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
POLARBEAR Why Something Instead of Nothing? (Polar Bear Records)
Several years into their partnership, former Jane's Addiction bassist Eric Avery and veteran drummer Biff Sanders have created an incredibly deep, dark and smoky album that defines a new step in the world of funk-rock. Two guitarists, Dani Tull and Andy Troy, support the rhythms, along with a squadron of scratchy samples.
The opening song, "Lick," slams as hard as "Mountain Song" from Jane's Nothing's Shocking. It alternates sprightly bass and jangly guitars under Avery's just-shy-of-mumbling voice with hard instrumental crashing power chords and heavier, driving bass. Avery delivers his vocals serenely, his wonderfully visual yet open-ended lyrics recalling the poetry of Lorca; "Sharkeye" examines unknown relationships through "one big black shark eye looking down from the sky." Barely intelligible samples lead into a paced-down, low-tech groove, creating a sense of calm just prior to a summer storm at the beach. The goopy organ that serves as the underbelly of "Farm" supports a pack of lo-fi samples exquisitely stitched among raucous guitars, a ponderous bass line and crashing drums. Unexpected layers, sounds and sparkles reward repeated listens.
Polarbear originally released the Chewing Gum EP on their own, hoping to spur fan and label interest. Fan interest they found; a satisfying record deal they did not. Undaunted, they wrote new songs, refined their amazing live show and self-released Why Something, their debut full-length. While the CD's limited availability at www.iuma.com, local independent stores and at their shows will make this album a bit of a Where's Waldo?, it's a stellar prize for the quest. (Simon Rust Lamb)
LAURYN HILL at Arrowhead Pond, July 22
Having hit the international concert trail only two months after giving birth to her second child (daughter Selah), and then churning out music videos while doing massive promotional press, fledgling icon Lauryn Hill is beat. In her concert at Arrowhead Pond, she gamely danced, sang, and fought the good fight against a dissipating voice and an energy level that ebbed and flowed. While familiar song intros roused the crowd into deafening screams, Lauryn was only rarely able to sustain their enthusiasm. That's not to say there weren't stellar moments in the show. The band-vs.-DJ segment of her set -- a seamless blend of inspiration and raw skills -- has justifiably become a defining moment of this tour. Going toe-to-toe in battle, the DJ dropped "The Ruff Ryders Anthem" only to be met by Lauryn's take on Eve's current Ruff Ryder hit, "What You Want"; a turntable medley of Cali hip-hop was met by a clever reworking of TLC's "No Scrubs" (though the shitty sound muffled most of the retooled lyrics).
But for every moment of fierceness, there were two of fatigue. The machisma of "Lost Ones" came nowhere near the power of the album version or Lauryn's delivery when she played the Universal Amphitheater a few months back. "To Zion" seemed a chore for her to get through. And while the rapper-slash-actress' signature loose-limbed, scarecrow-on-acid dance moves (a clear nod to the influence of her would-be father-in-law, the late Bob Marley) are still dazzling to watch, there were times in the show when her shoulders sagged wearily. The band also often seemed to be struggling just to get through the show, only really blazing during their brief, introductory solos. By the time she closed the show with her new single, "Everything Is Everything," Lauryn's voice was ragged and she was plainly ready to leave the stage. We can only hope that the huge success of both her album and this tour have afforded the singer/rapper the luxury of saying no to her record company's promotional demands, that she's gonna take some time off to play with her kids, chill with her man and take care of her voice. What's the point of being all that, otherwise? (Ernest Hardy)