The American Idol–driven craze for cover albums by fading pop stars has extended the careers of some pretty unlikely has-beens. But I for one cannot say I saw Eddie Money — the pushing-60 rocker responsible for indelible FM-radio anthems like “Two Tickets to Paradise” and “Take Me Home Tonight” — jumping on the bandwagon. Nonetheless, I’m glad he did: On Wanna Go Back, his new disc, Money actually sounds like he’s having a good time as he tackles deathless pop fare like “Higher and Higher” and “Build Me Up Buttercup.” (As Randy, Paula and Simon remind Idol hopefuls week after week, song selection is crucial; Money wisely sticks to up-tempo material that suits his cigarette-ravaged voice.) The record probably won’t win Money another ticket to pop-star paradise, but in a way it seems like he’s already there. (Mikael Wood)
When marionettes kill the Barbarellatones, they’ll cry little splintery tears. That’s because the Barbarellatones were such a labor of love, lust and lavishly lurid spectacle, a heady hedonism that some of us get a craving for when it’s all dressed up so garishly glam by the band’s heroically humanoid Robbie Quine. He and his mates have issued a small hearseload of records whose titles and track names alone are worth the price of admission: “Kentucky Fried Drag Queen,” “Baby Wants a Corndog,” “Love Is a Roadapple,” “Yummy Yummy Yummy” and “Wicked Wahine” spring most readily to mind; the latest is Interview With a Glampire, whose release is celebrated at this weekend’s shows. It’s all so very Ziggy Stardust, don’t you know, and Mott and the Cramps and Rocky Horror Show too. Esteemed guest Barbarellatones include twang terrorists Geza X and Insect Surfer Dave Arnson. Also at Bar Sinister, Sat., April 21. (John Payne)
There’s a fine line between genius and psycho — expect it to be crossed at Bordello’s Syd Barrett tribute night, where more than 20 artists, including Eleni Mandell, Pity Party and Nora Keyes, will present personal interpretations of the late musician’s compositions. The enigmatic Pink Floyd visionary and original Crazy Diamond died last year at age 60, having lived as a recluse for much of his post-Floyd life. Promoter Scott Sterling asked each artist to pick one song from Barrett’s catalog: Douglas Lee is performing his on tuned wine glasses, the band Kennedy are going disco and the Leviathan Brothers are doing “something jazzy.” Expect nifty finger pickin’ all ’round. “I’m not a musician, but I have been told that the chord changes Syd Barrett used are very eccentric,” Sterling says. “And his structures are weird and hard to remember — these are difficult songs to play.” (Caroline Ryder)
Behind flaxen curtains of honey hair and a rusty wiry beard, the bear-man hybrid that is Benji Hughes croons the driest humor available to L.A. ears. But unlike comedian hacks who dabble in music, this North Carolina native has the chops and stellar band to back his sardonic lyrics. With a disarming drawl and knitted brow, Hughes produces hazy, low and melodic vocals filled with everything from woe for hipster gatherings (on the electro-infused “Why Do These Parties Always End the Same Way?”) to a lilting acoustic number about how bad Christian music is. Fervent affection for Hughes tends to be immediate upon exposure, and the travertine-walled Getty on a spring evening couldn’t be a more inviting destination. Also Sunday at Tangier. (Alie Ward)
Last December I caught Aimee Mann’s delightful holiday show (which featured the folk-pop songstress performing alongside fellow musicians and a handful of actors and comedians) and wondered why the variety program has fallen from popular favor. It’s kind of a perfect format: As soon as you get bored, something else comes along to reinvigorate your interest! Actor-comedian-musician Jamie Foxx is on my wavelength: Each of his two shows at the Gibson this weekend is billed as “an evening of music, comedy and more.” The music should be pretty good; though inaccurately titled, Unpredictable, Foxx’s 2005 R&B disc, contains its fair share of appealing slow jams. Comedy-wise, Foxx always delivers, even if his current campaign for Serious Actorhood has made that a little hard to remember. As for “and more” — who knows what fun that might promise? Also Saturday. (Mikael Wood)
Hey! You got your post-rock in my Krautronica! Trans Am’s expansive brand of lockstep guitar vs. synth discipline sounds refreshingly progressive alongside the current glut of indie-sanctioned angularity. Never afraid to completely switch shit up in pursuit of something entirely “other,” this D.C. trio’s latest, Sex Change (Thrill Jockey), plays as their most user-friendly set yet, getting down like Tortoise on half a hit of E, “Trans-Europe Express” and a copy of Rush’s Exit Stage Left. Definitely get there in time to catch Pittsburgh analog twins Zombi, whose multi-textured dream of shimmering ’80s keyboard sunsets are enough to make Jean-Michel Jarre proud and Jan Hammer shed tears of jealousy. Think Miami Vice for 2012. Old-school college-rocker alert: D.C.’s Black Taj features two former members of ’90s Merge Records heroes Polvo indulging their inner stoner. It is 4/20, after all. (Scott T. Sterling)
Also playing tonight: Electric Six, Night Kills the Day, Test Your Reflex at the Key Club; The Autumns, Miss Derringer, Mad Juana, The Cheat, Olin and the Moonat the Roxy; Electrocute, Captain Ahab, Laco$te, Bleachy Bleachy Bleachat the Smell.
It took me a couple concerts to “get” Dan Zanes. Whereas most other children’s performers burst onstage all flash and pep, Zanes sorta saunters and begins his set more than a little low-key. The kids hush up and gaze at first, then slo-o-o-owly the grooving escalates into Grateful Dead–like rapture. These fans don’t indulge in magical substances, but they do twirl around unsteadily, wear bright, comfy clothes and talk in stream-of-consciousness. They often smell bad too. For us parents, Zanes plays songs that refreshingly don’t make us want to throw up (sorry, Wiggles). His goal is to inspire family bands wherever he goes through old-timey classics like “Waltzing Matilda” and new-timey, anti-whiney winners from his Grammy-winning CD, Catch That Train. Two shows, 11 a.m. & 2 p.m. (Libby Molyneaux)
Art Brut is an anti-pop phenomenon so brilliantly conceived and carried out that it has become a relatively major pop fact on its own calculatedly dubious merits. Launching their postmodernist “rock” shtick in Bournemouth back in 2003, the band — hilariously sarcastic but nice frontman Eddie Argos (a punk rock Viv Stanshall), guitarists Jasper Future and Ian Catskilkin, bassist Frederica Feedback and drummer Mikey B — became quite the buzz band in their native U.K. and obscure parts of Central Europe with the release of Bang Bang Rock and Rolland its signature “Formed a Band,” which featured the revealing lyric “Formed a band/formed a band/we formed a band/we formed a band!” Argos fronts his band with a boozy admixture of knowing smirk, endearing goofiness and very fine-edged asides about the essential lunacy of the hallowed rock & roll ritual. Their even newer and further improved album, It’s a Bit Complicated, hits in June. Sold out. (John Payne)
Also playing tonight: The Barbarellatones,Mystery Hangup at Boardner’s; JAMIE FOXXat Gibson Amphitheatre; FIVE FOR FIGHTING, Chantal Kreviazukat the Wiltern.
Roy Clark, the super picker with the most genuine shit-eating grin in country music, came up as part of the rough-and-tumble Washington, D.C., hillbilly scene (a three-ring circus, run by the famed Connie B. Gay, that featured astonishing country jazz by Clark and Jimmy Dean and visits by everyone from Hank Sr. to Elvis). Whether wielding a guitar or banjo, Clark’s dazzling facility is at the top of the scale, yet he is also ineluctably linked — despite the shuddering melodrama of his signature weeper “Yesterday When I Was Young” — to the unadulterated corn showcased on 20 years of Hee-Haw. While many here agree that Clark’s hijacking of Palomino founder Hank Penny’s comedic routines — on The Tonight Show — is what allowed him to break out, Roy definitely has the goods, and he ain’t stingy with ’em. (Jonny Whiteside)
When the word “experimental” is thrown around in indie rock societies, it usually refers to guitar-based, drone-heavy freeform noise. Classical and jazz might have provided the initial musical training for any number of ax-wielding haircuts, but it’s a rare thing for these genres to weasel into the scores of even the most pioneering of bands on the Pitchfork circuit. The Books, though, manage it — their music toys with technology and methodology in a way that’s unfamiliar to huge swaths of their audience. Heavy on the strings and “found” samples, The Books pack fully realized soundscapes into individual songs. Like Looper and the Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players, the Books incorporate often silly visuals and spoken word into their live performances, which brings some levity to the musical geekathon. The band’s sense of humor is fortunate, because even the most adventurous of indie kids need some points of reference to hold on to. (Kate Carraway)
Tanned, muscular and as dangerous as ever, Iggy Pop marks the 48th hour of his sixth decade here on Earth tonight. All bets are on that he and the Stooges have something outrageous planned for the occasion. Credited with kick-starting the punk movement in the early ’70s, the legendary Michigan band re-formed in 2003 after a 30-year hiatus. Although The Weirdness — their first studio album since 1973 — has failed to charm critics, the Stooges’ live shows still remain unsurpassed. Iggy’s blood- and peanut-butter-smearing antics are gone, but the bare-chested, wriggling psychopath of old still remains. With brothers Ron and Scott Asheton back in the fold and the über-capable Mike Watt on bass, they’re sure to remind the Iggster and the rest of us why we haven’t thrown in the towel. With Sistas in the Pit. (Laura Ferreiro)
Rosie Thomas is something of a contraction. There’s Rosie the Lilith-like singer-songwriter with her lovely airy voice singing about matters of the heart and heartbreak. Her endearing new work, These Friends of Mine, is her New York album. Primarily recorded in her friend Sufjan Stevens’ Brooklyn apartment, it’s populated with overt NYC imagery (like the urban winterscape in “Much Farther to Go” and the hopeful Big Apple–bound romantic in “All the Way to New York City) along with the covert (like “If This City Never Sleeps” and the Central Park–inspired “Kite Song”). But Thomas isn’t just another girl with a guitar, singing her journal. She’s also quite the class clown, as revealed in her irreverent stage banter and her kooky pizza-delivering alter ego, Sheila Saputo — which makes Thomas something like three parts Joni Mitchell and one part Andrea Martin. (Michael Berick)
Also playing tonight: Anavan, Agape, Laco$te, Destructo Bunny, Beach Balls, Macka at Pehrspace.
Xiu Xiu front man Jamie Stewart sounds like a man you’d like to wrap in a warm blanket and ply with a cuppa hot tea while saying, “There, there, young fellow, it’s going to be okay.” Unsettling, delicate and totally mesmerizing, Xiu Xiu is a trio that gets its power from unexpected musical bursts and twists. “This is the worst vacation ever!” he bleats during “I Broke Up.” On “Bog People” he whispers and then yells in demented pain, with all kinds of techno toys cluttering up the sound. Stewart’s so fragilely wound up he makes David Byrne sound like Burl Ives. Just be glad you’re not him. (Libby Molyneaux)
Detroit-based electro-punk duo Adult. are big thinkers; their new album, Why Bother?, arrives accompanied with an artist’s statement in which they wonder, “What is the next step if Videodrome is not the endgame itself?” Totally a good question, but not one strictly necessary to enjoy Why Bother?, whose jagged guitar lines, queasy synth riffs and demented-cheerleader vocals are their own rewards. Erase Errata, from San Francisco, know about jagged guitar lines; they do a post-riot-grrl punk-funk thing that seems philosophically opposed to the establishment of any kind of calm (not to mention the establishment, period). Brooklyn’s Parts & Labor — whose drummer, I must admit in the interest of full disclosure, is my editor at Paper Thin Walls, the indie-rock Web site — kick out furious noise-rock jams that secretly want to be pop songs. Hey, boss: You guys rule! (Mikael Wood)
Big Youth, the tremendous reggae firebrand who exploded out of Kingston’s sound systems in the early ’70s, possesses a strikingly distinct, powerful style. He delivers both a sweeping, hard, declarative shout and a tender, American R&B–influenced way with ballad (check the mindblower “Every Nigger Is a Star” and his wild version of the Diana Ross hit “Touch Me in the Morning”). Whether singing about ghetto life and car bombs or delivering the Rastafarian message, Big Youth demanded attention and rose to richly deserved international acclaim; his onstage performances were always high-voltage, showstopping events, and this one, despite time’s passage and that snowy white beard, is sure to electrify. (Jonny Whiteside)