Music Picks


Candy poppy shit!

It’s ironic that PM Dawn plays L.A. this week at the dinky Joint, while Gnarls Barkley performs a two-night stand at Avalon. PM Dawn may go down technically as a one-hit wonder, but the group helped to forge a foundation for today’s crossover weirdos, making music as odd and genre-less as it was accessible. Put it another way: PM Dawn made music Brian Wilson, George Clinton and George Martin might agree on — and equally take credit for. Their recent triumph on the one-hit competition Hit Me Baby One More Time proved that PM Dawn’s sound back in the early ’90s was way ahead of its time. DJ Minute Mix has left the group, replaced by family member Dr. Giggles, but Prince Be remains — and remains proud of his aesthetic: “Bottom line, I genuinely like pseudo-watered-down, candy, poppy shit. I genuinely like alternative-rock shit. I’m just a fan of music, and I wanted to bring it to the table different.” (July 21 at the Joint; July 22 at Normandie Casino, Gardena) . . . Britpop fans: Creation Records dude Alan McGee returns to DJ at Part-Time Punks this fucking Sunday night at The Echo. Dig. (Kate Sullivan)


John Sinclair, Michael Simmons at Fais Do-Do

With all the woe humanity is suffering, it’s hard to point out the worst mess but, spiritually, the Katrina debacle and destruction of New Orleans weigh heavily. This bittersweet “Night in New Orleans” features NOLA-documentary screenings, plenty of grooves, and a full musical set from one of the rock & roll underground’s most intriguing forces: White Panthers founder and former MC5 manager John Sinclair. Sinclair’s witheringly forthright, radical perspective makes him just the cat for the occasion, and the presence of L.A. Weekly contributor/country-music insurgent Michael Simmons adds even more underdog appeal. Simmons’ mid-’70s Texas honky-tonk blitzkrieg, leading the wildly jumped-up combo Slewfoot, found him sharing more than stages with the likes of Billy Joe Shaver and Kinky Friedman, who characterized Slewfoot’s sound as “metallic hillbilly cocaine bebop.” Expect tears, fun and fury. (Jonny Whiteside)

{mosimage}Mavis Staples at the Santa Monica Pier

Mavis Staples’ extraordinary career has spanned almost the entire spectrum of the American popular musical vernacular. From her youthful 1950 start with her revered gospel family band, the Staple Singers, through her 1969 visit with the MGs’ Steve Cropper to Stax/Volt to a 1977 collaboration with soul shaman Curtis Mayfield to her 1989 sojourn in Prince’s Paisley Park, she’s managed it all, spiritual and secular, with a healthy, downright irresistible dose of the sanctified gravity that lies at the very foundation of blues, jazz and rock & roll. It’s gospel, baby, the fiery testament of good news that imbues every Staples performance, and that is a power you just cannot beat. When you can get it for free, with the Pacific Ocean as backdrop, the choice is clear: luxuriate. (Jonny Whiteside)


{mosimage}Tom Jones at the Hollywood Bowl

“It’s Not Unusual” that the Welsh-born singer known for his sex appeal and enormous . . . range (pop, rock, show tunes, country, dance, R&B, hip-hop) is still belting it out, shaking it up and swinging it around (the microphone, that is). Instead of slowing down, the sexy sexagenarian is speeding up. When not collaborating with Pavarotti (2001’s concert for Afghan refugees), Wyclef Jean (2002’s funky Mr. Jones) or Jools Holland (2004’s rootsy Tom Jones and Jools Holland), the “Kiss”-cover man is touring the globe. “What’s New, Pussycat?” Well, last year the veteran entertainer celebrated his 65th birthday; earlier this year, he was knighted by Her Majesty the Queen. (That’s right — it’s Sir Tom Jones now.) How many 66-year-olds do you know who get underwear tossed at them? Also Sat. (Lawrence Everett Forbes)


Slayer, Lamb of God, Mastodon, Children of Bodom at the Long Beach Arena

Maybe this is why Ozzfest attendance was down: In the Unholy Alliance Tour, metal fans had a heavier option for less money. Thrash founders Slayer, though fielding their original lineup and about to fire off a new album produced by Rick Rubin, aren’t even the strongest tribe, and there’s a three-way tie for first. Through constant touring and recorded excellence, Lamb of God have steadily moved up the ranks and broadened their riffology; they can now reach inside every metal lover’s chest, and their new single, “Redneck,” plain smokes. The more complex but equally hard-driving Mastodon avoid pretension with a workingman’s sweat aesthetic, and in Brann Dailor own a drummer of jazz-encompassing universality. And you must not miss Children of Bodom, kings of hell in their native Sweden and the best songwriters on the bill. Starts at 6 p.m. (Greg Burk)

Blue Cheer at the Key Club

San Francisco in 1968 was a suck town for rock & roll, a morass of gutless, dead-from-the-neck-up hippie folk-rock dross — until gale-force power trio Blue Cheer provided the city and the music itself an unwelcome, but desperately needed, kick in the ass with a demented blend of volcanic excess, overkill-distorto insanity, and hunchbacked, lysergic riff-warp so severe, it made Led Zeppelin sound like a skiffle band. With their classic ’68 debut, Vincebus Eruptum, Blue Cheer forced rock & roll back to where it belonged, as a threatening force, not a patchouli-drenched hootenanny, and their brain-pulping version of “Summertime Blues” demonstrated a drastic fulfillment of 1958’s promise. Although only original bassist-screamer Dickie Peterson remains, the sound still churns as heavily as ever. (Jonny Whiteside)

{mosimage}Dabrye at Spaceland

Sometimes it seems like you just can’t win . . . or can you? Dabrye, from Detroit, has long been reignin’ supreme as a hip-hop-aligned producer of simply astounding instrumental pieces combining state-of-the-art beatwork and super-interesting jazzy bass lines with all kinds of IDM-oriented squeak ’n’ squawk, hi-techno mekanik klink-klank and other Germanic-art-electronic robotics. His 2001 One/Two on Ghostly International remains a true classic in re all of the above, but now, with his equally beautiful follow-up, Two/Three (also on Ghostly), he’s catching a lotta flak from his early fans for inviting in a slew of MCs to throw down wicked wordplay, people like Doom, Beans and Detroit legends Jay Dee and Phat Kat — like, Dabrye’s introducing a bit too much reality into the mix. Carping ignoramuses need to listen again to how the MCs play off Dabrye’s spectacular soundscapes — it’s between the two worlds where the real action is. Album of the year? This one’s a contendah . . . (John Payne)

Slick Rick at the Viper Room

It ain’t easy being Slick Rick. Broken glass in his eye rendered him blind as a baby, he survived the Bronx in the dirty grindhouse days of the mid-’70s, and in 2002, during a performance on a Caribbean cruise ship, INS agents arrested him because of an old attempted-murder rap. Rick was denied bail until his release more than a year later. But don’t call it a comeback: If Charles Manson can get his records out there from his jail cell, you know Rick worked hard on some new joints in the joint. While there may be no more 3-D movies in Rick’s future, he’s premiering his first new work since 1999’s Art of Storytelling, proving that blindness is no obstacle to seeing the ways of the world. (David Cotner)


The Flaming Lips, Os Mutantes at the Hollywood Bowl

Get your freak on. Mutants will soon invade the Bowl. Paint your navel like an insect, and get ready for something “radical . . . fanatical.” (Full disclosure: There’s a chance I’ll be making an appearance as a dancing insect-lady in goggles.) This Lips-meets-Mutantes business is quite the get-out-of-town, balloon-tossing event! How could one fearless bill of yesteryear psychedelic Portuguese mystery and lovable Okie experimentalism not kick everyone’s ass right out the hills? The Lips always burn down the house with life-affirming performances. But the real thrill here is Os Mutantes’ emergence from the Tropicália cave — their first tour since 1973. “Baby . . . it’s time now to learn Portuguese,” indeed. The possibilities are just endless, especially with all the wine and cheese around. It’d be cool if the encore went something like this: All the iconic weirdoes unite “Bohemian Rhapsody” style onstage, creating “the sound of a new bossa nova.” Random dudes (ahem) in bizarre outfits gyrating in a colorful, spacy manner included. Christmas in July on Mars . . . finally. (Courtney Fitzgerald)

{mosimage}Mr. Lif, Cage at the Knitting Factory

Two of indie hip-hop’s most compelling characters team up Wonder Twins style to activate this dynamic double bill. Boston’s Mr. Lif is cruising in on the back of his fully realized new release, Mo’ Mega (Def Jux), which tempers his trademark high-minded microphone mediations with some of his most personal ruminations to date. Updating the Public Enemy manifesto of self-empowerment through boombastic beats, Lif’s lyrical dexterity is truly a wonder to behold. Def Jux labelmate Cage comes to the table with an unbelievably brutal backstory that powers tough-talking bomb tracks. From stories of childhood abuse to his own twisted tales of drugs, drama and violence, Hell’s Winter, the latest release from this self-described “recovering mental patient” is the sonic equivalent to a particularly heinous Harvey Keitel film as soundtracked by El-P. Get ready to rumble, y’all. (Scott T. Sterling)

Gnarls Barkley at Avalon

Not since Prince have funkier sounds emanated from white alternative stations thanks to the Gnarls Barkley duo of go-to producer extraordinaire Danger Mouse and former Goodie Mob rapper/singer Cee-Lo. The current hit single “Crazy” is the tamest track on St. Elsewhere, an experimental, psychedelic hodgepodge of soul, funk, rock, hip-hop and electronica: tales of boogie monsters, an ode to necrophilia, the greatest trumpet line (“Go-Go Gadget Gospel”) since Earth Wind and Fire, and an even sillier reworking of Violent Femmes’ “Gone Daddy Gone,” all set to Cee-Lo’s warm and uplifting falsetto. Now, if their promo photos and past shows are any indication, don’t be surprised if the two, backed by a live band, take the stage dressed as the entire cast of Star Wars or as their alter egos Wayne & Garth, Cheech & Chong or A Clockwork Orange’s droogs. Also Mon. (Siran Babayan)


Jack Ingram at the Whisky

With his hard-rockin’ honky-tonk and colorful story-songs, Jack Ingram falls somewhere between Steve Earle and Robert Earl Keen on the Texas troubadour spectrum. Over the last decade, he’s become a Lone Star State headliner while developing a grassroots cult following. But despite Ingram’s blond movie-star good looks and high-octane live performances, big-time success eluded him through a succession of Nashville labels. His luck changed in the form of Music City megastar Toby Keith, who took a shining to Ingram and signed him to his new label, Big Machine. Ingram’s finally getting some mainstream-country airplay (KZLA even plays him), with “Wherever You Are” hitting No. 1 on several country charts. Whether his overdue breakthrough signals a new sensibility in Nashville or not, it’s a small victory worth celebrating. (Michael Berick)


{mosimage}Duncan Sheik, Vienna Teng at the Troubadour

Duncan Sheik, best known for “Barely Breathing,” has since broadened his musical palate with tunes that veer through pop, rock, folk and the atmospheric spaces in between since his eponymous debut. The break from his usual modern rock on 2001’s Phantom Moon — it’s like his take on Joni Mitchell’s Blue, if you will — has served him well; his latest release, White Limousine, showcases richer arrangements and more seasoned vocals. Sharing the bill is Northern California’s Vienna Teng, whose engaging voice, insightful lyrics and reflective, piano-driven chamber-folk packs quite the punch. The Stanford alum recorded her first album, Waking Hour, two years ago while still in school; her newest, the introspective Dreaming Through the Noise, simmers and soars. These two are not just playing the Troubadour, they are troubadours — and well worth seeing. (Lawrence Everett Forbes)


{mosimage}The Sleepy Jackson at the Troubadour

From Australia, the Sleepy Jackson is the brainchild of one Luke Steele, who’s not just something of a master collector of rock’s huge stylistic variations, he longs to consciously defy expectations about who or what he is or which musical path he ought to trod. The listener and casual observer thus gets a down-in-the-dumps old cowpoke in a top hat and mascara pulling off beautiful pop ambiguity to both heart-rending and cynical effect, especially on Lovers (2004), wherein he ramrodded a psychedelic Beatles through the High Llamas’ daydream whimsy-pop blender and interpolated it all with darker, more drunken tales from the alt country. Sleepy’s got a new album out, finally, and it’s an even more ambitiously eclectic thing called Personality (One Was a Spider, One Was a Bird) (Astralwerks). By the way, Luke’s got a rep as a fiery perfectionist to uphold, so he keeps dumping backing bands — he’s done that three times now — but the current lineup does include his longtime drummer Malcolm Clark. Also at Amoeba Music, Thurs., 7 p.m. (John Payne)

Buzzcocks at Henry Fonda Theater

An open letter to Pete Shelley’s past, present and future lovers: Please keep breaking the Buzzcocks singer’s heart in the most acutely painful ways possible. By stirring his “natural emotions” and then cruelly, inevitably letting him down again, you are helping to inspire some of the catchiest love songs of all time, from 1978’s “Ever Fallen in Love With Someone” to “Wish I Never Loved You,” from the Buzzcocks’ new CD, Flat-Pack Philosophy (Cooking Vinyl). And don’t feel too guilty about ruining his life: Every time you hurt him, he responds by pairing his most despairing laments with a surge of curative, purifying punk rock distortion and those classic filigrees of police-siren-squalling lead guitar. If anything, the Buzzcocks are on a creative roll after a series of similarly impressive comeback CDs, including 1993’s Trade Test Transmissions and 1999’s Modern. He’ll be fine, really. Stalwart co-singer Steve Diggle will help keep Shelley grounded with tuneful new anti-consumerist broadsides like “Sell You Everything” and the mysterious “Between Heaven & Hell,” and everybody will be happy again . . . “until the razor cuts.” (Falling James)


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