Rock Picks

THURSDAY, September 21

Phoenix, La Rocca at the Wiltern

Phoenix come from France, that great collector of culture from afar. Phoenix, that is to say, are French but make state-of-the-art Anglo-American pop music, for the most part better than the English and Americans from whom they dig. Their upbeat, craving-inducing new album, It’s Never Been Like That (Virgin), is chockablock with super-excellent, tight songcraft that doesn’t skimp on the requisite hooky stuff, where the heart-tugging comes via pretty chords that are also subtly complex and the production is forthright and sunny. While there are no huge surprises within a country mile, upon repeated listening the album feels like a classic, given a screw-tightening, a lube job and a wash & wax. Vroom vroom... Also, L.A.’s way-gritty jangly Beatle-y La Rocca perform tracks from their ace new CD, The Truth, on Dangerbird. (John Payne)

Andrew Bird, Cass McCombs at the Henry Fonda Theater

A former part-time Squirrel Nut Zipper, Chicago-based Andrew Bird makes beguiling avant-folk records centered on his violin playing, his whistling, and the sort of surreal storytelling you’d expect from someone who’s spent a considerable amount of time alone on a farm in rural Illinois (which Bird has done). Last year’s The Mysterious Production of Eggs is his most recent album, and probably his best; fans of Sufjan Stevens’ tuneful, bookish material will find much to admire about it. Live, Bird utilizes a digital delay pedal to re-create the album’s delicately intricate sound; he’ll also be accompanied tonight by multi-instrumentalist Martin Dosh, a member of the Anticon indie-rap collective. Opener Cass McCombs plays a more rough-and-tumble indie-folk; like Bird, he sports a sense of humor, but McCombs buries his beneath layers of old-soul weariness. (Mikael Wood)

Emily Haines & the Soft Skeleton at the Viper Room

Anyone who’s suffered through Mick Jagger’s solo albums might wonder why the lead singers of well-known bands would need a separate solo career to express themselves, but Emily Haines makes a convincing case for such a duality on her new CD, Knives Don’t Have Your Back (Last Gang). Haines is best known as the front woman of Metric and is also part of the Toronto music collective Broken Social Scene, but the spare, piano-drenched songs on Knives, such as the haunting “Crowd Surf Off a Cliff,” are more intimate than her previous rockist alter egos, evoking John Lennon’s ballads on the White Album. In “The Maid Needs a Maid,” a clever subversion of fellow Canadian Neil Young’s “A Man Needs a Maid,” she tells a lover, “Your mouth should be working for me, for free . . . You could be a good wife to me/I would love to pay for you.” At first blush, “Doctor Blind” appears to be the latest in Haines’ line of medically themed songs, but her somber delivery, backed by a hazy wash of strings, is more subdued than the rabble-rousing frustration of Metric’s “Monster Hospital” — it’s quietly chilling. Tonight, backed by her Soft Skeleton (bassist Paul Dillon and Sparklehorse drummer Scott Minor), she performs two sets, at 8:30 & 10 p.m. (Falling James)

FRIDAY, September 22

{mosimage}Mission of Burma at the Troubadour

“Don’t make me say the same thing twice,” bassist Clint Conley implores on “2wice,” from Mission of Burma’s The Obliterati (Matador), the second impressive comeback album since the Boston post-punk art-rockers reunited a few years ago after an absence of nearly two decades. And while it’s undeniably thrilling to hear them perform live again and break out such early classics as “Dead Pool,” “This Is Not a Photograph” and “Academy Fight Song” — brainy, propulsive songs that have been covered by Moby and R.E.M. and which still don’t sound dated — it’s even more exciting that MOB aren’t repeating themselves. The Obliterati is crammed with 14 all-new tunes from the band’s triumvirate of singers, ranging from the mountainous, Pink Floydian grandeur of guitarist Roger Miller’s “Donna Sumeria” and the pounding hypnosis of “1,001 Pleasant Dreams” to the stuttering riffs of drummer Peter Prescott’s “Let Yourself Go” and the rainy-day Hendrixy swirl of “The Mute Speaks Out.” Conley, meanwhile, chimes in with melodically arcing vocals over a stormy sea of Urinals-style chords on “Man in Decline.” After all these decades and the messy entrails of their imitators, it’s nice to see that MOB are still, as Miller says, “Careening With Conviction.” (Falling James)

Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings at the Henry Fonda Theater

The most visible member of a sprawling Brooklyn-based crew of meticulous classic-funk revivalists, Sharon Jones is uninterested in the unruffled equipoise proffered by our current generation of female R&B singers. Driven to intensity by her crack backup band, the Dap-Kings, Jones embodies the jangled nerves and overworked emotions endemic to romantic turmoil; she’s a strong woman by anyone’s standards, but she’s not afraid to reveal her weaknesses with the sweat and tears contained in tunes like “My Man Is a Mean Man” and “How Long Do I Have to Wait for You?” This is true on record — check Jones’ latest, 2005’s Naturally, for proof — but it’s especially evident in the lady’s high-octane live shows, where you can probably ask for your money back if real-life sweat and tears don’t appear. (Mikael Wood)

{mosimage}Ben Kweller, The Sam Roberts Band at Avalon

As front boy of the heavily hyped teen-grunge act Radish, Ben Kweller spent the earliest years of his career feeling like a pawn, taking direction from record execs three times his age. So it’s something like karmic payback that he plays all the instruments on his new self-titled solo album, the follow-up to 2004’s scruffy, live-in-the-studio On My Way. Brooklyn-based Kweller (who became a father earlier this year) says he modeled the disc on ’80s fare like Tom Petty’s Full Moon Fever and Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the U.S.A., something you can hear more in the (relatively) shiny production than in the tunes, which are much sweeter and more appealingly awkward than anything by those old hands. Montreal’s Sam Roberts plays slightly arty roots-rock that shares a bit with Ryan Adams’ early solo stuff. (Mikael Wood)

SATURDAY, September 23

Charles Aznavour at Gibson Amphitheatre

This “Farewell Tour” might really be the final opportunity to see the 82-year-old French-Armenian crooner. He starred in Truffaut’s 1960 landmark, Shoot the Piano Player, as the ivory-tickler with a shadowy past, and he’s in Costa-Gavras’ latest effort, Mon Colonel, a film about the cobalt-bomb-level effects of the 1954–1962 Algerian war of independence from France. Sometimes called the “Frank Sinatra of France” for his stunning multi-subjectivalism, Aznavor sings lush and sentimental songs of love like “La Mamma,” “La Bohème” and “Désormais.” He’s huge in Québec and has sold more than 100 million records, not the least of which is the recent bookcase-size mockup of the Arc de Triomphe containing 45 live and studio CDs spanning the length and breadth of his career. Take that, Edith Piaf and/or Merzbow! (David Cotner)

KROQ Inland Invasion at Hyundai Pavilion

There’s an unlikely late-’80s metal overtone to this year’s Inland Invasion, with many on the bill emulating (or, in the case of headliners Guns N’ Roses, originating) that era’s glammy/grimy imagery and guitar histrionics. Guns N’ Roses 2006 are a Vegas-like bastardization of the (probably literally) hungry young band that unleashed Appetite for Destruction in 1987. With a well-fed, oxygen-huffing Axl Rose and assorted sidemen, GN’R are musically fulfilling yet remote from their original flame. Alice in Chains, with singer William DuVall replacing the late Layne Staley, fare surprisingly well, prevailing with their almost-medieval harmonies and ominous bottom-feeding guitar. Also catch the prog-pop of Brit trio Muse, the Maiden-in-makeup of Avenged Sevenfold and Atreyu’s gurgling/melodic metalcore, while avoiding Papa Roach’s “you still here?” jock-metal and Buckcherry’s “you still here too?” clichéd crotch-rock. (Paul Rogers)

Dublab Anniversary Celebration at a super-secret mystery location somewhere in downtown L.A.

This Dublab anniversary celebration, an “elevated evening of music and art,” features one of those weirdly resonant and totally relevant combinations of personas, skills and flavors that our critically crucial Dublab crew has come to be hailed for far and wide. The lineup includes Hoseh, Kutmah, Nobody, Daedelus, Devendra Banhart, Dwight Trible, Phil Ranelin, Mia Doi Todd, Carlos Niño, Jimmy Tamborello and many others, plus a performance by the John Coltrane Tribute Cooperative, a concert-poster exhibit, live screen-printing and motion graphics, magic, and much more. Go to the Web site ( for details; the event goes from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m.; advance tickets, $7 (, $12 at the door; RSVP required for directions: (John Payne)

SUNDAY, September 24

Massive Attack, TV on the Radio, Gang Gang Dance at Hollywood Bowl

For a lot of folks attending tonight’s show, the focal point won’t be the headliners but Brooklyn-based outfit TV on the Radio, whom The New York Times just juicy-mouth fellated while proclaiming their latest genre-busting CD, Return to Cookie Mountain, to be one of the year’s best. Still, those who sway to the beat of futuristic nostalgia will voluntarily submit to the power of Massive Attack, the Bristol-spawned (see: the Wild Bunch) collective with roots in dub, old-fashioned R&B, hip-hop and experimental electronica, and has a friends and collaborators list that includes Tricky, Tracey Thorn, Mad Professor, Horace Andy, Madonna, producer Nellee Hooper and many others. But it’s the sprawling reach of their music that has made them not just a critics’ darling and hipster pinup but a major musical influence (if, sadly, not quite a household name) over the last dozen-plus years: “Safe From Harm,” “Protection,” “Angel,” “Teardrop” and, of course, the flawless, gasp-inducingly beautiful “Unfinished Sympathy.” Just for starters. Just for starters . . . (Ernest Hardy)

{mosimage}DJ Shadow at Avalon

Shadow’s wing in the DJ Hall of Fame is a lock, given his meticulously constructed 1996 debut, Endtroducing... The sample showcase of moody hip-hop instrumentals made him an instant legend, and he’s been trying to live it down ever since. Ten years after, it’s a decidedly different world, and Shadow hasn’t been afraid to roll with the shuffle function. He all but ignored expectations with ’02’s Private Press and even more so on his wryly titled newie, The Outsider, daring to invite the newer-than-new-school “hyphy” sound of his Bay Area base and post-rockist influences to the party. What hasn’t budged is his perfectionist approach to live shows, with dazzling displays of turntable dexterity that never fail to leave the crate-digging contingency drooling. Good luck keeping those collectible kicks clean, son. Also Mon. (Scott T. Sterling)

De La Soul, Digital Underground, Young MC, Vanilla Ice, Coolio at L.A. Memorial Coliseum

Just picture it, 10,000 of your closest friends running with you as you listen to some old-school ’90s rap. That’s right, for those of you who are too afraid or too hung over to run the L.A. Marathon, here’s the Nike Run Hit remix race, a 5-mile run outside the L.A. Memorial Coliseum with the added bonus of listening to Digital Underground (“The Humpty Dance”), Young MC (“Bust a Move”), Vanilla Ice (“Ice Ice Baby”) and Coolio (“Fantastic Voyage”) perform live while you run the course. And after the race, while you massage your bruised hamstring and ego, enjoy the classic jams (“Me, Myself & I”) of headliners De La Soul. (Ben Quiñones)

TUESDAY, September 26

Pelican, Daughters, Nachtmystium at the Knitting Factory

When Chicago quartet Pelican came out with their self-titled debut in ’03, following up with Australasia soon after, the band was all churning indecisiveness. “Are we doom-metal or post-rock experimentalists?” they seemed to ask. Fortunately, 2005’s The Fire in Our Throats Will Beckon the Thaw was neither one. Like closeted tunesmiths who gradually shake off their crusty carapace, they sculpt, smooth and finesse waves of heavy-ass guitar distortion till a kernel of melody is achieved. It’s the sort of ambient soaking you’ll need after Daughters, whose athletic spazz-core makes you tired just listening to it. Upping tonight’s genre ante further, Nachtmystium is one of few U.S. bands that could be mistaken for Norwegian black-metallers. The new Instinct: Decay is uneven but still worth your time. With Saviours. (Andrew Lentz)

Tom Petty, The Strokes at the Hollywood Bowl

Lowering the average audience member’s median age by a few ticks is the least the Strokes owe Tom Petty; after all, Petty’s “American Girl” provided the New York garage-rock brats with the crucial central riff of their own “Last Nite” — and Petty barely uttered a peep about it. Dude’s a class cat. His modestly digable new Highway Companion isn’t a mind-blower, but upsetting expectations isn’t really Petty’s bag these days: If his marathon set at Bonnaroo in June is any indication, he’s currently in classic-rock-repertory mode, doling out the indelible hits that helped inspire young’uns like the Strokes to pick up guitars and don skinny scarves in the first place. It’s anyone’s guess what’s inspiring the Strokes these days; this year’s freewheeling First Impressions of Earth seemed to take cues from Smash Mouth, of all things. (Mikael Wood)

THURSDAY, September 28

Jeff Beck at the Greek Theater

Jeff Beck is the only guitarist who’s been modern for 40 years. With the Yardbirds, he was one of the first to smash his damn ax. With the late-’60s Jeff Beck Group, he was among the first to turn the thing into a noise machine. In the ’70s, he was the only rock guitarist making jazz inroads instead of vice versa. And for the last decade, he’s pioneered an instrumental panorama that backs his steely virtuosity with a shattering tech-generated percussive assault and the absolute latest in head-spinning electronic effects — dude loves that shit, and plays his stomp boxes like entirely separate instruments. It’s no sterile exercise; Beck brings equal command and total intensity to his stage performances, pulling off stunts you wouldn’t think he had a prayer of reproducing live. Prepare to be impressed. (Burkola Cosanostra)

{mosimage}Sonic Youth at the Wiltern

S.Y.’s new Rather Ripped album resumes the band’s ever more tuneful turn not away from the noise and splintered tonality of their earlier work, but enfolding it gracefully within ear-friendly song forms that do rock very hard while embracing more intricate emotional terrain. There’s a sweet, autumnal feeling about much of Sonic Youth’s recorded output in recent years as if they’re savoring the opportunity they’ve had to tell such a different side of the rock music story — where each tune, carefully examined, reveals an entire cosmos in which to explore alternative ways of pitting notes against other notes. S.Y.’s great contribution to the story is how they place their microtonal worlds in equal importance to whatever lyrical matters they wish to convey (still generally involving hot-rodding to personal freedom, or life and people in their beloved gnarly NYC). Live, S.Y. — with the departure of multi-instrumentalaist Jim O’Rourke — is now back to the “classic” lineup of guitarists Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo, bassist-singer Kim Gordon and tub-whacker Steve Shelley. (John Payne)

The Gossip, Mika Miko at the Troubadour

The Gossip’s brooding punk comes augmented with the deep Motown-era vocals of Beth Ditto, grabbing your attention like a dachshund with narcolepsy. They’re touring in support of their latest album, Standing in the Way of Control (Kill Rock Stars), with artful rock dynamics that reveal a doomed pride not seen since the likes of SOS Band’s “Just Be Good To Me.” Mika Miko have moved from their humble beginnings as the de facto house band at the Smell — funded by grit, moxie and honest Vegan Express wages — to grace the cover of August’s Maximum Rocknroll. Their new LP, C.Y.S.L.A.B.F. (KRS), is a baker’s dozen of songs “to get your pony thrash on.” Plus, they open for the Slits here in autumn, so saying that their career is like Spock in heat is possibly the understatement of the last half hour. (David Cotner)

{mosimage}M. Ward, Mike Watt at the Henry Fonda Theater

Portland-based singer-songwriter M. Ward titled his latest album Post-War, but beyond the inclusion of a handful of spacy keyboard parts, it could just have easily been called Pre-War: Ward taps a timeless vein of acoustic folk-blues more dependent upon eternal qualities such as joy and melancholy than any amount of fancy studio footwork (though his mixing-board mojo has helped win him work with high-profile indie queens Cat Power and Rilo Kiley’s Jenny Lewis). Post-War, like all of Ward’s records, is about intimacy and closeness, so it should be interesting to see how he translates this latest batch of tunes to the stage. Opener Mike Watt is always worth checking in on; tonight he appears with his new trio, the Missingmen. (Mikael Wood)

More Stuff!

FRI., 9/22: DEATHRAY DAVIES, Spaceland; QUETZAL, the Echo; DRAMS, El Cid; GEORGE THOROGOOD, DR. JOHN, BUDDY GUY, the Greek Theater; MAZE & FRANKIE BEVERLY, Gibson Amphitheatre; ROBIN TROWER, HoB; LITTLE FEAT, the Canyon.

SAT., 9/23: FORTUNE’S FLESH, BEGGARS, the Smell; KRAIG GRADY, Folly Bowl; VOCO, Ford Amphitheater; ABC, HUMAN LEAGUE, PSYCHEDELIC FURS, Hollywood Bowl; ANI DIFRANCO, Orpheum Theater; HED PE, the Key Club; LEEANN RIMES, L.A. County Fair; SOPHIE B. HAWKINS, Vine St. Lounge; 400 BLOWS, Little Pedro’s.


MON., 9/25: KAKI KING, the Knitting Factory; CARINA ROUND, the Viper Room; JUNIOR BOYS, the Troubadour; ISRAEL VIBRATION, HoB; MUTE MATH, Henry Fonda Theater; PATRICK PARK, SEA WOLF, Spaceland; SHARP EASE, the Echo.

TUES., 9/26: SNOW PATROL, AUGUSTANA, MARTHA WAINWRIGHT, the Wiltern; DMX, HoB; SAOSIN at the Troubadour.




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