VAST

Elektra

I don’t know what I was expecting when a one-man-show-turned-band that bills itself as Visual Audio Sensory Theater played the 9:30 Club last month, but I’m quite certain it wasn’t some cosmetically anguished, home-schooled wunderkind who comes on like a cross between Jedediah Purdy and the Cult. Shiny-pantsed bandleader Jon Crosby hit most of his required elements in the rock-poseur all-around, jettisoning his guitar and dropping to his knees during the second number; making a cross-legged, over-the-head-mike-cord-stretching bow in the third; and, in the seventh song, working the crowd with the Funky Crucifix—arms out, legs apart, hips asway—and quickly following the potentially blasphemous act with a Poland Spring self-baptism. The main problem is that Crosby belongs behind the board, not on the stage. VAST’s second album, Music for People, which he ably co-produced with “Blumpy,” is a listenable, if derivative, piece of doom candy. Though Crosby occasionally gives his electric guitar a little scooped-death-tone heft, it usually drifts in processed swirls around the deep soundstage (shared, at times, with choral samples and the New Bombay Recording Orchestra). Behind the electric guitar, an acoustic provides sincerity and the rhythm section nails down the bottom. Given ample room front and center, Crosby the vocalist emotes like a Nancy Burson collage of moody, quasi-alternative ’80s arena-rock messiahs: In addition to Ian Astbury, visions of Bono, Robert Smith, Peter Murphy, and—sorry—Jim Kerr shine through to the surface. Beside the sound, the other truly vast thing about the record is Crosby’s lyrical striving, which nearly hamstrings the whole affair. He lacks the charisma, particularly in person, to sell lines such as, “There’s a place not that far from here/Where people go when their dreams have died.” I couldn’t have been the only groundling wondering just which hangout he was referring to—the Velvet Lounge? Ben’s Chili Bowl? Howard University Hospital’s Hopelessness Ward? —Glenn Dixon