La Peste

V. 2.0

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Thematically, La Peste, a name most likely lifted from the 1947 novel by Albert Camus, is as dark as the translation of their moniker, meaning "the Plague" in French. The power trio, as fronted by Peter Dayton, had a substantial cult following and a true buzz on the scene. When Dayton left to write melancholy pop songs à la Lou Reed the band continued à la the post-Reed Velvet Underground. Stepping into those big shoes was Steve Kalinosky (aka Ian Blast of the Mott the Hoople-inspired band Crash Street Kids). Where Crash Street Kids had the synthesizer of Lord Manuel Smith (an artist backed up by La Peste on one 45 rpm), in this revamped La Peste format Kalinosky had a chance to have a more prominent platform in the clubs. The result is rather impressive and -- if not up to Dayton's original vision -- Ian Blast certainly does a better job than Doug Yule on Squeeze or even the Blushing Brides -- a Rolling Stones tribute band -- on their eponymous original composition LP. With the late Roger Tripp on drums and bass from Mark Karl (nee Andreasson), the band and redoubtable producer Ted St. Pierre craft an intelligent and highly enjoyable collection of tunes. It might sound kind of absurd to those outside of the Boston music community to think a group which only had a 45 rpm and a handful of demos would get a new life, not only with live tapes emerging, but with a bona fide followup band featuring a new frontman. Here's the striking thing: songs like "New Heart" and "Army of Apathy" work quite well on their own and, if they didn't have to stand in the shadow of Peter Dayton, they would've certainly made more of a mark. "Acid Test" has a throbbing trademark La Peste bassline and the same sensibilities that made the band so intriguing in the first place. To be even more fair, they survive much more substantially than the Spiders from Mars sans Bowie and the group Billion Dollar Babies post Alice Cooper. Dare it be said, though Big Brother & the Holding Company is phenomenal live to this day decades after the passing of Janis Joplin, the V.2.0 CD works better than Big Brother's Do What You Love outing from 1999. When you think of it, La Peste in their V.2.0 mode did creatively what only the post-Diana Ross Supremes pulled off: they were able to continue the sound and spirit of what was originally created with a highly talented and magnetic character who decided to move on. Maybe Steve Kalinosky didn't have the strong persona in interviews and with the media, but he had the chops and the songwriting skills. Perhaps had they called the group "La Blaste" and let him stand out more these tapes wouldn't have languished in the vaults for years. La Peste fans can be proud of these lost studio recordings and the rest of the world will find them interesting and enjoyable at the very least.

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