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
HEAD AUTOMATICA at Spaceland, January 29
With the ’70s and ’80s strip-mined by the retro-hounds, it was inevitable that they’d cast a greedy eye over the early ’90s for their next stylistic crutch. And so it is with Head Automatica — a much-hyped side project featuring Glassjaw front man Daryl Palumbo and lauded DJ Dan the Automator among a seven-piece ensemble — who at times recall the EMF/Jesus Jones British mini-invasion (more of a long weekend, actually) of 1991. Check the sub–Robert Smith pathos of the vocals, and an optimistic, state-of-the-art-at-the-time techno trundling of the flagship toon “Young Hollywood.” But for the most part, Head Automatica are Electric Six lite: regular mentions of “disco” and “getting the party started,” sharp suits and Flying V guitars, but lacking the Six’s head-rush of camp enthusiasm and fuck-you single-mindedness.
The diminutive Palumbo — in leather blazer and stubble shadow, looking like some dodgy geezer flogging fake Tags — is a formidable focal point. As with Glassjaw, he remonstrates from the stage lip with considerable command and connection, though he shackles himself tonight with occasional guitar forays (redundant with two axes already aboard). When not recalling the Mef’s James Atkin or JJ’s Mike Edwards, Palumbo revisits his once-removed trademark: the Mike Patton I’m-about-to-heave yap that many a nu-metal numskull craves yet few perfect. But, hey, Palumbo can sing, and relishes it too, and we’ll settle for that.
Though tormented by technical troubles, Head Automatica’s set keeps a stoked but early-set-sober Spaceland crowd politely satisfied (there’s literally only one shout for an encore). Closing with Squeeze’s meticulously constructed “Pulling Mussels From a Shell,” they depressingly demonstrate that even apparently indestructible tunes can fall into disrepair in the hands of Philistines. Head Automatica are mildly charming, tuneful and trendy, but have yet to banish that “other band” aimlessness. (Paul Rogers)
DEEP PURPLE, THIN LIZZY at the Wiltern LG, February 14
Sure, it was just a gimmick, but playing the entirety of the monumental 1972 Machine Headwas a damn fearless way for Deep Purple to stack the past up against the present. Hasn’t been the same band for ages — without Ritchie Blackmore’s guitar and now without Jon Lord’s organ. When the Steve Morse–Don Airey lineup plowed into “Highway Star,” though, the Wiltern balcony literally shuddered. Kinda scary in more ways than one: This is a mature unit that nails its riffs while writhing with demonic inevitability. Morse inhabits the essences of “Maybe I’m a Leo,” “Space Truckin’” and “Smoke on the Water” in ways Blackmore never really wanted to, so 34-year bassist Roger Glover (taut and pushing the rhythm) and original drummer Ian Paice (thrashing the backbeat) are more locked-in than ever.
Deep Purple has sopped up plenty of singer Ian Gillan’s soul-man juice over the last decade, a bent that showed up in such plucks from the current Bananas as the dynamic, jammy “I Got Your Number” and the churn-and-pound “House of Pain,” a legit contender for greatest-hits status. Morse’s “Contact Lost,” an instrumental tribute to a Purple fan killed on the space shuttle Columbia, beautifully bridged tenuous electricity and humanity. And throughout, Airey’s keyboards took classical and jazz touches out of the academy and straight to the people with razor simplicity.
Those who listen with ears rather than memory can stop worrying about this kind of thing being a revival act, as the 2004 edition of Thin Lizzy also demonstrates. The idea of Lizzy without singer-bassist Phil Lynott (RIP) seems ridiculous until you start to appreciate crowd-milking front man John Sykes, best known as the hot-handed guitarist on the first Whitesnake album. Imitative, yes. Boring, no. (Greg Burk)
(Photo by Jacques Beneith)
Authority without physicality also marked the music of Favors, who once surprised Smith by playing at an especially high level while fasting. A perennial member of the Art Ensemble of Chicago, Favors possessed a selfless genius for appropriateness. His choice for the AEC’s Selected Recordingsis a space-conscious 20-minute suite in which the bass is virtually absent for the first seven minutes; he was just as ready, though, to take over a song, supporting and directing the Ensemble’s improvisations like an unpredictably undulating rubber floor. His every note was a world, three-dimensional at least.
Favors learned from Wilbur Ware and honed his art alongside Andrew Hill, Dizzy Gillespie and Freddie Hubbard before meeting Muhal Richard Abrams and joining the AACM in the late ’60s. He is the second member of the Art Ensemble to pass, following Lester Bowie, who died in 1999. In the liner notes to the AEC’s Tribute to Lester, Favors remembers an argument with Bowie over what to call their art. They finally agreed on “Great Black Music.”