

But in every other way, Eyes Adrift--the new group featuring drummer Bud Gaugh (a veteran of platinum hit-makers Sublime), guitarist-vocalist Curt Kirkwood (formerly of the legendary Meat Puppets) and bassist Krist Novoselic (of Nirvana; 'nuff said)--was just another new band working hard to find its sound and identity. There were problems to overcome, but there was also plenty of promise.

As Billy Corgan's new band, Zwan, proved at the same venue a few weeks ago, rockers can enjoy a liberating sense of freedom and a renewed energy when they start over from ground zero. Of course, fans carry with them a host of expectations built on their previous endeavors, and this is a double-edged sword.

Eyes Adrift had to contend with a fair amount of heckling from the audience (most of it nicely deflected by Novoselic, who also played the role of the wisecracking MC in Nirvana). On the other hand, the sold-out crowd wouldn't have been there to see just any new band; they were there because the players are who they are.

Meat Puppets fans left more fulfilled than anyone who came looking for hints of Nirvana. The defining characteristics of Eyes Adrift's sound are Kirkwood's laid-back vocals, which deliver the Beat impressionism of his lyrics with a flowing lilt and a Southwestern twang, and his fluid Les Paul guitar, which has always recalled Jerry Garcia as re-envisioned by Lou Reed.

Novoselic made a significant contribution with bass riffs that were much more solid and melodic than those that the Meat Puppets once employed. These lines merged nicely with Gaugh's propulsive drumming to anchor Kirkwood's wilder flights up to the sun, especially during a killer set-closing blow-out called "Pasted."

More problematic were Novoselic's occasional vocals, especially on a tune called "Enquiring Minds" that boasts the refrain, "They put flowers on your grave, Jon-Benet."

As a survivor of the media circus that greeted the suicide of his friend Kurt Cobain, and as someone who's embroiled in a bitter legal fight with Courtney Love over who will control the legacy of Nirvana, Novoselic is certainly entitled to his musing about the evils of a sensationalistic press.

But satire might have been a more effective tool than melodrama.

Like Zwan, Eyes Adrift has self-financed the recording of a promising album that it hopes to release in the near future, possibly on its own label. As Novoselic told me before the show: "I feel like I've been there and done that [re: the major-label star-making machine]. And I don't see why we need it."