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
Photos by Gregory Bojorquez
SUPERGRASS at Spaceland, February 15
You had to sympathize a little with the sweaty lummox who rushed the stage at Spaceland to smother Supergrass lead singer-guitarist Gaz Coombes with kisses during an encore of "Moving." After all, Coombes fronts a band of cartoon-cute Englishmen whom NME recently called a "national treasure." With their new album, Life on Other Planets, released just last week in the States — and the guys playing an unusually intimate venue — the die-hards in the front row probably just couldn't resist the temptation to cop a feel.
The new album's reviews in Britain have been mixed — critics can't seem to agree on whether it's great or merely good — but it's reached the Top 10 there for reasons that Supergrass illustrated pretty well in their live show. Gaz's vocals were the perfect mix of punk scoff and operatic reach, and the rhythm section was all sweat. New tunes like "Seen the Light" and "Rush Hour Soul" held up between the best songs from their 1995 breakthrough, I Should Coco. And the Britpop-meets-Buzzcocks guitar work over the Nick Rhodes-arpeggiated keyboards in "Za" was perfect. Bass player Mick Quinn did seem uncomfortable when he first took the lead on the bantamweight rocker "La Song," but you couldn't resist his vocal take on "Never Done Nothing Like That Before"; with a punk verse/chorus worthy of the Clash and a Syd Barrett acid-casualty bridge, the tune was irresistible. And you know, it's hard to debut new material when you're three multiplatinum albums into your career — old fans now have old favorites — but Supergrass totally pulled it off.
Looking and sounding like a young James Taylor, Patrick Park seemed an odd choice for an opening act. Then he sank his teeth into "Silver Girl"'s acoustic-with-attitude crunch, and you just said, "Right on."
Circa 2002, making your mark as a white male singer-songwriter is one of the more difficult feats in music. There have been so many antecedents that it's hard not to draw unfavorable comparisons with your elders. This three-headed bill impressed if for no other reason than that each artist distinguished himself from the other two performers.
Local boy Steve Reynolds' lyrics are earnest, solid and not particularly notable, but his arrangements certainly are: Ethereal without being wispy, they wash over you like weather. He was the only performer of the evening to bring along accompanists, and he directed them well. Cisco de Luna on lap steel and harmonica, Josh Grange on bass pedals, and a percussionist identified only as Quinn — they hadn't met until set time — added colors to Reynolds' feverish acoustic strum. It sounded like a roiling storm with a thrumping heartbeat.
New York City's Jesse Malin was a more classic kind of troubadour, the twist being that this particular bard is actually a cleaned-up punk. He used to be the front man for the '90s glam-punk act D Generation, but his solo debut, The Fine Art of Self-Destruction, was produced by country boy Ryan Adams and has earned critical acclaim in England. Though he invoked both Joe Strummer and Kiss in his stage banter, Malin's heavy Brooklyn/Queens accent and straightforward songwriting cast him as an outer-borough analogue to Bruce Springsteen. Problem was, the banter was better than the act. At one point, he paraphrased his father's words of encouragement: "Cut your hair. Go work at the post office. But when you play Madison Square Garden, I'll come." I'm not sure if I would.
On first hearing, former Moldy Peach Adam Green's simple, straight-to-the-heart songs were easy to pass off as the work of a sexually frustrated faux naif à la Jonathan Richman or Lou Barlow. Then again, the 21-year-old was selling CDs at the merch table for a mere $5. Maybe Green is an actual naif à la Tiny Tim? Then again, his lyrics were simultaneously surrealistic, poetic, romantic and pornographic, with protagonists who came on crackers and got blowjobs under rainbows while complaining about their bleeding hearts. "There is no wrong way to fuck a girl with no legs," Green sang. I can't say the thought ever occurred to me. No one ever said originality was pretty. (Alec Hanley Bemis)
LA VOIX HUMAINEat the Lee Strasberg Theater, February 8
It's a work only a real diva, not to mention a real actress, would attempt: Francis Poulenc's La Voix Humaine was the first opera (1959) ever composed for solo soprano, and it tests the limits of vocal virtuosity and emotional endurance. With a libretto by Jean Cocteau, the one-act is a memorial to anyone who's ever been dumped: In a hotel room, a woman talks on the telephone to her lover, who is abandoning her, and becomes increasingly suicidal as she learns that he is about to be married. It's a fascinating culmination of what began as the trailblazing career of France's "Les Six," a group of musicians formed in the 1920s who followed Cocteau's dictate of what new French art should be: witty and lighthearted, its gods the music hall and the circus instead of serious, ponderous and whatever had gone before.