Rock Picks: The Duke Spirit, New York Dolls, Lil Wayne | Music | Los Angeles | Los Angeles News and Events | LA Weekly

Rock Picks: The Duke Spirit, New York Dolls, Lil Wayne 

Also, Darker My Love, X, Legal Weapon, and others

Wednesday, Dec 17 2008


The Duke Spirit at the Roxy

The Duke Spirit swing low through town one last time on their way back to Europe for their Red Treasure Tour. The London quintet have performed locally several times this year, including at the poorly organized Download festival at Gibson Amphitheatre in the summer. Better to catch them loud and live in a smaller venue, where their subtler elements can be revealed. Guitarists Luke Ford and Daniel Higgins churn up heavy chords that mix My Bloody Valentine with the Pixies, abetted by the controlled thunder of Olly Betts’ drums and Toby Butler’s throbbing bass lines, while singer Liela Moss coos ethereal melodies with a vaguely Germanic phrasing that evokes the Shocking Blue’s late, great Mariska Veres (R.I.P.). The Dukies seem to love Southern California: They recorded their 2008 CD, Neptune (Shangri-La), in the Mojave Desert with Masters of Reality’s Chris Goss, and they claim a spiritual affinity with classic Los Angeles bands like the Gun Club and Love (although they don’t sound anything like them). Butler’s fuzz-bomb bass launches the coolly groovy slinkiness of their best-known tune, “The Step and the Walk,” while the melody for “This Ship Was Built to Last” was nicked from Abba, of all places. “Lassoo” whips back and forth with the snap of an alligator’s tail, shot up with an unexpected surge of brassy horns. The fuzz and the fury subside briefly for the fragile blue idyll “Wooden Heart,” showing that the Duke Spirit can be just as mesmerizing at a lower volume and slower tempo. Also at the Hotel Café, Sun. (Falling James)

click to flip through (6) CRACKERFARM - The Duke Spirit get their glower on.
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  • The Duke Spirit get their glower on.

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Legal Weapon at American Legion Post 206

Of all the early L.A. punk divas — Exene Cervenka, Alice Bag, Bobbi Brat, Belinda Carlisle, Dianne Chai, Dinah Cancer, Su Tissue et al. — Legal Weapon’s Kat Arthur was the best overall singer, howling with a raw, bluesy passion that long predated such simpatico soul shredders as the BellRays’ Lisa Kekaula. Most of Legal Weapon’s early classics, such as the fast-&-frantic “Daddy’s Gone Mad” (from the compilation Hell Comes to Your House, Volume 1) and the thrilling revenge anthem “Equalizer,” are long out of print, but they’re precious traces of what real, gutty punk rock used to sound like, before charlatans like Green Day and Punk Rock Karaoke dumbed everything down with their insipid imitations. In the early ’80s, Arthur’s versatile vocals and guitarist Brian Hansen’s savage riffs led to a major-label deal, although the group’s early fire was toned down considerably. Legal Weapon then submerged for much of the next two decades, resurfacing briefly in 2002 with their best album — a great self-titled CD on Sewer Line Records — which was fully stocked with such cranking new anthems as “Totally Knocked Up,” “I’m Gone” and “Key to My Chain.” They promptly dropped out of sight again, only to return tonight (with original drummer Charlie Vartanian!) for their first live gig in way too many years. You want excitement? You came to the right place, especially since they’re co-billed with similarly authentic early combos like the fun-lovin’ surf-rockabilly punks the Gears and the proto-hardcore sizzlers Stains. Legal Weapon also Sat. 227 N. Avenue 55, Highland Park. (Falling James)

Darker My Love at the Echoplex

It’s easy to see why local lads Darker My Love are rapidly outgrowing their in-the-know Eastside following. The quintet convincingly checks indie-idol boxes: swirling, swim-ear pyschedelia; blissfully saturated Kevin Shields guitars; summery, shoegazer melodies; delightfully non-quantized, couldn’t-give-a-fuck drums; and decent scenester cred (boasting two members of former John Peel faves the Fall and, somewhat incongruously, a former Distillers drummer). DML’s sophomore album, the cunningly titled 2 (on the trend-shaping Dangerbird label), displays more sculpted songwriting than their debut and, with some Jesus & the Mary Chain patience, the tunes almost subliminally make camp in and between the ears. Guitarist Tim Presley and bassist Rob Barbato trading airy, distracted vocals keeps things interesting, as do paisley Beatles brush strokes and sepia-tinted organ/clavinet subplots. Like labelmates Silversun Pickups, Darker My Love aren’t reinventing the wheel and don’t shy away from shameless mimicry (the verses of “Two Ways Out” being all but cut-&-pasted from Supergrass’ “Alright”), yet their overall aura is sufficiently seductive to become a hit-repeat guilty treasure. (Paul Rogers)

Yahowa 13 at Spaceland

The Source Family were an idealistic hippie cult who ran the health-food restaurant the Source in Hollywood in the early ’70s before moving their commune to Hawaii, where they ultimately disbanded after their leader, Father Yod, died in a vainglorious hang-gliding accident. (The group’s bizarre history was recounted by former member Isis Aquarian in her fascinating memoir, The Source: The Untold Story of Father Yod, Ya Ho Wa 13 and the Source Family, which was the focus of a cover story in this paper in the August 31, 2007, issue.) Yod fronted the improvisational band Yahowa 13 as a means of spreading his vaguely Judeo-Christian mysticism, but even non-believers might be impressed by the musicians’ psychedelic expansiveness and trancelike incantations (you can hear some of their early music on a bonus CD that comes with Isis’ book, as well as on Children of the Sixth Root Race: Songs From the Source, a collection of lost recordings from 1974, which was released earlier this year on Drag City). Three surviving members — Djin, Octavius and Sunflower — recently reunited to record their first album in 30 years, Sonic Portation (Prophase Music). Regardless of how much you buy into their simple-minded Hebraic wordplay and half-baked numerology, Yahowa 13’s mostly instrumental passages build a powerful momentum with soul-scouring bass tones, stormy cymbal washes and febrile flurries of spiky, sitarlike guitar. The 11-minute ramble “E Ah O Shin” makes the Doors’ “The End” sound like the Monkees, while the mind-stretching “Raga Nova” surges with a punky prog-rock drive. Seldom has “religious” music sounded so simultaneously earthy, spacy, guttural and evil. This sure ain’t the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. (Falling James)

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