THURSDAY, JUNE 12
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The Ting Tings: You should have seen the one that got away.
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Faun Fables' Dawn McCarthy channels Wonder Woman.
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The Fratellis: Here we sit.
The Detroit Cobras at the Troubadour
More than anything, the Detroit Cobras’ Rachel Nagy and Mary Ramirez are passionate fans of crucial R&B, soul, pop and garage music, and over the course of four albums they’ve covered great songwriters like Jackie DeShannon, Irma Thomas, the Staple Singers, Willie Dixon, Solomon Burke and the Shangri-Las. Unlike a zillion other cover bands in the world, the Detroit Cobras get away with such musical poaching because Nagy is an unrivaled vocal powerhouse whose interpretations are sometimes even more memorable than her classic inspirations. This is a rather mighty achievement when you consider that she’s holding her own with such giants as Otis Redding and Koko Taylor, but Nagy’s voice is simultaneously serene and fiery, lit up with a saucily boozy and wise-cracking, rude confidence that makes a soul-revising latecomer like Amy Winehouse seem like a shrinking violet. Ramirez prevents the group from coming off as some slickly reverential museum piece by riffing with dirty, punky garage chords, a major reason that the Detroit Cobras are the ultimate rock & soul party band. (Falling James)
The Roots, Erykah Badu at the Greek Theatre
The next time someone tells you that all hip-hop is the same, with narcissistic MCs rapping about their jewelry to pre-programmed backing tracks, make sure to sling the new Roots CD, Rising Down, in their direction. The Philly band — and they are a real band — would be remarkable if only because they use live instrumentation that moves and breathes with all the dynamics of any tight rock or funk outfit. Ahmir “?uestlove” Thompson hammers down the beat with a ferocious attentiveness, buttressed by Owen Biddle’s nimbly slinky yet sludgy-thick bass. But what really makes the Roots stand out is that Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter and a stellar cast of guests (Mos Def, DJ Jazzy Jeff, Saigon, Common, Chrisette Michelle and Talib Kweli) have something relevant to say. Themes range from the unjust justice system (“Criminal”), modern paranoia (the title track), child soldiers (“Singing Man”) and addictions, both chemical and cultural (“I Will Not Apologize”). The co-billed Erykah Badu adds to the excitement with her intelligently dreamy soul, which is grounded with hip-hop grooves and elevated with a farsighted social perspective that gives equal weight to personal politics. (Falling James)
Also playing Thursday:
JAMES INTVELD at the Autry Museum; GO BETTY GO, THE FRESAS at the Bordello; ?UESTLOVE at Crash Mansion; NELLIE McKAY at Largo at the Coronet; REBIRTH BRASS BAND at the Mint; THE SUPERBEES at Safari Sam’s; THE BANGKOK FIVE at the Viper Room; STEVE PRIEST & THE SWEET at the Whisky.
FRIDAY, JUNE 13
The Ting Tings at the Troubadour
The Ting Tings, from England, are like a happy-and-healthy version of the Kills, whose strung-out two-person blues-punk demonstrates that a rhythm section manned by actual men is no longer the necessity it once was. On We Started Nothing, their just-released debut, Jules De Martino and Katie White (Ting 1 and Ting 2, presumably) make an intentionally raw dance-rock racket full of fuzzy guitars, boombox beats and cheerleader chants. (Whether or not you recognize the Ting Tings’ name, you’ve heard their single “Shut Up and Let Me Go” in Apple’s latest iPod spot.) But where the Kills use the scrappiness of their sound to say something deep(ish) about desperation and neediness, White and De Martino just come off like a couple of overexcited party people who couldn’t be bothered to assemble a “real” band. Classified ads are slow, yo! (Mikael Wood)
The Submarines at the Echo
The Submarines have a great backstory. Blake Hazard and Jack Dragonetti (a.k.a. Jack Drag) were a couple, then they broke up and wrote songs about it. And the music brought them back together. Their first album, Declare a New State!, was basically a demo of these bitter breakup songs that a friend mastered as their wedding present. But a great story is one thing, and great music is another. Fortunately, Hazard and Dragonetti demonstrate a magical way with their pop tunes on both their debut and their freshly released follow-up, Honeysuckle Weeks. Where the first disc mixed heartbreak with hooky melodies, the new one succeeds in the trickier task of making terrific “happy tunes.” The duo deftly match Hazard’s sweet, airy vocals with Dragonetti’s infectiously bippy, boppy electro-pop arrangements. The disc is hypnotically enchanting throughout, with the shimmery love ode “Swimming Pool” and “Xavia” (with the tag line “I don’t want to be your favorite enemy”) surfacing as two particularly memorable tunes. (Michael Berick)