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
Clinic performs at the Troubadour, Tuesday, March 19.
CORNELIUS Point (Matador)
The coincidence is poetic, if not downright eerie: The very same month Juan Garcia Esquivel dies, along comes Point, an album that takes Esquivel's famous stereo experiments of the 1950s and refits them for the new millennium. After gaining a worldwide cult following with the sonic collages of his last two albums, 1996's 69/96 and 1998's Fantasma, Japanese pop wizard Keigo Oyamada -- a.k.a. Cornelius -- could have easily focused his periscope on mainstream success. Instead, Point is even weirder than previous Cornelius records, even if its emphasis on acoustic guitars makes it seem uncharacteristically mellow at first listen.
Like Esquivel, Cornelius is fascinated with the endless possibilities of the stereo spectrum, and the disorienting effects that can be achieved by unexpected juxtapositions. But where Esquivel's patented "sound your eyes can follow" was designed to blow the minds (and speakers) of Eisenhower-era hi-fi enthusiasts, Point is unquestionably a product of the CD age, a cut-and-paste cornucopia of digital distortion, electronic beats and layered vocals. Invisible at background-listening volume, the intricate absurdities of tracks like "Drop" (which combines breezy '70s pop à la America with the sounds of someone bathing) and "Bird Watching at Inner Forest" (wherein electronically altered bird calls are stacked against a bossa nova groove) really spring to the fore on a good set of headphones.
Of course, the big difference between Esquivel and Cornelius is that the former used classic songs as a departure point, while the latter's compositions often place more importance on vertiginous impact than actual melody. In fact, the best tune on Point belongs to the album's only cover, a gently percolating rendition of Ary Barroso's "Brazil" -- a song that, appropriately enough, also appeared on See It in Sound, the great "lost" Esquivel album released in 1999. Still, Point is so consistently whimsical and inventive, it's easy to imagine Esquivel smiling down from his conductor's podium in the heavens, happy to have found a worthy successor. (Dan Epstein)
ALANIS MORISSETTE Under Rug Swept (Maverick/Warner Bros.)
Once upon a time, Alanis Morissette was God. Not just in her role as the Almighty in director Kevin Smith's Dogma, but to the 16 million listeners who bought Jagged Little Pill, the singer-songwriter's 1995 estrogen-empowered catharsis of grrrlie rage. Wielding a power-chord punch lacking in diary-entry contemporaries like Tori Amos, Alanis grew even more introspective and New Age with her triple-platinum follow-up, Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie. Just in time for the dawning of the Age of Aquarius, Morissette has shucked off erstwhile producer Glen Ballard and returned with the self-produced Under Rug Swept, her first full studio album in four years.
Lord only knows how the Gen-X poster girl will be received at a time when Spin magazine's ads are down 20 percent. For her part, Alanis delivers the heart-on-sleeve confessionals that her followers bank on. "21 Things I Want in a Lover," a wholly satisfying pop-rocker, launches the album with her laundry-list lyric style ("Thank U," "Hand in My Pocket") enumerating "not necessarily needs, but qualities that I prefer": experimental sex three days a week, enjoying the illusion of life without buying into it, etc.
"Narcissus" is a patented Morissette Dear John letter with major zingers; over a stuttering guitar-echo effect, she questions why she tries to love a "mama's boy" who's "never really apologized for anything . . . never really taken responsibility." "So Unsexy" pleases, spilling a guitar wash over the hip-hop beat of Biz Markie's "Nobody Beats the Biz" while detailing the little abandonments (the forgotten birthday, the forgotten phone call) that sting so easily. "Flinch" -- the most straight-ahead ballad at over six minutes -- falls short of the majestic "Uninvited," and the album as a whole deals in more obtuse metaphors than the personalized specificities of her last record. Still, Under Rug Swept is Alanis Morissette in top form, exercising her God-given right to vent and sound beautiful doing so. (Miles Marshall Lewis)
GORILLAZ at the Hollywood Palladium, March 9
The way Gorillaz keep up the "virtual" act in a live concert is simple. The people responsible for the "band"'s blunted hip-rock dub-hop sound -- chiefly, Blur's Damon Albarn and Dr. Octagon producer Dan the Automator -- perform behind a stage-level scrim, a setup that suggests their insignificance or mystery. The real performers are supposed to be the screen projections above the scrim featuring the official band members: four hollowed-out cartoon zombies, each one urban-outfitted for today's modern ironies and vector-based imagination. The human silhouettes on the scrim are there only to give visual proof that the music is being performed live. Otherwise, the projections would amount to little more than a 90-minute music video, and no one would imagine a music video event selling out two consecutive nights at the Palladium. At least not before this Gorillaz tour started.
Journalists have been humoring Gorillaz's fussiness for a while now, partly because we have nothing else better to do and partly because we wouldn't mind watching any media-rigged idea run its course, to see if we can fire up anything Zeitgeist-y when Albarn says Gorillaz want to "inject some real integrity into the concept of manufacture" (Pulse, May 2001). So far, the concept works well in the realm of manufacture: cool music videos, cool interactive Web site and magazine covers. But onstage, the diligence of Gorillaz's think-tank gimmick is a miscalculation. At last Saturday's show there was such a rigid conformity to their unconformity that, after the novelty of the first 20 minutes, we all hoped that one of the band members would just slash the damn scrim with a knife, anything to collapse the dreary 2-D flatness of the sights and sounds.