By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
A pair of oddball tracks here suggests there's more to Goat than lust for life and happy talk. A cover of Brian Eno's "Baby's on Fire" (sans melody, plus beats) is edgy and taut; Eno's darkly comic lyrics provide a welcome contrast to the Hallmark aphorisms found elsewhere on the record. The real surprise, though, comes with the album's finale, "Goatboy," a menacing postscript that gives the lie to the preceding 40 minutes of midlife-uplift party planning. Oddly, an album that kicks off with a call to "start living a great life" ends on a bleak note of self-disgust: "Sitting in this junkyard of blues/living off love others would refuse/I would rather be someone's doggy/ than be what I am." (Adam Goldman)
GOMEZBring It On (Virgin)
Like other neo-hippie stoner bands (Phish, Blues Traveler, Widespread Panic), British retro-rockers Gomez draw their inspiration from the rhythm & blues of American rock groups like the Grateful Dead, Captain Beefheart and Santana - influences that might also account for why a white-boy band from Sheffield would christen itself Gomez, give its songs titles like "Tijuana Lady" and sing about their "desperado days." The nostalgic crackle of needle-on-vinyl sampled throughout the band's debut, Bring It On, encapsulates this homage. Ben Ottewell's whiskey-soaked vocals echo the bayou backwater flair of Dr. John and the grainy textures of Tom Waits, while the earthy if somewhat bland lyrics and layered rhythms recall the well-crafted accessibility of artists from Creedence Clearwater Revival to Pearl Jam.
Despite its sophisticated ancestry, Bring It On often lapses into music that's more fatuous regurgitation than a fresh re-interpretation of rock's black-light days. Songs like "Here Comes the Breeze" and "Rie's Wagon" evoke the '70s with their endless grooves and psychedelic spiralings but never progress much beyond a deja vu-type listening experience. Gomez suggest a certain speculative intelligence when they put a modern stamp on tracks such as "78 Stone Wobble," juxtaposing samples of language records, gramophones and rude intrusions of maniacal laughter alongside streaks of slide guitar and soulful harmonies. The experimentation continues with "Get Myself Arrested" and the tongue-in-cheek romp "Whippin' Piccadilly," which recounts the mates' Guinness-and-ganja days roaming "out of Manchester" and which has earned this quintet the title "The British Beck" from the U.K. press.
While you can hear Beck's calling card "two turntables and a microphone" reverberate in "Love Is Better Than a Warm Trombone" and in the more progressive style of the two aforementioned tracks, the similarities with the meta-master end there. Yet these cuts suggest where Gomez's musical muscle lies and spare their premier effort the dismissive fate of a K-Tel classic-rock compilation. (Madelynn Amalfitano)
LAURIE ANDERSONat UCLA Royce Hall, September 25
In between her major media megillahs, which occur every four years or so, Laurie Anderson goes on the road with a toned-down, lower-tech act. The solo flight tests out material, airs some things that won't otherwise make the cut, and keeps the performance-pop star's audience hungry for more - especially more of her phenomenal shadow games and projections, which are absent from these ears-only gigs. Still, the material in these more intimate presentations coheres thematically and strings together in the same kind of near seamlessness that gives dynamic flow to the big productions and to her recordings.
You'd think Anderson's considerable musical skills would also come to the fore, unobscured by elaborate visuals or sonic gimmickry. But in The Speed of Darkness, this year's crop of Andersoniana, electrosonics are foregrounded, while music itself plays a secondary role, serving mostly as a vamp under and between the stories. On one level the performance is little more than a string of accounts and observations, enhanced with some crucially placed keyboard or violin playing, the whole thing goosed with some of the savviest digital processing this side of THX. On another level, the event is almost neotribal, with Anderson the shaman sharing philosophically tinged tales that pop open little hatches in our sensibilities, letting out our own doubts about and wonder at the amazing world we have helped to shape and now have to inhabit.
With her characteristic concision and sense of timing (most of her zingers come as the punch lines to postmodern shaggy-dog stories), Anderson alights on the sad, silly and stupefying ironies that make life in the digital age so bewildering for some, so exhilarating for others. Reverting more often than not to her electronically achieved faux-male voice, Anderson muses on Web conversations with the proper strangers, space flights that aren't, "wig breaks" that have replaced coffee breaks in certain offices, a Moby Dick-Star Trek comparison that culminates in a fusion of the two, and her poignant observation that "Recently someone said the saddest thing about the fall of the Berlin Wall is that you can no longer defect. There's nowhere left to go. And now that technology is everywhere in the world, most artists, like everyone else, are having to figure it out."
Laurie Anderson is the artist who is closest to figuring it out. For all its lack of bells and whistles, The Speed of Darkness sheds much light on the next century. (Peter Frank)