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
The genius of Groove Armada’s Tom Findlay and Andy Cato lies in their knack for dropping retro grooves onto trancey embers of atmospheric acid jazz, funk and house music. You might see a David Nagel portrait during the opening "Chicago," but it’s shadowed by composed coolness. Then, like a flash, a funky guitar riff spawns visions of Robert Palmer music videos with all those harems of guitar-pluckin’ models in tow. If you’re in the mood for "sand dunes and salty air," slip into the nostalgic aura of "At the River," where an introspective trombone takes a solemn trek across an expansive field of contemplative, jazzy chords.
Combining live instrumentation with sequenced samples, Groove Armada goes from subzero chill on tracks like "Dusk You & Me," "Private Interlude" and "Inside My Mind (Blue Skies)," to scalding funk with two versions (original and Fatboy Slim remix) of their current underground club anthem "I See You Baby (Shakin’ That Ass)." But Fatboy’s take on "I See You Baby" alone is enough reason to purchase this disc; featuring a hell-raisin’ Gram’ma Funk on the mike shouting out, "Funk if ya nasty, darlin’," Fatboy makes the track come even more alive with his heavy barrage of tight drum-machine rolls, pounding bass and spliced-in Sly Stone guitar riffs. Stone’s influence on Groove Armada is also evident on the freestylin’ dance-floor cut "If Everybody Looked the Same." All in all, it’s a diverse set soaked in the spirit of flower-power groovin’. Care for a sniff? (Derrick Mathis)
PEDRO THE LION
Winners Never Quit (Jade Tree)
Maybe indie rock was always bogus, what with its major defining quality being a whiny singer. Sebadoh, Superchunk and Elliott Smith could all get away with it because of their skill at conveying their wussy feelings about girls in a heart-rending fashion. Even second-generation whiners like Quasi, Track Star and Ben Lee could pull off being overly sensitive without being annoying. But indie rock never compared to the music that preceded it, which was called "alternative rock," before that term was purchased by various media conglomerates. The alternative scene of the late ’80s and early ’90s, which included bands like Jawbreaker, Ween, Nirvana, Cop Shoot Cop, the Pixies and the Butthole Surfers, was truly an alternative to the horrendous music being played on commercial radio. When it watered down, sold out and disappeared, it was replaced by indie rock, a genre that was always inferior and that is now almost spent.
But there’s one last whimpering indie-rock dude with emotional problems who has something to contribute. His name is David Bazan, and he’s got a sort-of band called Pedro the Lion, though on his latest record, Winners Never Quit, he sings and handles all the instruments. He adds fancy, tasteful flourishes to his drumming, and his guitar playing is all hooks and resplendent melodies. "Never Leave a Job Half Done" has a magnificent chorus, while "Slow and Steady Wins the Race" has Bazan picking out the lovely melody on acoustic guitar. It’s all very precious stuff, sounding like some of Sebadoh’s best material. Kids who’ve eaten up the whole indie-rock thing thus far will go bananas over Pedro the Lion. In a genre known for lo-fi self-indulgence, Bazan manages to create a concise, radiant album, which certainly merits a spot for him in the indie-wuss pantheon. (Adam Bregman)
at the Lobero Theater, Santa Barbara, March 15
A Richard Thompson show, a little like a Dead show, has evolved its own classic development. It starts with a few wisecracks ("Quaint little town, quaint little theater," Thompson gibed to his fans at the Lobero Theater, which pissed a few people off), moves through all the songs aficionados respect but don’t adore ("Bathsheba Smiles," "Two-Faced Love"), peaks with some showoffy ensemble picking and solos (this time using "Hard on Me" from Mock Tudor as a foundation), and finally unravels into fun. "I’m just wondering when the last time was that someone had the nerve to get up here and play a slow foxtrot," Thompson mused just before launching a loping version of "Hard Times," with bassist Danny Thompson and drummer Michael Jerome plunking deftly along. From then on, thrills rolled in like a marine layer on a March evening: a rollicking "Tear-Stained Letter" and a fully orchestrated "Sights and Sounds of London Town," both with pauses for audience participation; "I Feel So Good," with the very serious Pete Zorn spinning out the tune’s familiar Celtic-infused riff on soprano sax (one of a small mountain of instruments onstage around him); a heart-rending "The Ghost of You Walks," deepened substantially in tone and meaning by Danny’s bowed string bass.
But the treasure-trove of any Thompson show is always in the encores — he does four or five of them, and crams three songs into each appearance, and you still hate it when he quits — and those encores have never been better than they were in this small, acoustically friendly theater, whose audience members give the collective impression that they and R.T. go way, way back. (Last year he played this local music series, "Sings Like Hell," without the band; this year, producer Peggie Jones invited the whole audience to hang backstage.) "1952 Vincent Black Lightning" was expected, as was a sturdy, rocking "Wall of Death." But Thompson alone on his ’70s classic "Dimming of the Day," sung in a smoother baritone with broader harmonies than ever before, was an unexpected gem, and a near-perfect one, too — another testament to Thompson’s capacity to improve on his exquisite gifts with every passing tour. (Judith Lewis)