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Rock Picks 

For the week of May 31 - June 7

Wednesday, May 30 2007
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THURSDAY, MAY 31

The Hold Steady, Illinois at El Rey Theatre

With their rousing, ragged anthems about sex, drugs and 20-something confusion, the Hold Steady suggest a Let It Be–era Paul Westerberg fronting the E-Street Band. The Westerberg/E-Street analogy also makes sense since front man Craig Finn hails from Minneapolis but is now Brooklyn based. However, neither Springsteen nor Westerberg ever sang about an elite East Coast college coed having a rock-fest fling with a guy who’s “been to jail but never prison” like Finn does in “Chillout Tent” from last year’s highly praised Boys and Girls in America. Finn is part bar-stool poet and part English MFA — effortlessly name-dropping Izzy Stradlin and Alfred Lord Tennyson within a single couplet. But his beer-soaked tales never sound like New Yorker short-story submissions, and the band, led by guitarist Tad Kubler, bash out wonderfully raucous, Bic-flicking rock & roll that has gotten them tagged “America’s best bar band.” (Michael Berick)

click to flip through (6) The Hold Steady at the apex of a high five (Courtesy 2:30)
  • The Hold Steady at the apex of a high five (Courtesy 2:30)
 

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H.R. at the Viper Room

In the new Bad Brains DVD, Live at CBGB 1982 — a fascinating document of the Washington, D.C., band in their hardcore-punk phase, when they were one of this planet’s fiercest and fastest live combos — singer H.R. is shown onstage surrounded by a whirlwind of thrashing limbs belonging to assorted beefy stage-divers. Even though he’s dancing just as frantically to the Brains’ intense fusillade of muscular punk rock and lilting reggae, H.R. somehow seems calm at the center of the storm. Unlike many hardcore punks, the Bad Brains were superior musicians, expanding into heavy metal on 1986’s classic I Against I, which featured melodically yearning tunes like “Sacred Love” (whose vocals were recorded over the phone while H.R. was in jail). The original lineup has only performed sporadically in the past decade, but they’re about to release a comeback CD, Build a Nation, produced by the Beastie Boys’ Adam Yauch. Tonight, a solo H.R. (which stands for “Human Rights”) will dig deeply into his spiritually heartfelt reggae roots for some transcendent magic. (Falling James)

Also playing Thursday:

BLACK PINE, XU XU FANG, PITY PARTY at the Echo; WATKINS FAMILY HOUR at Largo; ELECTRELANE, TENDER FOREVER at the Troubadour.

FRIDAY, JUNE 1

The Raveonettes Electric Duo at Spaceland

There’s something to be said for tending to a small plot of musical turf — as opposed to working the entire farm — and the Raveonettes say it. These good-looking Danes’ one trick is drenching the early rock & roll of Buddy Holly and the Everly Brothers in buckets of post-shoegazer guitar fuzz à la the Jesus and Mary Chain; on their debut full-length, 2003’s Chain Gang of Love, they went as far as restricting all the tunes to three chords in one key. The result of that tight focus is an intensity of feeling unusual in the band’s retro-rock milieu; Raveonettes tunes tremble with a doomy, romantic grandeur. Pretty in Black, from 2005, ran a little cooler than Chain Gang, but new demos on the band’s MySpace page promise good things to come. Tonight they play as a duo comprising singer-guitarist Sune Rose Wagner and singer-bassist Sharin Foo. Also Fri., June 8, at the Echo. (Mikael Wood)

VietNam at the Troubadour

The Brooklyn band VietNam are too pleasingly weird to be neatly summarized in 150 words or less, but here goes. Singer-guitarist Michael Gerner sets himself up as a Bob Dylan–style bard on “Priest Poet & the Pig,” from the band’s new self-titled CD on Kemado Records, as his band whips up a rootsy, train-coming-’round-the-bend chugging momentum. Joshua Grubb’s celestial washes of languorous pedal-steel guitar split open the sky and wallow gloriously above it all. VietNam describe themselves as a mix of “hippie outlaws . . . confrontational punks and gentle intellectuals,” and their music rambles heedlessly over musical genres, ranging from the squalor of “Mr. Goldfinger” to the austere piano-draped balled “Step on Inside,” where Gerner brags like a newfound Jim Carroll that “gravity is the least of my fears.” Stranger still is their version of Dr. John’s “Right Place, Wrong Time,” where Gerner sings with a drawl that’s as sour and drawn out as the cold and shimmering glow of Grubb’s spacy guitar. The rhythm section of drummer Michael Foss and bassist Ivan Berko scratch up a neatly organic feel for such restless rural-blues experimentation. (Falling James)

Also playing Friday:

DEERHOOF, AUTOLUX at Natural History Museum; PHARCYDE at Blue Cafe; DEKE DICKERSON, KARLING ABBEYGATE, JOEY ALTRUDA at the Bordello; SMITHEREENS at the Canyon; MATT & KIM, JAPANTHER, MIKA MIKO, NO AGE at the Echo; LINDA PERRY, THE SECTION at House of Blues; B-REAL at Key Club; HENRY CLAY PEOPLE, MONOLATORS at Mr. T’s Bowl; THE COLOUR, SIMON DAWES at the Roxy; MOTHER TRUCKERS at Safari Sam’s; CARDOVAS at Taix; MODERATES, GLISS at El Cid.

THURSDAY, JUNE 7

The Tennessee Three at Safari Sam’s

If, for whatever reason, you were a stupid-enough foot-dragger that you never saw Johnny Cash perform, then a brief explanation as to why this show is notable may be in order; on the other hand, for those who made the gigs, you already know that the Tennessee Three are one of the hard-hitting-est, deep-rolling-est and all-around knocked-out greatest little combos anyone ever put together. When W.S. Holland is on the riser, baby, you’re living right: He’s the Rat Scabies of Sun Studio, the cat who drove Carl Perkins’ “Blue Suede Shoes” breakout, a drummer of such fiery, complex ability that the ornery old bugger beggars description. With guitarist Bob Wootton taking the lead and a collective head full of country’s most dire and distinctive music, the Tennessee Three is, in a word, it. (Jonny Whiteside)

Unsane at Spaceland

Despite a name that sounds like a generic Sunset Strip band, Unsane are an awesome force of anti-nature, cranking out slabs of terror that are much heavier than mere metal. The NYC trio crawled out of the Lower East Side scene in 1989 alongside fellow post-noise saboteurs the Reverb Motherfuckers and Helmet, amping up the chaotic volume of early Sonic Youth and Unsane drummer Vincent Signorelli’s old band the Swans with their own fearsome intensity. Their new CD, Visqueen (Ipecac), is weighed down with doomy tempos and thick, terminally sludgy riffs. Chris Spencer’s octave-straddling guitar soars majestically over the beginning of “Only Pain” before it’s dragged inexorably back down into the pervasive quicksand. “It’s all the same,” he howls in grim resignation. On such cliché-prone songs as “Last Man Standing” and “Against the Grain,” Spencer doesn’t have anything new to say lyrically, but it doesn’t matter as his ragged judgments are buried under the density of his bending, fun-house-mirror guitars and Dave Curran’s muscular bass. The psychedelic epic “East Broadway” sounds like it was recorded beneath a rattling subway train, although most of these savagely cathartic tracks end abruptly, just like this paragraph. (Falling James)

Kaiser Chiefs at Henry Fonda Theater

If you’re like this die-hard Supergrass fan, you look at every Bloc Party/Franz Ferdinand/Art Brut upstart who walks through the Virgin American terminal at LAX with great suspicion. How dare you? You with your tight striped pants, your suede fringe vest and your ridiculous mutton chops! Nobody slices and dices power-pop with hooks from heaven and choruses written for the ages as well as the greenery-loving Oxford trio. Kaiser Chiefs deserve to be at the head of the class for tight, thrilling pop songs crafted with as much professionalism as the Jam. Lead singer and cowbell-ringer Ricky Wilson pulls off the charming “Every Day I Love You Less and Less” and makes us love him more and more. Here’s a tip: Wilson’s actually singing “I Predict a Riot” not “I’ve Got Tourette’s” on their 2004 single. (Libby Molyneaux)

Also playing Thursday:

GIRL IN A COMA, THE RANDIES at Alex’s Bar; STEEL PULSE at the Canyon; MICE PARADE, TOM BROSSEAU at the Echo; THIRD WORLD at Key Club; DJ SHEPARD FAIREY at Knitting Factory; PEACHFUZZ, THE SHAKES, THE SCANDELLS at the Scene; MAE SHI, ANAVAN, KEVIN SHIELDS at the Smell; MESHELL NDEGEOCELLO at Temple Bar; LET’S GO SAILING, BEDROOM WALLS at the Troubadour.

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