RANA :: 12.30.05 :: The Knitting Factory :: New York, NY

Sad to leave while The Slip were still playing but consumed by the playful energy of NYC, I bounced early, piling into a cab, tipsy and laughing with fellow scribe Aaron Stein. Across the bridge into Tribeca we rolled, yammering at our indifferent driver about how we NEEDED to get there in time for the first notes. RANA inspires this silly, reckless feeling in me. Despite originally hailing from Jersey, there is no more New York band today. They ooze scruffy, bohemian cool backed up by chops and great tunes that tickle the part of us that inspires tequila drinking and defiant fists in the air. RANA is old-fashioned rockin' in the vein of the New York Dolls or the Replacements – sloppy in the sweetest way, in need of a shower and a clean shirt, and true as anything anyone ever bled out on a stage.

Lead singer and keyboardist Matt Durant announced they'd be playing "late, late, late" at the start of their post-midnight shindig. With that they were off, hitting hard out of the gate, Durant shaking with a Joe Cocker fervor, bumping the mic and egging on guitarist Scott Metzger, who consistently reminds us why the electric guitar has the cult it does. As I poured my second shot of firewater down my parched gullet, I felt myself snatched up by the bass and drums. Andrew Southern (bass) and Ryan Thornton (drums) provide a polished, enveloping counterpoint to Metzger and Durant's tangents. Just when the whole thing seems about to jump the track and kill us all, the rhythm team reins it in and steers us to safer ground.

Scott Metzger - RANA
It'd been more than a year since I last experienced RANA rock, and the new material is categorically great. The songs from their second long player What It Is have taken on a raggedy heft live. It's a testament to their talents that, not knowing a good chunk of the songs beforehand, I still found myself totally absorbed. Part of that draw is Durant's incredible freedom as a singer these days. Think Johnny Thunders crossed with a young Bryan Ferry, and you're in the ballpark. Words are chopped and spat with unfiltered passion. His wild eyes and softly mad non sequiturs mark him as a singer born to the job. At one point, he remarked, "This is all being filmed by very small cameras in the black keys of my keyboard." Uh, yeah, sure, Matt.

The second set had a fun sit-in from two of the sax players from Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra, who helped push things even further into the red. Older cuts like "It's So Hard" and "Buy, Sell Or Break" had a nitrous tank thrust that made them harder, faster, nastier. Metzger took a couple appealing lead vocals including an especially nice cover of Ween's "What Deaner Was Talking About." Time shuffled off, abandoning us to the moment, lost to a one-night stand. Left to hover in the moment, the entire room surrendered to a melting haze that had the walls dripping.

Unsure of how far off sunrise was or where I stood in relation to the apartment at which I was crashing, I stumbled into the trash-strewn alley. A snippet from one of their new ones kept running in my head, "I want milk and cookies. I want a little girl to lull me to sleep." Such delicious bliss to ponder, delirium welcomed and caressed. Ah RANA, how I love ya!

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