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
Imagine blending the Stones, Simon & Garfunkel, the Kinks, the Byrds, the Doors and, for that matter, just about every pop touchstone of the last 35 years into a seamless composite, and you have something akin to the Dandy Warhols, the smartest backward-gazing band in the world. That’s a tall order even for a self-consciously retro project, but these slacker-fabulous Portlandians wear their ’60s/’70s-radio influences as comfortably as those cherry vintage threads they score in each town along their tours.
The dull heat of spaghetti-Western trumpets in the lead single, “Godless,” sets the tone for Thirteen Tales From Urban Bohemia, a quiveringly cinematic album larger than the sum of its psychedelic Brit Invasion parts: Guitars jangle and get strummed, drums lope and gallop lazily, while sweet organ harmonies bathe this welter of pop-culture signifiers in golden smog. Strutting Jagger-lipped and chisel-featured, Courtney Taylor-Taylor and Pete HolmstrÃ¶m are as cocky as any self-respecting next-big-things oughta be: “I feel cool as shit cuz I got no thoughts keeping me down” (“Solid”); or cruel, with the taunt to an aging sexpot in “Horse Pills”: “He’s a Spanish fly/that bucks like a Stallion . . . butt’s getting bigger, do you think he’ll notice maybe?/That’s okay, don’t worry ’bout it, baby”), both rapped Beckishly in sleepy voices with morning cigs. Flouting the rule that no pop song should be more than five minutes long, “Mohammed,” “Nietzsche” and the angels’-choir “Sleep” actually glisten more the longer they smolder. And thanks to foxy keyboardist Zia McCabe’s synth whimsy, you can see why all those ex-Elastica and -Blur fans across the pond are digging so hard on these thrift-store fops.
There isn’t the slightest pause between any of the tracks on Thirteen Tales, just one big schmeer of good-rockin’ vibes cresting and troughing for the length of this ode to, well, hipness. Which sounds a tad gross, but dig this lyric from “Bohemian Like You”: “So what do you do?/Oh, yeah, I wait tables, too/No, I haven’t heard your band/because you guys are kinda new.” See? Coolness doesn’t have to mean coldness. (Andrew Lentz)
GEORGE TELEK Serious Tam (Real World)Listen to Telek: Real Audio Format To-Pol Tolili
There’s a story that, as a child, future singer-songwriter George Mamua Telek nibbled a sacred betel nut and bridged his dreams to the tales of his ancestors, providing the inspiration for his euphonic, mellifluous music. That might sound far-fetched, but there’s no doubting the ethereal quality of Telek’s creations. Widely respected in his native Papua New Guinea, where he represents the heritage of the Tolai culture, Telek has also toured extensively in Australia since 1990. But it wasn’t until last year that he recorded Serious Tam at Peter Gabriel’s Real World Studios for a debut U.S. release, collaborating with David Bridie of the now-defunct Australian band Not Drowning Waving.
The finished product establishes Telek as the Deep Forest of Papua New Guinea. Swirling vocal harmonies, traditional Tolai drums (the hourglass-shaped kundu and the wooden, oblong garamut), acoustic guitars and Telek’s own uplifting timbre forge a finely wrought synthesis of the world and pop-rock genres. The album opens with the unobtrusive rhythms of “Midal,” a sensual and charming work blended with background synth smoothers Ã la Brian Eno. “To Pol” and the title track sharply depart from the cool Melanesian beat the album opens with, bordering the lines of Dylan’s earthy, acoustic melodies. The most memorable interlude is the lullaby “Tolili,” a Tolai fisherman’s tune consisting solely of Telek’s kaleidoscopic voice and the sounds of the tropical forest.
Serious Tam hovers between the tranquil soundscapes of ambient music and twangy folk-rock for troubadours at heart, and is sure to propel Telek’s name beyond the coral reefs of the Pacific. Difficult to categorize, perhaps it will best be known as the uplifting album essential for your Monday-morning commute. (Melissa Chan)
ELF POWER Vainly Clutching at Phantom Limbs (Arena Rock)
With more fuzz than fuss and packing sound experiments that resemble everything from TV static to squeaky windshield wipers, Vainly Clutching is a far cry from the cuddly whimsy of last year’s A Dream in Sound. As the title suggests, this collection of early cuts is a gory, groping, delicious mess, the first dozen tracks culled from the band’s debut LP, back in ’95 (only 250 vinyl copies were pressed), and the remaining five off the previously unreleased The Winter Hawk EP.
In the grand tradition of basement pitch-benders everywhere, Elf Power prove anew that you can make a helluva lotta noise with a four-track, a six-string and a gaggle of your closest buddies. Their manner of mayhem is a bit more subdued, though, than most holey-sneakered college kids’. Layered vocals are whispered or mumbled, the sarcasm and ennui muted, the snarling amps turned down a notch. If many indie debuts resemble Jackson Pollock’s splattered extravaganzas, this one is Malevich’s Black Square, understated yet ominous — a mood evident in titles like “Slither Hither” and “Arachnid Dungeon Attack” (3.5 minutes of droning guitar dissonance). The band’s choices of cover songs are clear indications of both their lo-fi origins (a killer rendition of the Dwarves’ “Drug Store”) and their surreal, more melodic future (Robyn Hitchcock’s “Surgery”).