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Dear Rocking Reader: Your orders this week are simple, yet crucial: Go see The Cuts. This band does the Lord’s work, the nearly impossible: That is, they make power pop that’s ACTUALLY DANGEROUS. Fun, swaggering, historical, stylish, funny, cool yet unpretentious . . . (And they’re from Oakland?!) I have written a handy clip-’n’-save note for you, in case you must cancel plans with your doctor/mom/florist:

Dear _______:
Please excuse ________ from attending _______ this week, as s/he has been ordered to attend the rock concert.
Thank you for your understanding in this matter,
Kate Sullivan
L.A. Weekly Music Editor

P.S.: If you need to reach ______, s/he will be at (circle one) Spaceland, 2/4; the Knitting Factory, 2/5.

Bubblegum diva/true-crime historian Kim Cooper reads from her sleeper hit of a book, the story of the making of Neutral Milk Hotel’s In the Aeroplane Over the Sea. (Part of the 33 1/3 series of tiny-books-about-albums, Cooper’s has outsold all the rest — take that, Bruce Springsteen!) 2/8, at Book Soup, 7 p.m.

Something calling itself Foreigner but looking fairly domesticated plays the Canyon in Agoura Hills, 2/4. (Thought you’d want to know.)

Thursday - Feb. 2

Willie Nelson at the Canyon

Despite the fact that the wear and tear of every sped-up after-hours guitar pull and all those bloodshot tequila sunrises are stamped on his face like a series of lashes from some infernal cat, country-music shaman Willie Nelson is damn near indestructible. This master of offbeat scratchy phrasing is also a writer capable of crafting lyrics so perfectly assembled, they pull the listener into an inescapable vortex. His unparalleled reign continues with all the ragged glories and cosmic-scale philosophy that made him a household name (and an IRS target) perfectly intact. Still impossible to anticipate (as with last year’s reggae album), Nelson’s run of freaky-deaky stylization, whether pure hillbilly, Tin Pan Alley or jazzy reflection, is an irresistible proposition. (Jonny Whiteside)

Jenny Lewis, The Watson Twins at the Vista Theater

Rilo Kiley front woman Jenny Lewis makes an enchanting solo debut with this month’s Rabbit Fur Coat, probably the best country-rock album ever named after an item of clothing on which PETA members might try to splash red paint. Recorded with a MySpace dream team including M. Ward, local hipster-folk duo the Watson Twins, Death Cab for Cutie’s Ben Gibbard and Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes, Rabbit presents a slightly twangier version of Lewis’ bewitching indie-babe persona; comparisons to Dusty Springfield’s pop-soul classic Dusty in Memphis are likely premature but feel awfully right in tunes like “Rise Up With Fists!,” where the Watsons harmonize sensually behind Lewis as she contemplates the impossibility of change. Tonight’s intimate show is part of a record-release mini-tour that also hits San Francisco and New York. 4473 Sunset Dr., Los Feliz. (323) 660-6639 or (Mikael Wood)


Los Abandoned at the Echo

Los Abandoned return with the second edition of their Winter Formal, a dressy, prom-y affair that will even feature a coronation ceremony (so be sure to break out those tuxes and gowns) and plenty of the band’s distinctive music. The duo’s allure lies in an explosive combination of high bombast and low-moan vulnerability, and they’ve consistently demonstrated an arresting sense of musical dynamism, one that’s fraught with tension but very little corresponding relief, making for a twitchy, strangely addictive quality. Led by the daring, uke-strumming Lady P and guitarist Don Verde, Los Abandoned surf a churning tide of choppy punk, pop and new-wave influences with a warm Latin undertow, and the ensuing bilingual rip tide is almost unbearably appealing. (Jonny Whiteside)

Dead Meadow, Silversun Pickups at the Troubadour

Washington, D.C.’s Dead Meadow rise from the stoner-rock sludge on their new Feathers (Matador), their fourth studio album and first with new guitarist Cory Shane. What with the sudden spate of bands paying tribute to the bluesy psychedelia of late-’60s/early-’70s mudmeisters like the Groundhogs, Sabbath, Blue Cheer, etc., Dead Meadow take it forward, way forward, with heavy doses of drony electric/acoustic folk balladry and Hawkwindy cosmic overdrive, all sold with great, addictive melody (a neat new trick) and just generally awesome musicianship. L.A.’s own (but not for long) stalwart Silversun Pickups are still laboring over their debut full-length, but you want to check out their EP Pikul (Dangerbird Records), which, like their live shows, evinces a kinda smoldering yet breezy vibe built on your Silver Lake–standard guitar-fuzz/drum-whack/ bass-thump/keyboard icing and some quite abstract lyrical imagery. Singer Brian Aubert’s rough howl and ax noise plus an especially hard-jabbing rhythm section switch off with pensive cello passages and — that wacky new thing — really graceful, memorable melodies. (John Payne)

Bang Sugar Bang, Midway, The Randies, Silver Needle at the Key Club

Kiss or Kill — that weekly L.A. multiband bash rammed with perky pop-punk and good-natured gossip — was initially a reaction to Sunset Strip’s cynical, artless booking policies. Now, on the first Friday of every month, KoK returns to the scene of the crime, kicking off with a gaggle of scene stalwarts. Ludicrously likable Saturday-morning-cartoon-made-real Midway are defined by Theresa Espineli’s baby-Blondie vocals and deliberately winceworthy, far-beyond-cheesy Casio keyboard subplots. Silver Needle bring earnest, sometimes furious rock drawn from a veritable iPod of influences. Bang Sugar Bang’s now-road-honed coed punk poems are delivered with fist in the air and tongue in cheek, while the Randies’ new lineup adds welcome whump to their deceptively tortured Go-Go’s–isms. Every night’s prom night at Kiss or Kill — don your glad rags and get lucky. (Paul Rogers)

DJ Quik at House of Blues

DJ Quik might be originally from Compton, but the spirit of the dude’s higher-level music productions reminds you more of the badlands of South Dakota than the streets of the Hub City. If you really listen to Quik’s music, I mean really break it down and go beyond the explicit lyrics, especially on his latest album, Trauma, it’s like listening to Lakota drumming. They both have strong heartbeats and are healing music. You think there’s no connection? Before my good friend Lakota chief Phil Crazy Bull died recently, it wasn’t traditional music he was bumpin’, but jams like “Tonite” and “Pitch in Ona Party” off the Best of DJ Quik CD I bought him. Don’t miss the spiritual warrior dance at the H.O.B. as DJ Quik, with a 14-piece band, performs all his classic hits for an upcoming live album. (Ben Quiñones)


Seether, Flyleaf, Shinedown, Halestorm at Avalon

The atrociously named Winterfresh SnoCore Tour proves how unwilling the hard-rock mainstream is to let go of the mid-to-late-’90s. Carrying on in the hook-driven anthemic-chorus mold of your Nickelbacks and Creeds, the South African band Seether’s grizzled guitar chug on Karma and Effect never lets up even when singer Shaun Morgan (duet partner and boyfriend of Evanescence’s Amy Lee) is in ballad mode. Flyleaf take a similarly harsh/empathic tack in what waiflike front woman Lacey Mosely terms “heavy positivism,” ripping you a new one even when she’s at her most vulnerable. Armed with enough confessional lyrics to choke emo nation while brandishing the odd softheaded message and keeping the pit churning, tonight’s crop might be dubbed self-actualization metal. So don’t act out, get some fist-pumping therapy. With Shinedown and Halestorm. 1735 N. Vine St., Hlywd. (213) 480-3232. (Andrew Lentz)

Coldplay, Fiona Apple at the Forum

Stop the press: Coldplay have been nominated for three Grammys! They’ve sold more than 10 million records, singer Chris Martin is married to Gwyneth Paltrow, and they’re having another baby! But that’s cool. The band’s latest album, X&Y, seems a conscious attempt to put all the glitz of their megastardom in perspective. A gently adventurous sound now touched by inoffensive electronics graces the British band’s simple piano/bass/drums luv songs, which is what this band has humbly offered from the start in unrevolutionary but not unprovocative ways. Fiona Apple, however, is far more intriguing from a comfort-threat angle, a temperamental, deep-thinking young diva prone to startling musical and lyrical revelations. She’s kicking and screaming as she leaves an old life behind on her latest, Extraordinary Machine, a brilliantly bizarre beast that drags her traumatic saloon songs through a minefield of intense, orchestrated hip-hoppy piano-pumping. Manchester Blvd. & Prairie Ave., Inglewood. And at Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim, Mon.-Tues. (213) 480-3232. (John Payne)


Bonnie Raitt at House of Blues

Last year’s Souls Alike is the first album in Bonnie Raitt’s long (but not bloated) discography that the singer-guitarist has produced herself. This is probably good for Raitt’s pocketbook, but it’s hard to think of an artist for whom it would mean less in terms of the music: As always, Raitt turns in a handsome, slyly sensual set of carefully selected pop-blues nuggets, alternating naturally between good- (or often bad-) times rave-ups and juicy slow-jam ballads. Raitt’s thing is her singing and playing, a focus she resists diluting with newfangled studio science. Watching her tonight, you should expect to be reminded of that. This show is part of Visa’s pre-Grammy “Signature Sounds” series. (Mikael Wood)


Listing Ship at the Echo

With such delicate acoustic-based tunes as “Destroying France” and “Ichabod Crane,” Listing Ship’s second album, 2005’s Time to Dream (True Classical), is a touch more pastoral and traditionally folkie than the band’s debut, Dance Class Revolution. That’s not to say that the artfully eclectic group don’t have their rocking moments: “Crooked Teeth” stomps with Velvet Underground stutter-strumming and an exotic, viola-laced buildup, while “Sleep of the Beloved” layers somber, trancelike vocals over a hazily electric Pink Floydian sprawl that evokes the first CD’s shimmering title track. When singer-guitarist Lyman Chaffee intones the old-timey “Death” or partner Heather Lockie (Eels, W.A.C.O.) gently coos the candy-cane-striped shuffle “The Temptation of Miss Piggy,” it’s possible to see how Listing Ship’s quieter interludes might appeal to fans of Keren Ann and the Cocteau Twins. With bass contributions from guest star Mike Watt (the Minutemen), Time to Dream slowly unwinds as a subtly intoxicating spell of enchantment. Also at Cole’s, Fri. (Falling James)

Fall Out Boy at House of Blues

From Under the Cork Tree, the breakthrough album by suburban-Chicago emo rockers Fall Out Boy, was right up there near the top of the list of 2005’s guiltiest pleasures. Not because the band play big, bright pop songs with hooks that sound best blaring out of the radio; if that makes you feel guilty in this fucked-up world of ours, you’ve got bigger problems than your taste in music. Rather, it’s because FOB use those big, bright pop songs to seduce junior-high boys and girls into believing the absolute worst about one another; the intimations of casual cruelty that run beneath the chugging guitars throughout Cork Tree are no kind of lesson for anyone. That said, killer tunes, guys! (Mikael Wood)


LL Cool J, Ciara at House of Blues

Back in 1987, I would walk the streets of East L.A. with my Walkman and my LL Cool J tape, reciting the lyrics “I’m like Tyson icin’/I’m a soldier at war/I’m makin’ sure you don’t try to battle me no more,” from “I’m Bad,” off the Bigger and Deffer album. Many people forget that LL was the first artist on the Def Jam label, run by founders Russell Simmons and Rick Rubin. Two decades and nine albums later, LL Cool J is still dropping hits; his hot new single, “Control Myself,” with Jennifer Lopez, from his forthcoming 10th album, Todd Smith, proves he’s the G.O.A.T. (greatest of all time). With special guest Ciara; this early show starts at 6:30 p.m. (Ben Quiñones)


The Mae Shi at the Troubadour

Remixing Beck’s “Que Onda Guero” wraps up Mae Shi’s 2005 — which consisted of a European tour, an EP and the less-hyper, song-based Heartbeeps (5RC). Like a Krakatoa of spermatozoa, they expel shimmering sonic fractals and melodies to create new life and chaos. The current quintet numbers Ezra Buchla (Buchla synthesizer heir and collaborator with Scarnella’s Carla Bozulich), Cartoon Network musician Brad Breeck, bassist Tim Byron, possible Boom Bip rhythm monkey Jeff Byron, and Corey Fogel, who once lived for a week in a gallery’s front window performing nothing but the music of Busta Rhymes. Expect all the Buchla modules, guitars, basses, drums, tambourines, noisemakers, computer programs, omnichords and glockenspiels inherent in their motto: “Instead of having babies, we have rock bands.” Also tonight: Abe Vigoda, Lion Fever, Silver Daggers. (David Cotner)


The Click Five, Big City Rock at the Roxy

Six or seven years ago, the Click Five would’ve been a boy band à la ’N Sync or the Backstreet Boys: They’re handsome in a non-threatening way, they sing about finding just the girl they’re looking for, and they’ve toured with Ashlee Simpson and, well, the Backstreet Boys. Today, though, in a world of Death Cab cuties and My Chemical romantics, the Boston-based group of Berklee College of Music grads are a rock band with matching suits and designer-guitar fuzz. Don’t tell let the secret out: Greetings From Imrie House, the Click Five’s wham-bam debut, still makes for a blast of high-octane teen pop, from the freshly scrubbed vocal harmonies down to the highly processed synthesizer cheese. Six or seven years ago, local openers Big City Rock would’ve been the Wallflowers. (Mikael Wood)


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