Page Two: EsotErykah
You are gonna go see awesome DJ Lo Down Loretta Brown at her House of Blues gig, right? What, never heard of her? She's this hypnotic black lady who mysteriously appears with her laptop at random places like the Grey Goose Lounge in Dallas and blows everyone's minds with her cool taste, her blue nails and that really special wise-lady/madwoman stare. Some people claim DJ Lo Down Loretta Brown occasionally leaves the room and re-emerges as a strange soul/hip-hop goddess who calls herself Erykah Badu, but those are the same people who'll tell you that mild-mannered reporter Clark Kent is just Superman in thick eyeglasses and a suit. Prove the skeptics wrong and go to the HoB show, which is billed as "Erykah Badu's Birthday Party & Jam Session" and — if you take the right pill — you might be able to see Loretta and Erykah in the same room. Oh, need an ideal present for la Badu? Give her the recently released DVD of Chilean mystic Alejandro (El Topo) Jodorowsky's long-lost '80s masterpiece Santa Sangre. Jodorowsky recently told an interviewer that Badu "said she admired only two persons. I remember only me! Who was the other one? Oh, yes, Elvis Presley." Neat fact: The esoteric cover art and promo photos for her fascinating Amerykah project are based on Jodorowsky's philosophies and designs.
Control FreaQ Records Present The DAMN (BIRTHDAY) JAM: Erykah Badu's Birthday Party & Jam Session, Thurs., Feb 24, 8 p.m., House of Blues Hollywood.
Colored us shocked: Just when we thought Ian Svenonius had long passed his prime (circa Nation of Ulysses and leading avant-mod D.C. stalwarts The Make-Up) and had settled into an Arthur magazine (RIP) kind of "elder statesman of odd pop culture" status, out he comes with a ridiculously rad record. His latest creation is Chain & the Gang and the album is called Music's Not for Everyone (on, natch, K Records). It's at once cleaner and dirrrrrtier than The Make-Up, mixing garage, beat, rockabilly, stomp, some Bo Diddley and Cramps juju and even a little early, jazzier Gainsbourg. Check out "It's a Hard, Hard Job (Keeping Everybody High)." Ray Davies might still be around rehashing the dusty Kinks catalog with Bon Jovi and friends, but on some of these tunes ("Not Good Enough," "Can't Get Away") Svenonius has hijacked his 1966 soul and taken it for a spin. You need this record.
ACE DESIGNERS: LAURENT FÉTIS
A great musical surprise of this 21st century is the carefully orchestrated takeover of a large chunk of pop by French artists in a diversity of styles, be it the demagogic club cool of Daft Punk, the elitist anarchy of the Ed Banger crowd or the trust-fund, car commercial–ready slickness of Phoenix. The most recent release by veteran French indie popsters Tahiti 80 exists somewhere in the intersection of all those sounds, but the reason it caught our attention was the fantastic cover art by Laurent Fétis. Fétis' design for The Past, the Present & the Possible is that rare thing: retro done right. Beck spotted him a while back (Of course he did, ahead-of-the-curve bugger that he is!) but we're just learning about his many brilliant projects. Try to find a copy of his book ABC+: Fétis' projects don't make you choose between the sophisticated and the accessible.
THAT'S ENTERTAINMENT (AGAIN)
Post-punk musicians were permanently liberated from having to evoke the styles and attitudes of the classic-rock generation.
One of the most strikingly original bands of that British post-punk scene was Gang of Four, named after the Chinese Cultural Revolution figures.
The Leeds quartet ostensibly was influenced by American funk bands, but their jagged rhythms and jerky riffs were blown up to monstrous proportions, creating a mighty sound that directly influenced such disparate combos as Franz Ferdinand, Nirvana and Bloc Party, as well as L.A. bands like The Urinals, Middle Class and the Red Hot Chili Peppers (whose first album was produced by Gang of Four guitarist Andy Gill). But whereas the Chili Peppers were all about a goofy, escapist, frat-house party-time vibe, Gang of Four had much heavier things on their minds on such incisively political (and sarcastically titled) early albums as Entertainment! and Solid Gold.
And yet for all the sonic extremity of tracks like "(Love Like) Anthrax," Gang of Four's artfully arty blend of agitprop lyrics, hard-funk obliteration and Gill's and Jon King's coolly dispassionate vocals led to unexpectedly popular KROQ hits like the memorable anti–Falklands War broadside "I Love a Man in Uniform."
While it may seem strange that such a forward-looking band would ever indulge in something as pedestrian as a nostalgic reunion, Gang of Four continue to blow up riffs and blow up minds on their new album, which features another deceptively cheery title, Content. Although leaders Gill and King are the only remaining original members, new drummer Mark Heaney and bassist Thomas McNeice hammer out the fearsomely fulsome rhythms that are the band's trademark.
And don't be deceived by new song titles like "I Party All the Time"!
WHAT: Gang of Four
WHERE: The Music Box
WHEN: Mon., Feb. 21, 8 p.m.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.