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Tickled Pink! 

Wednesday, Jan 24 2007
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? I REALLY THINK YOU SHOULD go see Earl Greyhound play next week. They have two shows, so it shouldn’t be a problem.

The reason? Mainly, they rock like motherfuckers.

Earl Greyhound is a blues-rock outfit from New York, flaunting a massive guitar sound. It’s appropriate for listeners who were breastfed Zeppelin and weaned on Nirvana. (I believe the lead dude, Matt Whyte, plays some sort of Gibson, but at moments it sounds to my amateur ears like the Cobain-designed Fender Jag-Stang, which is surely the sludgiest ax around.)

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Earl Greyhound also boasts a big bottom: fat, round, expansive drums sunk down in the very middle of a deep groove in the ground. The chap drumming on their record, Soft Targets (Some Records), has since left the band. However, his replacement, Ricc Sheridan, is a former drummer for (among others) Mr. Lenny Kravitz. And you know Lenny will have no truck with slackers, especially in the drum department. Soulful female support vocals from bassist Kamara Thomas leaven the mix nicely. And though Whyte’s vocals could benefit from harsher cigarettes, at moments he sounds a bit like Mr. Kravitz himself (especially on “Like a Doggy”) — and it’s good.

It’s evident on the record this band has no patience for the elusiveness of shoegazer or the preciousness of emo: Earl Greyhound makes aggressive-aggressive, full-frontal, urgent attack rock. You could call it mortality rock: You sense this band is hyperaware of the passing of time, and the value of the carpe diem. “It’s Over” nods to this lyrically (“You know we’re only gonna get older!”), but it’s really something communicated kinetically: Earl Greyhound is a band that grabs the moment — and that’s what rock is all about, at heart. Let’s go one better: Grabbing the moment is not only what rock is about — it’s what rock is.

Earl Greyhound play Tues., Jan. 30, at El Cid, and Wed., Jan. 31, at the Silverlake Lounge.

? PSYCHEDELIC POP EXPRESSIONISTSOf Montreal have a new record called Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? (Polyvinyl). I do wonder why they didn’t just call it Destroyer. In any case, speaking of grabbing the moment: The album’s first song, “Suffer for Fashion,” twinkles and winks and sparkles with the pleasure of harmony and dancing foolishly like a Peanuts character in the face of the apocalypse (“If we’ve got to burn out, let’s do it together/Let’s all melt down together!”). There’s a humorous homage to Prince’s psychedelic soul period (“Faberge Falls for Shuggie”), featuring all those wiggy backward-masked, multitracked falsettos and shit. (Sort of Ween, if you ask me.) Not bad. The track that follows, “Labyrinthian Pomp,” nods to hip-hop in the silliest way: consciously wimpy helium vocals boasting, “How you wanna hate a thing/When you are so inferior?” underlaid with that James Brown riff that was lifted from Bowie’s “Fashion.” I deeply admire Of Montreal’s bold weirdness, but, personally, I do find this album a tad bit overthought. It’s definitely labyrinthian pomp, all right.

Catch Of Montreal Fri., Jan. 26, at the El Rey; Sat., Jan. 27, at the Avalon; Sun., Jan. 28, at the Troubadour.

? LAST WEEK JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE managed to fill Staples Center solidly with office girls and gay men — and three straight guys attending in support of their girlfriends. (These fellows, it turns out, were also gay.) Seriously, though: I haven’t been in such an estro-heavy, screamadelic crowd since the Spice Girls’ tour in 1998. And you got the sense that these young women were exactly the same girls who once rocked the Radio Disney, taping Backstreet Boys and *NSync posters on their bedroom walls. They grew up with Justin, and he grew up with them. I really envied these women too. There is nothing like spending more than you can afford to go with your girlfriends to see your favorite performer in the world — especially at the peak of his Cultural Moment.

Justin Timberlake brings to his work a Disney-based commitment to technical perfection. It’s evident all over his Timbaland-sculpted FutureSex/LoveSounds — he manages to make even sex-obsessed dirty disco sound clean and efficient. That’s fine. But I can only imagine how the sonic perfectionist in him must wail and gnash his teeth, knowing that every time he plays a venue like Staples Center, all his labor is more or less wasted. (The venue was simply not built by people who understand or care about acoustics, and most of the concert presented a punishing aural tsunami, muddy and muddled, with only the occasional passing riff or vocal hook to grab onto. I can’t believe we all put up with this shit — and pay through the liver for it.)

Overall, the show left me a little cold. True to his TV roots, Timberlake is more an entertainer at heart than a pure musician. And he’s an excellent entertainer. But whatever his shtick may be at any given time — teen pop, R&B, dance music — it’s less music than a kind of musical gesture, a style, a collection of postures that seem to communicate something human and essential, with varying degrees of success. Sometimes, the gesture is cool enough that it expresses something important — like “SexyBack,” for example, a glam-based jam that demands total personal and sexual freedom, somehow, through little more than a strange vocal effect. But those moments are rare with Timberlake. (I find his self-effacing SNL skits more genuinely moving, more human, than most of his songs.) And since I am already familiar with the performers he emulates (Madonna, Prince, Michael Jackson, Bowie), I am not so prone to swoonage.

? HIS OPENER, PINK, on the other hand, stole the show with her performance of “Dear Mr. President” (off her last album, I’m Not Dead), a killer ode to Bush Jr. sung with the heart and gusto of a girl who knows a thing about the military (her dad served in Vietnam). It’s not just about the war, though; it’s also about the difference between earning one’s riches and inheriting them. “Let me tell you ’bout hard work/Minimum wage with a baby on the way/Let me tell you ’bout hard work/Rebuilding your house after the bombs took them away/Let me tell you ’bout hard work/Building a bed out of a cardboard box/Let me tell you ’bout hard work/Hard work, hard work/You don’t know nothing ’bout hard work.”

See, you don’t have to be mealy-mouthed to be popular. Style and substance can work hand-in-glove.

Reach the writer at ksullivan@laweekly.com

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