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 RAPTURE, MOVING UNITS at El Rey, May 15
Anyone who doesn’t think the face of pop has changed dramatically must have missed the Faint shows last month or any of the packed Monday nights during Moving Units’ Spaceland residency. Which is to say, rock is the new dance. Not just any rock, but a fusion of technology and the gutter that once got under the skin of everyone from Gang of Four to Talking Heads. Fast-forward a quarter-century: The Rapture invent their own art-funk disco-trash (“sonic death groove,” in their words), and it’s makin’ femme-boyz, grrrl-tarts and every Puma-shod kiddie in between detonate. (The Joy Division redux of the Units made ’em go equally gaga.)
The Rapture haven’t released any original material since 2001’s Out of the Races and Onto the Tracks (though released on Sub Pop, its clubby edge comes courtesy of DFA, the Neptunes of Williamsburg). But thanks to the Morgan Geist remix of “House of Jealous Lovers,” the hipster meters are peaking in the red, and with the upcoming Echoes, the band’s dance-floor/punk rock synergy should be complete. On this night, the crowd bounced to singer/four-stringer Matt Safer’s bobbling pinpricks of bass, the 4/4 pulse of drummer Vito Roccoforte and the murky hues of Luke Jenner’s guitar, all converging like a Madchester–no wave time quake. My buddy: “Don’t you feel like you’re watching the next big thing?” Ida know, but the Rapture’s secret weapon is a saxophone, which underpins their 11th-hour urgency — Gabriel Andruzzi makes it bleat and whinny more dystopianly than any analog keyboard. Not to get all John Hughes, but how ecstatic we retro-futurists were that Jenner and Co. saved the Psychedelic Furs’ “Dumb Waiters” for the encore, an underappreciated (sax-driven) Furs song, and possibly the only sexy thing about Reaganomic decadence.
A.R.E. WEAPONS, DANCE DISASTER MOVEMENT
at the Key Club, May 17
Have there ever been juicier, more excerptable lyrics than those of New York’s A.R.E. Weapons? If it’s ace bons mots you’re after, feast on these: “Fact of the matter is, the war turns me on” (from “Changes”); “I gotta have money, baby, so I can get my kicks” (from “Fuck You, Pay Me”). A better question to pose to a buncha bad-news bears like Matthew McAuley (guitar), Brain McPeck (vox) and “third member”/manager Paul Sevigny (sampler and, yes, Chlo√ę’s brother) might be “How many layers of irony does it take to kill a joke?” The Weapons strip ideas and melodies down to their cores, and while intentionally smart-assy, paradoxically, they’re completely sincere.
The only sucky thing about this brief quarter-till-one set was that the trio couldn’t be bothered to play the spine-chilling “Black Mercedes,” a thugged-out, string-laden anthem with a down-tempo break that plain kills. They did, however, drop their signature “Street Turf,” a brilliant pastiche of classic-rock bromides (“Give it a little kiiiiissss/Like thiiisss”), wiggly bass lines and Atari video-game blips. “Street Turf” is the single that made them hot shit in Manhattan two years ago, alerting Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker, who brokered their deal at Rough Trade. We know what you’re thinking, but the band have made it clear they don’t give a shit about e-clash. And all their buzz and hipness were a moot point once Sevigny cued the synth-clarion for “Hey, World,” a tear-jerking √ľber-ballad: “Hey, world, this is a message to you/Your kids are growin’ up with nothing to do/And a bored kid is a dangerous kid.” Let’s see any of the other “it” NYC punks put their hearts on the line like that.
Despite their celeb connections, you get the impression A.R.E. Weapons are only a step away from sleeping on friends’ couches and spanging spare change in Alphabet City, and that feeling was reinforced when McAuley said, “Hey, we’re just losers with long hair who like to dance.” Which is why Dance Disaster Movement, a powerhouse of darkwave angularity, exuberant wit and singer/keyboardist Kevin Disco’s aerobic male-hustler moves, complemented Weapons so well. Plus, by ending its set with breakdance spins that’d make Turbo, Ozone and Kelly jealous, the band lives up to its name. (Andrew Lentz)
at Spaceland, May 17
A night of great hair, that’s for sure, but each of these one-word wonders — the former, hometown harmonic heroes not heard from in a while; the latter, feisty foreigners with a Stones jones in town to record their American debut — also know their way around a hook, a lick and a chorus. With their buoyant pop bursts, Tsar, led by big-eyed singer Jeff Whalen, have always been cute but not glam enough to turn off heavier music heads, crunchy but not chaotic enough to repel lovesick girlies — a combo that should have made their Hollywood Records debut a much bigger success. Back at their old stomping grounds, the quartet banged out bits from their next release and showed off a grittier persona (no more Goody barrettes for these Los Feliz fellas). Big tunes full of frenzied drumbeats and revved-up, raucous guitar riffs show the group charting a punkier course, but it was the bubblegum grinds from their first record at the end of the set that still popped loudest.