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
It doesn’t always come together. Sometimes Dead Meadow get so slow and spare they almost fall over. But all that gurgling, gushing wah — it feels so good! If you’re not ready to hail the new Cactus, you must be an intellectual or worse. (www.tolotta.com) (Greg Burk)
Whilst the moon did cast a silvery shadow over the acoustic guitars of Kyle Gass and Jack Black, a hoary demon commanded them to write the best song in the world. They didn’t. No, with a flash of thunder and dry ice, said demon forced a pair of conch-shell-belted, long-tressed and technically proficient rock-god stand-ins to set quill to parchment. Gass and Black, two comics who met while slogging it out with the Actors’ Gang, merely composed and performed a “tribute” to this hallowed event.
Their ability to ape the faux virtuosics of Blackmore and Sambora, Howe and Malmsteen, combined with their teen-metalhead understanding of medieval wordplay, makes Tenacious D the funniest ode to rock pomposity in recent memory. (You may recall Black — and his incredibly versatile vocal cords — as the irate record-store clerk in High Fidelity.) By enlisting a number of hipster professionals (bassist Steve McDonald of Redd Kross, the Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl on drums and Phish keyboardist Page McConnell) as musicians and the Dust Brothers as producers, Gass and Black squeeze radio-friendliness from extremely goofy material. There are epic narratives like “Wonderboy” (the Spike Jonze–directed clip is currently wreaking havoc on MTV). There are less epic tracks revolving around traditional rock themes such as sausage as phallic metaphor and a reason to break up a band (“Kielbasa,” “Karate Schnitzel”), or the sexual prowess of the roly-poly duo (“Fuck Her Gently,” “Double Team,” “The Road”). And there are chest-thumpers (“Dio,” “Rock Your Socks”).
The D dynamic: Black, the self-centered front man, pummels Gass, who gets stiffed by his bandmate in a multitude of ways, resulting in Black’s lament, “Kyle Quit the Band.” Still, amid one-chord solos and three-part harmonies, the pair continue to rock the universe, wax poetic of broadswords and Ronnie James Dio, and work in the largest collection of ’70s guitar-rock clichÃ©s ever assembled on one album. (Skylaire Alfvegren)
MOKE Carnival (Ultimatum/Artemis)Photo by Salomon Emquies
It’s been a while since a rock record has “leaped out of the grooves” at me (to borrow an obviously dated expression), but the U.K. foursome Moke (British slang for a donkey or a mule — among other things) kicks out the kind of brash energy that has always been one of rock’s necessary ingredients. The opener/single, “My Degeneration,” a play on The Who’s raucous ’60s anthem, may not be as subversive as the original, but it’s certainly a statement of purpose — and one solid slab of British beef (sans mad-cow, foot-and-mouth, etc.).
Instead of trouncing what remains of “the establishment,” Moke takes on its peers with the same cockiness (“Rude boys, they keep bangin’ out the same sounds . . . We’re just shaking on an old sound”). In addition to mining Beatles-style melodic hooks and the buoyant harmonies of “Can’t Explain”–era Who, the group has a feel for the kind of adventurousness XTC excelled at circa Black Sea. In the tuneful “Hanging Around,” a syncopated psychedelic bridge with soaring harmonies contrasts against the white-boy rap of the verses, while the heady “Slide,” filled with plenty of production frills (thanks to mixmaster Bob Clearmountain), and “I Don’t Mind” demonstrate the band is anything but one-dimensional.
Songwriter John Hogg is a charismatic singer who carries the band with surprising poise and, on “Strange Days,” employs the boyish, melodic charm of early Yes (minus the noodling). Even when Moke is churning out the Cheap Trick power pop of “Magic House” or a relatively mindless riff like “Liar,” there are enough twists and turns — in the latter, a gorgeous bridge — to win you over. Sonically and musically, this disc is a pleasure from beginning to end, and that alone is a rarity. (Michael Lipton)
Moke performs at House of Blues, Monday, November 19.
The success of “U Don’t Know Me” and “Flowerz” must’ve scared the shit out of Armand Van Helden, for how else would you explain his increasingly obsessive butch behavior ever since? Indeed, both titles — available on his 1999 debut full-length 2Future4U — were two of the gayest house anthems ever made by a street-cred DJ-producer, and when they emerged after his popular remix of Tori Amos’ “Professional Widow” — featuring the notoriously lewd loop “Gotta be big” — you could imagine dancing homos everywhere having a field day.
According to Gandhi Kahn, his third album and most militantly guido enterprise, Van Helden desperately wants you to get it straight: He loves the chicks, and he makes music for straight dudes who love the chicks. Recall that Van Helden went out of his way to make “Koochy” the most conspicuous track on his second album, Killing Puritans — conspicuous not only for its flagrant sampling of Gary Numan’s “Cars” but for its smooth-booty poetry: “When I call your house after work/I want that koochy and I’ll make it squirt.” So it’s no surprise that, on Gandhi Kahn, Van Helden’s neurotic hetero drag would ruin the awesome stadium-sound tumult of “I Can Smell You” with its whispers of creepy night-stalker nothings, or give a flaccidly sloshed rendition of the Kinks’ “You Really Got Me,” or jerk off to “Robots Are Cumming” and “Chocolate Covered Cherry.” Yes, Van Helden’s mouth is responsible for all of the vocal tracks on the new album, a shame since he’s gotten some very cool talents to work for him in the past — Common, N’Dea Davenport, Tre “Slimkid” Hardson, etc.