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 EPOXIES, THE SCENE CREAMERS at the Troubadour, March 16
Portland's Epoxies are irrepressible, but they manage to be so without being trivial; this is a band playing new wave as if it is in fact new — new wave as a shout! Roxy Epoxy's body hums like a battery, and his group's name is lit up behind them — a common tactic, but somehow refreshing. Why shouldn'tthey be in lights? Why shouldn't they emerge from the mist, looking motley, sounding sacred? New wave's an amped-up version of the mundane, a Bible written in eyeliner. The test of it is whether you can set aside your own distrust of the absurd. The test is whether you can allow yourself to believe, and in doing so stumble over your own absurdity. The Epoxies play like Bible Belts testify, playing with an intensity far exceeding their format. The Epoxies are the color pink once it stops being cute and becomes, instead, rife with possibility.
The Scene Creamers are mincing, effeminate and furious. This is lounge music crackling like twigs breaking. There's a sense of something being sought and something being found. True, some of the lengthy intros go on too long, lines cast over the river and into brush. But when the hook sinks, it's a worm your teeth squirm to. "Protests are like funerals — you still have to go": The apparent cynicism has more to do with idealism than your typical kiss-don't-kill spiel (true idealism is never blind, idealism looks at reality's maw and spits into it). The Scene Creamers' songs occur within the larger rant of their performance as a whole; between rattled sabers, you see them winking. Talking of Hitler's Wagnerian doom, they offer a musical narrative of their own, a glitzy ooze of a story that casts Bush as the Wicked Witch of the East, twitching beneath the house of an audience's intent. Accurate? Perhaps not. But because their scenario's interesting, it's more true than any oft-mouthed slogan.
SCANNER scores Alphaville at Veterans Wadsworth Theater, March 15
A packed house is made to understand that "All things weird are normal in this whore of cities" — a meditation of Lemmy Caution in Jean-Luc Godard's Alphaville, the futuristic metropolis in which he suddenly finds himself (literally and metaphorically). As "Ivan Johnson," his cover as a reporter for Figaro-Pravda is used as a ruse as he soundly routs logical thugs and nonchalant seductresses in his hotel room (within the first 10 minutes). Robin Rimbaud, a.k.a. Scanner, underscores the action with the sound of metal forks on wires, telegraphic incontinence and suppurating drones matching the beating heart of the evil supercomputer Alpha-60. Onscreen, symbols of the past and present (ca 1965, including neon, Dick Tracy, Nosferatu, skinny ties, tape computers and the Instamatic™ camera) suggest that the future will not bring earth-shattering change overnight — rather, it is a slow acclimation to something vaguely futuristic but deeply rooted in an ever-present "now." "No one has lived in the past . . . and no one will live in the future" — this and other aphorisms are delivered by the voice of Alpha-60 (played by a throat-cancer patient with an electronic voice-box).
Scanner (whose next project involves combining all Swans songs into one 45-minute piece) pulls and prods unseen buttons and levers occasionally, delivering a hazy helix of feedback unobtrusively at a table on one side. Alpha-60's slow speech pattern implies superficial understanding of its words, when in fact large chunks of data slip away unnoticed, lost in the ongoing struggle to listen and understand its logic. Heads are shaken in the affirmative; "no" means "yes," and the question "Why?" has been outlawed. Scanner's score occasionally overrides the dialogue, but the original Paul Misraki score (with its film noir trumpet stabs and chunky, lurking drums) is largely retained. (David Cotner)
THE STREETS at El Rey, March 11
More than most kinds of music, dance tends to follow a bottom-up trajectory. A song gets a good reception in the clubs; an entrepreneurial label pounces on it; and then maybe (probably not) music critics discover it. The American reception for England's the Streets has been just about the opposite — all press accolades, little in the way of sales.
Essentially The Streets, a.k.a. Mike Skinner, combines backing tracks drawn from two-step and speed garage (the U.K.'s leading form of dance music) with emceeing that recalls day-in-the-life-style hip-hop. He's been called a U.K. analogue to Eminem, but Skinner's lyrics are clumsier and lack high drama. Chronicling a life of Playstations, fast food, kung fu flicks and weed, Skinner shows the perspective of an Eminem fan, not Marshall Mathers himself. What makes this act a particularly hard sell over here is how un-universal it sounds, what with the cockney accent and the fact that speed garage hasn't done that well outside of London. It's hijinks on the dole, like Trainspotting, the Musical. Oh wait, Trainspotting took place in Scotland? Well, my point exactly . . .
At El Rey, the night before his American television debut on The Tonight Show, Skinner showed the wisdom of his own lyrical self-evaluation: "Cult classic, not best-seller." Accompanied by a three-piece band, Skinner had more energy than your standard rap act; his compositions were full of high-tension keyboards à la the string theme to Jaws, and the stutter-step rhythms were surprising at first, though their slipperiness quickly grew predictable. Skinner delivered his lyrics in a speak-sing, and lazily strolled the stage, either bored half to death or half in the bag. It worked. His apathy provided a star-in-waiting quality that distinguished him from most underground rappers, the closest thing he has to U.S. peers. By comparison, the night's opening act, Busdriver, was earnest enough for a poetry slam.