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Rock Picks 

For the week of May 17 – 24

Wednesday, May 16 2007
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THURSDAY, MAY 17

King Kong at Spaceland

King Kong were formed in Louisville in 1989 by ex-Slint bassist Ethan Buckler, who discovered early on in his young punk life that that brutal yet sensitive and most misunderstood (and hairy) big ape represented his philosophy of life. King Kong the band were thus from the start a kinda goofy but bluesily rocking little combo, chock-full of tight, grooving beats and funky melodies, talk-sung by Buckler in a nasally monotone not unlike Fred from the B-52’s. Buckler’s ongoing series of ludicrously themed concept albums — including Me Hungry, the story of the great love between a caveman and a yak — were foolish, fun affairs, as is the band’s new Buncha Beans (Drag City), their first record in, like, five years. Beans is a somewhat more straightforwardly (musically, that is) tail-feather-shaking thing, chock even more full of tuff teen beats, a coupla horns, extra singer Amy Partin Ritchie and, most especially, an ever-droller Buckler intoning ace party tunes such as “Ride the Funky Mule,” “Monkey Business” and “Freak Off You.” (John Payne)

click to flip through (6) (Photo by Arrott Hartford)
  • (Photo by Arrott Hartford)
 

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Also playing Thursday:

DIMMU BORGIR, UNEARTH, DEVILDRIVER at the Wiltern; BEN GIBBARD, DAVID BAZAN at Royce Hall; FUJIYA & MIYAGI at the Echo; DIMEBAG DARRELL TRIBUTE at House of Blues; MICKEY AVALON, DIRT NASTY at the Key Club; WATKINS FAMILY HOUR at Largo; BLEACH03 at Mr. T’s Bowl; BLUE HAWAIIANS at Safari Sam’s; BLASTERS at the Viper Room.

FRIDAY, MAY 18WEDNESDAY, MAY 23

The Monolators at the Echo

Because the Monolators are a guitar-&-drums duo, they get the usual White Stripes comparisons, but their sound is actually weirder and more expansive on their latest CD, Our Tears Have Wings. Singer-guitarist Eli Chartkoff has a uniquely mournful yelp that’s somewhere between the late Nikki Sudden and the Subsonics’ Clay Reed on the lo-fi gem “Strawberry Roan” (the Monolators will debut a pirate-&-ninja-themed video for the song at tonight’s show). Drummer-wife Mary Chartkoff cooks up a neatly sinister groove on “We Fell Dead,” and keeps it all down home on the glowing roots-rocker “14 Degrees.” On the album’s title track, Eli portrays himself as a lion tamer’s son with playfully clever lyrics and starkly effective chords that evoke the unpretentious simplicity of his hero Buddy Holly. The L.A. duo even engage in a little Jonathan Richman–style whimsy on the folkie ramble “I Was a Captain in the Army,” with Eli’s timelessly iconic tremolo guitar waves washing away any hint of mere cutesiness. (Falling James)

Brother Ali at the Troubadour

Brother Ali is a big white kid from Madison who grew up suffering a lot of guff about him being an albino and not such a pretty boy. So screw this, he figured, and when he moved to Minneapolis, he got involved in the hip-hop scene, converted to Islam, gained acceptance as a formidable poetry slammer, took the ball and ran with it, and ain’t been blocked ever since. The Undisputed Truth is what Bro Ali calls his new set on the Rhymesayers label, a commanding follow-up to his powerful The Champion EP and stunning Shadows on the Sun album from 2004, all of which display a highly motivated young man’s gift for finely flowing articulate raps; the new disc especially exhilarates with the dubbified electro-funk and R&B-horns backdrop of Ali’s longtime producer, Ant (also Atmosphere’s soundman). Ali’s full of braggadocious bull, yeah, but in the main this is serious stuff about inner-city hell, our shameful slave-trading past, the sad smoke of a dying love and the warm embrace of a forgiving god. Best of all, Ali’s humane and passionate delivery gives him that rare affection-inspiring sound of burning, righteous drive. Also at Amoeba Music, Mon. (John Payne)

The Randies, Bang Sugar Bang at Mr. T’s Bowl

To benefit the Internet radio station Killradio.org, here are two bands whose songs are catchy enough to be heard on mainstream radio (assuming mainstream radio still played catchy songs by non-corporate-funded bands without nepotistic connections). The Randies have a fast-&-fizzy sound on their 2006 CD, Saw the Light (Elicit/Majestic), that’s as punky and poppy as the early Go-Go’s. Bassist Sienna DeGovia laments the loss of her youthful idealism on “I Thought I Could Change” as guitarists Laura Cataldo and Laurita Guaico surround her with consoling harmonies, all of it powered by drummer Aaron Polk’s relentless drive. “Up in Lights” is a charming ballad, a jangly contrast with such harder-rocking tunes as “Born Again.” Bang Sugar Bang come at you with dueling coed lead singers Cooper Gillespie and Matt Southwell, who trade off sarcastic lyrics about the state of the union on “That’s O.K., Civil Rights” from their upcoming CD, Victory Gin. With Gillespie and Southwell’s soaring harmonies, “The Sky Is Falling” sounds like the vocal exchanges of a more politically conscious version of John Doe and Exene Cervenka. It’s pretty exhilarating stuff: They’re trying to kill the radio in order to save it. Bang Sugar Bang also at Alex’s Bar, Thurs., May 24. (Falling James)

Also playing Wednesday:

GREAT NORTHERN, SARA LOV, BUDDY at the Bordello; TOUCH ME HOOKER at the Cat Club; WATSON TWINS at Largo; AUTOMATIC, EJECT, RENDERS at Safari Sam’s; SIXTH CHAMBER at Viper Room.

THURSDAY, MAY 24

The Health Club at Mr. T’s Bowl

At the very end of the recent DVD compilation 40 Bands/80 Minutes, after 80 minutes of arty-noisy combos and following 20 minutes of bonus footage of similarly atonal cacophony, something resembling a melodic song finally emerges from the post-punk wreckage like a flower rising from the ashes of a brushfire. That song is by the Health Club, the last (and arguably best) band on the whole megillah. The L.A. trio also have post-punk influences in the way Katya’s bass lines and Gerard’s guitar patterns intersect with an angular, Joy Division majesty, but the songs on the Health Club’s Rarities & Outtakes CD stand out with bright hooks that contrast their gray, minimalist settings. “Summer Rolls” and “Calm Down” chug along with drummer Gabriel’s sludgy tempos, a wall of fuzz and Gerard’s deadpan Jesus & the Mary Chain–style vocal delivery. Gerard laments the disappearance of beautiful inspiration on “The Muse From Venus,” and he finds himself caught up in the intricate architecture of his girlfriend’s fishnet stockings, reveling in their whispery, tactile sensation on “Fragile.” The Health Club are bursting with potential, and tonight you won’t have to wade through 39 other bands to hear them. (Falling James)

Also playing Thursday:

UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF GIANTS, YOUNG LOVE at El Rey Theatre; ERYKAH BADU at Grove of Anaheim; FUXEDOS, BANG SUGAR BANG at Alex’s Bar; PECULIAR PRETZELMEN, MELO-M at the Bordello; MACY GRAY at the Key Club; THE CLIENTELE at Knitting Factory; GO BETTY GO, GLASSELL PARK 3 at the Scene; DIVISION DAY, MAE SHI at Spaceland.

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