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
Photo by Wild Don Lewis
This sold-out Friday night began with a whisper, slowly rose to a bounce and finished with a bang. Sounding at turns like Brit shoegazers Ride, or perhaps a less adroit Idaho, openers Timonium offered a glacially paced exercise in sparkling atmospherics, droning bass and clangorous drumming. Sadly, their timid stage presence and between-songs lulls kept them from delivering the full potential of their lovely work — until bassist Tracy Uba took over vocal duties for the final two songs. Once singer-guitarist Adam Hervey stood back and played more aggressively, Timonium finally arrived at the transcendence they’d been chasing.
Essentially a throwback to the indie pop/rock bands of the mid-’90s (à la Poster Children), the Silversun Pickups tossed off an inspired set of bummed-out anthems, each filled with inventive progressions, blustery vocals and subtle, almost angular guitar solos. To the delight of fans, local cellist Tanya Haden sat in, lending the band’s buoyant bash-’n’-pop an air of gravity and elegance.
From the moment the ladies of Electrelane took the stage, they struck the awe-inspiring pose of a band supremely in command of their vision. Offering not so much as a “hello,” the Brighton four-piece blasted through three of their earliest driving instrumentals, characteristically jaw-dropping the audience with just Farfisa, bass, drums and guitar. However, when the single “On Parade” erupted (fresh from their Steve Albini–produced sophomore album, The Power Out), it was clear that a whole new Electrelane had emerged from the studio.Already masters at appropriating and revising elements of drone pop, minimalist punk and no-wave noise, they’ve added heavy doses of gospel, folk and doo-wop via the standout vocals of keyboardist/guitarist Verity Susman. Returning for a well-deserved encore, they boldly covered Springsteen and Roxy Music classics. Perfect.
Tonight the prog wet dream burst its banks, with two arch-exponents of that unexpectedly revived genre — local luminaries A Perfect Circle and the Mars Volta — filling a cavernous arena despite this being a rescheduled date.
The Mars Volta take artsy adventurism to extremes rarely witnessed at this level: Into a foundation of Fugazi’s stuttering arrangements, they inject nuevo-jazz, drum & bass and pirouetting webs of mauve psych-rock. Within these haunted-house acoustics, Cedric Zavala’s shimmering soprano adopts an underwater quality, as if leaking from the aquarium next door. Seldom pausing for breath, the Mars Volta lay down a blanket of bewildering, loop-inspired beats, landmarked with convulsions of irreverent, spastic-Santana guitar and video-arcade keyboard noodlations. The spidery Zavala animates it all with his jujitsu stop/go James Brown shuffle, demented Daltrey mike-swinging, and shamanistic, maracas-wielding crouch: captivating, even at arena range.
A Perfect Circle, though similarly enigmatic, offer a more measured and structured approach. Amid a twinkling enchanted-forest stage set, they unload great washes of traumatized 6/8 solitude and reflection over a spine of bleak tribalism, Billy Howerdel’s chiming-siren guitar frostings the only light in their metallic tunnel. Vocalist Maynard James Keenan, performing on a riser toward the rear of the stage, delivers mournful melodies from his patented geriatric-skiing-chimp posture. Yet the oft-misunderstood Keenan also lends an incongruous humor to the proceedings, encouraging the assembled to yell “shit fuck” at his command (which, worryingly, they do). The current APC lineup — with Jeordie White’s menacing bass lines, James Iha’s effected six-string treatments and über-drummer Josh Freese’s articulate and impassioned patterns — is more coherent than the original incarnation, and it says a great deal about the strength of their material that they can hold an audience with a headlining “greatest hits” set after just two albums. (Paul Rogers)<
THE VINES at the Wiltern LG, April 8
In rock & roll performance, there’s a blurry line between “raw” and “crap” — a divide that Vines vocalist Craig Nicholls is uncomfortably straddling. His band explore their often boisterous Beatles fixation convincingly on their big-budget albums — in fact, the new Winning Days is more consistent than their lopsided 2002 debut (most of which paled next to its amphetamine-addictive single, “Get Free”) — but in concert they’re like watching cement set, only more embarrassing.
A fundamental problem is that Nicholls’ voice, pleasant enough for the first couple of songs, soon degenerates into a Dylanesque homeless-dude drawl, his part-time proximity to pitch neither arty nor endearing, while his attempts at falsetto resemble roadkill’s death yelp. Hyped as a magnetic and intriguing front man, Nicholls is anything but: Repeatedly throwing his guitar down (a tired gesture three decades ago) does not constitute charisma. And his bandmates are about as on-the-edge as a wet weekend in Wal-Mart, static figures visibly embarrassed by Nicholls’ empty antics. In fact, in an ironic role reversal, drummer Hamish Rosser emulates a drum machine’s imagination-free beats for much of the set.
Credit where it’s due: “Get Free” is an irresistible, reckless blood rush, but that song’s a Vines anomaly, as they otherwise shamelessly indulge their Lennon-McCartney fantasy: “She’s Got Something To Say to Me” is a slavish Fab Four pastiche, and even Winning Days’ artwork is an homage/rip-off. Live, they seem incapable of re-creating the intricacies of their recordings, leaving Nicholls to put up a smoke screen of self-conscious tantrums to deflect attention from a stage sound that’s retardo-Radiohead at best.