Pearl Harbor and The Explosions walk a fine line between new wave and rock 'n' roll tradition. Their music is filled with all the rough energy of latter-day funk, yet it is given direction of a minutely manipulated sense of style that is as old as Bo Diddley.
The group's appearance at the Cellar Door Saturday night struck a perfect balance between the old and the new. Lead singer Pearl E. Gates, dressed in a pink suit and black boots, stomped about the stage in a kind of manic, urban hoedown, while bassist Hilary Stench threw himself around like a young Pete Townsend. Drummer John Stench and guitarist Peter Bilt propelled the songs with a metallic funkiness that was similar to the stax sound of the mid-'60s.
Kile many new wave concerts, The Explosions' show was a nonstop musical assault with one fast song giving way to another. Yet the group added an instrumental precision -- intricate rhythmic layers in clashing harmonies -- that attracted the mind as well as the feet.
Pearl Harbor and The Explosions managed to draw from their musical forebears without sounding dull or derivative. They may be looking at the past, but their music certainly provides for an exciting present.