Rock Picks: Aretha Franklin, Lucinda Williams, Deerhunter 

Also, Rodriguez, the Monolators, Nas and more

Wednesday, Nov 19 2008

Kaiju Big Battel, Busdriver at the Mayan

Women will cry! Men will laugh! For . . . it seems to be alive! Not one but two Kaiju Big Battels are coming to town, live monster-mayhem spectacles bringing to thrilling life the very real threat of the evil brains from the outer galaxy who have come to destroy planet Earth and probably steal our jobs. The Kaiju Commissioner will be doing his best to save the entire world before it explodes in a flame of terrible color! Unfortunately, we are currently being threatened by an active roster of more than 50 monsters, including Kung-Fu Chicken Noodle, Dusto Bunny, Call-Me-Kevin and the notorious square-headed mad scientist known as Dr. Cube. Referee Jingi will ensure evenhandedness in the ring, even when the monster has 10 of ’em, while Davio Salbino is an urban-renewal expert who reconstructs the crumbled cityscapes between Battels; your host for the events is MC Louden Noxious. Mind-warping speed-rapper Busdriver opens the proceedings. (John Payne)

Rodney Crowell, Joe Henry, Jenny Scheinman at Largo at the Coronet

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Houston native Rodney Crowell may be Nashville’s consummate “outsider insider,” achieving success in the Music Row mainstream while also maintaining his artistic integrity. In the mid-1970s, he arrived in L.A. to be Emmylou Harris’ Hot Band guitarist and song source. He moved on to Nashville, where he shepherded his then-wife Rosanne Cash’s career and penned hits for country stars like Crystal Gayle and the Oak Ridge Boys and scoring solo successes too. Although his star dimmed slightly during the mid-’90s, Crowell regained his creative footing in 2001 with his stirring, semi-autobiographical The Houston Kid. He has put out four more profoundly powerful discs (including this year’s Sex and Gasoline) that transcend country conventions. Crowell’s current work, fitting somewhere between Nick Lowe’s sagely contemplation and Steve Earle’s angry rants, delves into personal and political issues with a fierce clarity that’s tempered by a folksy humor. Sex producer Joe Henry, another talented hyphenate, will sit in with him tonight and in-demand violinist Jenny Scheinman (who authored her own fine Americana-style disc this year) will open, as well as play in Crowell’s band. (Michael Berick)

The Sounds at Hollywood Palladium

Boasting a blonde beauty, slight lads in leather duds, spunky words, punky guitars and squelchy new-wave synths, the Sounds have the perfect pop-band formula pretty much covered. So, while headlining the freshly spruced-up Palladium is none too shabby, it’s surprising that these ’80s-obsessed Swedes aren’t stuffing enormo-domes by now. Truth to tell, they’re just one genuinely great song away from high-street ubiquity, their two albums to date (2002’s Living in America and 2006’s Dying to Say This to You) being consistent Blondie/Cars/Missing Persons post-punk pleasures but lacking that involuntary hum-inducing hit (though the shameless organic/electronic celebration of “Queen of Apology” comes close). Onstage, the hard-touring Sounds are all about the panda eyes, impossible cheekbones and leggy ambition of front gal Maja Ivarsson, whose rawk Björk inflections and déjà vu Debbie Harry aura make her black-clad bandmates’ spirited instrumental efforts worthwhile. At best, the Sounds are a band on the cusp of utter greatness; at worst, they’re a guilty-pleasure, skinny-tied sonic flashback. Either way, we win. (Paul Rogers)

Also playing Thursday:

WIL-DOG ABERS Y SU BANDA JUVENIL at Eastside Luv; TERRA NAOMI at the Hotel Café; WARREN G at the Key Club; MONTE NEGRO, PILAR DIAZ, BEATMO at the Roxy; SLANK at Sam’s at the Regent; WEST INDIAN GIRL, POOLABOMB, POLYAMOROUS AFFAIR at Spaceland; NELLIE McKAY at Music Recital Hall, Cal Poly Pomona. 



Aretha Franklin at House of Blues

How long has it been since you settled down and really listened to some of Aretha Franklin’s classic mid-’60s Atlantic records? Doesn’t much matter if it was last week, last year or last century, because those damn discs — with their perfectly arranged and executed accompaniment and Franklin’s incomparable vocals — will snake through your brain, travel deep into your guts, and jolt you with such an electrifying charge that the nail polish will peel up and flake right off your toenails (don’t paint ’em? Why the hell not?). No one else comes close to Franklin’s depth of gospel-informed intensity, subtle phrasing, undeniable involvement, and the ability to conjure bales of emotional immediacy within a single syllable. Her perfected brand of soul vocals is so nigh on impossible to replicate that the subsequent generations who spout of her influence, in truth, work a shallow, grotesque caricature of Franklin’s ideally realized model. Go now, because before long all you’re gonna have is a shrieking abyss populated — at either distasteful extreme — by the jive-ass likes of Beyoncé and Amy Winehouse. Don’t argue — the difference is considerable. Also Sat. (Jonny Whiteside)

Rodriguez at the Echo

The odyssey of the mono-monikered Rodriguez (first name Sixto) is one of those intriguing tales of the music racket. The son of Mexican immigrants, he was born and raised in Detroit. Emerging as a young adult in 1960s Motor City, he sponged up the gestalt of turmoil and spat out brilliant songs in blunt language about dope dealers (“Sugar Man”) and urban rot (“Inner City Blues”) and even an empathetic-but-stern dress-down of Janis Joplin before she self-evaporated (“Like Janis”). His classic 1970 debut album, Cold Fact, is packed with these powerful mini-novelas, Rodriguez’s subtle Latin rhythms, stark and soulful voice, and baroque post-Pepper production. It’s a stunning work, equally so because it didn’t catch on (except in South Africa — but that’s another story). Light in the Attic Records reissued Cold Fact this year, giving rock critics apoplexy. Who the hell is this guy, and why haven’t we heard him before? Despite rumors of his demise, both he and his mojo are still workin’, and tonight’s show comes highly recommended. (Michael Simmons)

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