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
Even with distractions like running their own label, owning the rights to a mini-Lollapalooza-style tour, gleefully defying the music-biz axiom of releasing an album no more often than every two years and, of course, rock stardom's endless perks, these humble, hardscrabble Okie descendants never fail to appreciate the ones who made it all possible. To quote Davis in Circus magazine, "Tool only has an album every four years -- we want to take better care of our fans than that." Them's kind words, but don't forget that nothing whets the appetite like a good fast, Johnny boy. (Andrew Lentz)
ANI DiFRANCO To the Teeth (Righteous Babe)
When Ani DiFranco performed last July at the Universal Amphitheater, she debuted the then-unreleased title song of this new album, drawing analogies between violence and capitalism and asking, "Are we really gonna sleep through another century/While the rich profit off our blood?" When she reached the dramatic chorus, "Open fire on Hollywood/Open fire on MTV/Open fire on NBC/and CBS and ABC," her fans went ballistic. Twentysomethings shutting down Seattle recently suggests there are young adults whose consciousness was collectively weaned on DiFranco and Rage Against the Machine. When the Righteous Babe invokes "the ghost of Woody Guthrie" in "Soft Shoulder," the Battle in Seattle serves to remind us that guitars can still silence fascists.
After years of too-hip listlessness, ideology is cool again. Ideology means that someone has an opinion, god forbid, and DiFranco has been recording smart, opinionated songs since 1990, when she was 20 years old. What's been lost in the media yap over her bisexuality and politics and the mini-moguldom of her own anti-corporate empire is her consistent musical innovation. She came out of the acoustic-punk anti-folk movement of the late '80s, a raving maverick with a trademark staccato guitar attack and breathless vocal delivery. But DiFranco has a restless artist's soul, and on her last few albums she wisely shed a lot of her early DiFranco-isms. The funkified To the Teethis her 14th exercise in the demolition of genres. Where once her songs too often shared the same spit-punk tempo, she's learned to slow down and let the lyrics breathe. This works in her favor, for she's a remarkable vocalist whose phrasing is as biting as her words. The ferociously unslick production whomps butt, displaying her punk roots and the fact that an artist, not some yuppie bean counter, is running the show. And she displays her virtuosity by playing a whole McCabe's backroom of instruments. The "little folk singer" even hip-hops on "Swing" with rapper Corey Parker.
While topical issues are addressed in the title track and "Hello Birmingham" (about the murder of Dr. Barnett Slepian by an anti-choicer in DiFranco's hometown of Buffalo, N.Y.), DiFranco understands that politics is ultimately a form of self-examination. Whether it's self-destructive anger ("Back Back Back"), the joys of family (the bluegrassy "The Arrivals Gate") or Sapphic love ("I Know This Bar"), she's an empathetic chronicler. Guests include The Artist (yes, that Artist), sax legend Maceo Parker, and a blurt-'n'-bleep horn section that blows somewhere between Trane and New Orleans. Righteous, babe! (Michael Simmons)
CAT POWER at Fais Do Do, January 13
Chan Marshall belongs to a rare breed of performer. Unintentionally adorable, she possesses a truly amazing voice -- wistful, broken, a syrupy, serrated cross between Hope Sandoval, Phoebe Snow and Southern gothic -- but she seems terrified of the stage.
Forsaking most of her Matador release, Moon Pix -- as well as Mick Turner and Jim White of Australia's Dirty Three, who played on the record -- Marshall, alone, gave something of a third-grade campfire recital, flitting back and forth between guitar and piano, falling all over herself in apology for forgetting her own chords and lyrics. But this was a recital full of encouraging parents.
When she kept her idiosyncrasies in check, Marshall and her guitar opened up the heavens; hundreds of lonely people pressed up against each other in awe as Marshall wove the chorus of "Satisfaction" and what sounded like Buck Owens' "Who's Gonna Mow Your Grass" into material from her upcoming album. But mostly she didn't. Hiding behind her hair, she got through the first few bars of "You May Know Him" before giving up, and portions of "No Sense" and "Back of Your Head."
Someone said Marshall's found God and gone crazy, but her fans find her disarray disarming. No one cared that they didn't know the new songs, all down-by-the-river devotionals, or that her performance was a choppy ocean of half-songs and false starts. Most of the crowd would've been captivated if Marshall had been reading the backs of cereal boxes. (Skylaire Alfvegren)