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Rock PIcks

THURSDAY, December 7

Amy Millan at the Troubadour

Already familiar to the indie nation for her presence in Broken Social Scene and Stars, Amy Millan takes a solo turn on Honey From the Tombs (Arts & Crafts), which meanders into far folksier, alt-country territory. Songs like “Baby I” and “Losin’ You” are stark, plaintive confessionals that should come complete with a shot and a beer. Lyrical images of dirt roads after dark, front-porch swings and hard-luck lovers wondering where it all went wrong come alive in her music, with echoes of Mojave Three and the mellower side of Mazzy Star. Oddly enough, one of the album’s standouts is the gorgeously lush “Skinny Boy,” a jangle-heavy shoegazing rock jam that turns up the noise and finds hope (however fleeting) in “lips I could spend a day with.” Sweet emotion indeed. (Scott T. Sterling)

{mosimage}The Faint, Ladytron, Ratatat at the Hollywood Palladium

Not sure what the cosmic link might be between these three headliners — and isn’t a cosmic link what we need in our headliners? The Faint are that famous synthed-up indie-rock band straight outta Omaha and its “scene,” and they’ve got some very attitude-heavy and quite swishy and humorous and aesthetically confusing (that’s good) stuff out on the Saddlecreek label. Ladytron make big, beautiful dance-beat teen-trauma with even swishier and funnier and more androgynously challenging flair; they’re all retro synths and Bulgarian lyrics (really, sometimes), and it’s Human League to the 30th power. Ratatat is the New York duo of guitarist Mike Stroud and electronics fella/producer Evan Mast, another eclectic proposition where you never know what they’ll be in the mood to do; when they opened for Mouse on Mars at the Knit not too long ago, they pulled off the most extremely great imitation of Can jamming with Boston I’d ever experienced. It was sick, and exhilarating. (John Payne)

Also playing Thursday:

THE ROCHES at Royce Hall; RBD, NELLY FURTADO & TIMBALAND, DANITY KANE, BOW WOW at the Honda Center; GEISHA GIRLS, SQUAB, THE THINGZ at Alex’s Bar; KT TUNSTALL at the Key Club; STORM & THE BALLS, OOHLAS at the Knitting Factory; JONNEINE ZAPATA at Molly Malone’s; DISCO BISCUITS at the Roxy; BRANT BJORK & THE BROS, ABBY TRAVIS at Safari Sam’s; LES NUBIANS at Temple Bar.

{mosimage}FRIDAY, DECEMBER 8

Damien Rice at the Orpheum Theatre

If you’ve already overdosed on holiday cheer and schmaltzy Christmas music, Damien Rice may be just the antidote. The melancholy Irish troubadour will likely wipe the “I ate too much turkey” grin off your face as soon as he plays the first few bars of his new album, 9 (Warner Bros.). Filled with bittersweet tales of angst set to a backdrop of quiet pianos, mild-mannered acoustic guitars and soaring strings, 9 shows that Rice has navigated around sophomore-slump territory. But the pressure’s still on. Rice’s 2003 debut, O (Vector Recordings), led to his being nominated for several industry awards and critics gushing that it was “one of the most gorgeous first albums in recent memory.” For 9, they haven’t been as kind. Although Rice’s novelty may have worn off, tonight should prove that his gift for channeling dark emotions into gorgeous songs remains intact. Also Sat. (Laura Ferreiro)

Akron/Family at the Echo

Released on the Devendra Banhart–discoverin’ Young God imprint last year, Akron/Family’s debut album proudly wore its soft, patchwork skin. Swathed in the gentle hiss of bare rooms and rehearsal spaces, its bricolaged songs, shimmering and amorphous, proved a calm island amid the churning acid-bath tides of new weird America. Humbly titled Meek Warrior, Akron/Family’s follow-up is a bolder experiment in human energy harnessed for instant invention. Flaring with random ecstasies, the Brooklyn-based quartet morph wildly from all-over electric splatter to oak-hued jangle to an Arkestral freeform cheer squad. Though fiercely communal, the band intersperse their vibrant tumult with lapses of open-faced vulnerability often intoned with a twangy melancholia. The new album’s rampant eclecticism and savage agility are in fact closer to the group’s live sound: a bristling churn of an erudite imagination. (Bernardo Rondeau)

Syd Straw & the People at McCabe’s

Syd Straw has been charming audiences with her drama-rich voice and her playful personality since her days with the all-star indie-rock ensemble the Golden Palominos. This quirky chanteuse can wring heartache and humor from a tune, sometimes simultaneously. Following two acclaimed solo albums (1989’s Surprise and 1996’s War and Peace), she has been quiet of late — but not silent. The Glendale native, who now resides in bucolic Vermont, was at CBGB’s closing singing her terrific tale of missed opportunity, the appropriately entitled “CBGB’s.” She’s back home to finally finish up her long-overdue disc, Pink Velour, and perform at her old stomping grounds McCabe’s. Known for her delightfully unpredictable shows, Straw will be frolicking onstage with old pals like X drummer D.J. Bonebrake and ex–Balancing Act guitarist Willie Aron. (Michael Berick)

Also playing Friday:

ZIGGY MARLEY, SKYE at Avalon; BLACK LABEL SOCIETY at the Wiltern; AIMEE MANN at Malibu Performing Arts Center; MARIO ESCOVEDO, DUSTY RHODES, FISHTANK ENSEMBLE at El Cid; AZTLAN UNDERGROUND at the Good Hurt; JANA HUNTER, JESCA HOOP at the Hotel Café; STANTON MOORE, CHARLIE HUNTER at the Knitting Factory; THE THINGZ at Lava Lounge; BOB FORREST at Silverlake Lounge; INSECT SURFERS at Taix; NAPALM DEATH at the Whisky.

SATURDAY, DECEMBER 9

{mosimage}Sandy West tribute with Cherie Currie, Adolescents, The Bangles, The Donnas, White Flag at the Knitting Factory

When the Runaways first built a bridge between glitter rock and punk in Hollywood in the mid-’70s, the prevailing wisdom among most male critics was that the all-girl band couldn’t play their instruments. The reality was that the Runaways were excellent musicians, especially hard-hitting drummer Sandy West. As recounted in the recent Runaways documentary Edgeplay — which described her tribulations after the band broke up, including a dangerous stint as a limb-breaking debt enforcer — West was particularly heartbroken that the enormously influential band never reunited and received proper credit. Sadly, it took West’s death from lung cancer in October to inspire former rivals Cherie Currie and Joan Jett to bury the hatchet and sing a duet on “Cherry Bomb” at the latter’s gig at the Fonda in November. Tonight Currie performs a rare all-Runaways set, backed by Sweet Justice, along with appearances from a veritable legion of performers — male and female — who were directly inspired by the Runaways, ranging from latter-day Runaways clones the Donnas to still-thriving popsters the Bangles, as well as hardcore punks Adolescents and parodists White Flag, among many others. Let’s hope one of these worthies cranks out West’s signature show-stopper, the aptly titled “Wild Thing.” (Falling James)

Dead Meadow at the Troubadour

Since 1998, Washington, D.C.’s Dead Meadow have purveyed a steadily more refined (in the “pop” sense) brand of very heavy psychedelia, the kind that either makes you want to take drugs or watch others take drugs and be glad you didn’t take drugs or run a marathon or — oh, never mind. At one time, their vast, liquefying wall of sound entailed simple rifferino distorto sludge-o and ye swirling, spewing atmospheric effects — what they used to call “stoner rock” — but in recent epochs Dead Meadow have developed a bracingly melodic splendor and a taut muscularity in presentation that brings a distinct lyricism (not to mention drolly fantastical lyrics) into sharp relief. These guys are very dedicated to their trip, relentlessly touring the country in their big ol’ hippie bus, and have released four albums of consistently great and non-dumbo head medicine, with a new one out imminently. For the compleat Dead Meadow experience in its ever-ectoplasming glory, get a copy of 2005’s Feathers (Matador). (John Payne)

Children of Bodom, Amon Amarth at the Wiltern

Amon Amarth’s midtempo shred might not have black metal’s razzle-dazzle, but the band is nonetheless on a serious Viking death trip. On the new With Oden on Our Side, these five Swedes are all about runes, mythic battles, Norse gods — one line in “Under the Northern Star” even mentions being on a longship, those marauding vessels with dragon figureheads. Johan Hegg’s guttural growl will draw you into these fantasy narratives despite yourself, plus Johan Söderberg’s and Olavi Mikkonen’s melodic leads are anthemic, not “look at me” solos. By contrast, Finland’s Children of Bodom beg your attention with their blackened melodic thrash rooted in Maidenesque twin-guitar attacks. Shrieking while playing rhythm and alternately performing the leads, Alexi Laiho — a neoclassical prodigy on crystal meth? — is a show all his own. (Andrew Lentz)

Pink Mountaintops, 31 Knots, Menomena at Spaceland

Pink Mountaintops is the pseudonym of Vancouver’s Stephen McBean, that quietly badass dude from heavy-heavy ’70s-style stegosaurus-rock enthusiasts Black Mountain; he makes retro-blended records on his own to release his inner far-more-sensitive-but-swaggeringly-adventurous musical stud. P.M.’s recent Axis of Evol (Jagjaguar) is a way artful mash of rough-hewn candelight folk, fuzztone ’60s psychedelia and ’06 synth-noise crud in a lot of truly interesting new combinations, to accompany McBean’s rather luridly romantic worldview involving dope, guns and fucking in the streets. Charisma alert: This man makes you feel a bit uncomfortable, and, actually, you should be taking him very seriously. Also two from Portland: proggish indie-rock stalwarts 31 Knots and the mathy-goofy Menomena. (John Payne)

KROQ Almost Acoustic Christmas at the Gibson Amphitheatre

It’s the alt-rock blowout so nice, they had to do it twice. Night one of KROQ’s annual stripped-down holiday bash features the Foo Fighters, whose new live acoustic disc should provide plenty of fodder; goth-punk veterans AFI; goth-punk young ’uns My Chemical Romance; mainstreamo brats Fall Out Boy; Jared Leto’s sci-fi 30 Seconds to Mars; classic-rock revivalists Wolfmother; corporate-emo dudes Saosin; and Incubus and Papa Roach, both of whom advise against calling it a comeback. Night two’s more eclectic bunch includes the Foos again, new Springsteen fans the Killers, old Coldplay fans Snow Patrol, puppetmaster Beck, Jack White’s Raconteurs, teen-goth stars Evanescence, circus-emo band Panic! at the Disco, soul-funksters Gnarls Barkley and dance-rock jokers She Wants Revenge. My Christmas wish: +44 (who play night one) and Angels & Airwaves (night two) will get over themselves and do a set as Blink-182. Also Sun., 4 p.m. (Mikael Wood)

Also playing Saturday:

DAMIEN RICE, THE SWELL SEASON at the Orpheum Theatre; AIMEE MANN, GRANT LEE PHILLIPS at Avalon; SHOOTER JENNINGS at El Rey Theatre; THE SIXTH CHAMBER at the Good Hurt; LOBSTER REPAIR at Il Corral; TOM RUSSELL at McCabe’s; THE MORLOCKS, SUPERBEES, CHELSEA SMILES at Safari Sam’s; DUANE PETERS GUNFIGHT, DEADBOLT, STITCHES, CUSTOM MADE SCARE at Vine Street Lounge; MARIA FATAL at the Westchester.

SUNDAY, DECEMBER 10

{mosimage}Public Enemy at House of Blues

Folks who are ready to consign Public Enemy to the venerable-mentors-of-hip-hop oldies bin probably don’t realize that the fiery rap collective released several of their finest albums in recent years, even if they didn’t get a lot of attention in the mainstream media. On “I,” from 1999’s millennial warning There’s a Poison Goin’ On, Chuck D took a literal walk through his neighborhood and his life, buttressed by a slinkily hypnotic R&B groove that soulfully transcended most typical rap tracks. Chuck D, Flavor Flav and Professor Griff neatly predicted the tragedy in Iraq with heavy-rock power and gallows humor on “What Good Is a Bomb” and the vicious “Son of a Bush” on the underrated 2002 CD Revolverlution, although Flavor Flav was conspicuously missing in action the last time Public Enemy came to town at that nonetheless-rambunctious set at House of Blues in 2002. The dichotomy between the serious-minded thinker Chuck D and his clownish partner Flavor Flav has always made Public Enemy more than just a preachy sociopolitical act; however, with Flav reveling recently in a seemingly shallow reality-television persona, it’ll be interesting to see what he’ll add to Public Enemy’s consciousness-raising. (Falling James)

Books on Tape, Drums Like Machine Guns, Kevin Shields, Mincemeat or Tenspeed, Zenrootin at the Smell

Call Pizza Hut, cancel your order — because this night absolutely fucking delivers. Various meats: Kevin Shields, a female trifecta creating a noise approaching the Fran Drescher level of power and annoyance. Philadelphia, city of brotherly love, unleashes Drums Like Machine Guns siblings Richie, Brandon and Brian Mörsberger, whose extended burble of mumbling street-people panache promises “We don’t want to make any treble.” They tour with like-minded hometown spasmos Mincemeat or Tenspeed, who float their atmospheric balloons of unsound in perfect counterpoint to Books on Tape, whose BPM lightning storms make you stain your stain-resistant Dockers. Beneath all this are the mellow-yellow guitar textures of new combo Zenrootin, about which nearly nothing is known beyond the fact that everyone has a MySpace page these days. (David Cotner)

Also playing Sunday:

FOO FIGHTERS, BECK, GNARLS BARKLEY, RACONTEURS at Gibson Amphitheatre; STARSAILOR, PETER WALKER at the Hotel Café; SOME GIRLS, MIKA MIKO at the Knitting Factory; 400 BLOWS at the Smell; JET, BLOODCAT LOVE at Spaceland.

MONDAY, DECEMBER 11:

WADDY WACHTEL, BRETT TUGGLE, RICK THE BASS PLAYER, PHIL JONES at the Joint; THE NIGHTWATCHMAN at Safari Sam’s; JAY BENNETT, DEATH SHIPS, WEED PATCH at Silverlake Lounge; DELTA SPIRIT, CARINA ROUND at Spaceland.

TUESDAY, DECEMBER 12

Spank Rock, Debonair Samir at Safari Sam’s

It’s hip-hop on 45, rapid-fire raps over aggressively futuristic beats and pieces as equally informed by videogame soundtracks as they are by U.K. garage. Spank Rock are on some other shit — all jittery, coked-up dance tracks superglued to casually misogynistic lyrics that scream “Look at me!” while swinging a private-school tie overhead. It’s a Philly by way of Baltimore party thing, finding common ground between Hollertronix’s dance-or-die ethos, Too Short and your nephew’s PSP. These junior-mint pimps are showing indie bed-heads how to live, talking trash, clocking cash and slapping ho’s like nobody’s business. Don’t think, just shake that ass. Do your drugs early enough to arrive in time to get an education in Baltimore club music from opener Debonair Samir. Hollywood’s DJ C_Town will make sure the hipsters are in check. Somebody say hi to Cory Kennedy for me. (Scott T. Sterling)

Also playing Tuesday:

WOLFMOTHER, PINK MOUNTAINTOPS at Hollywood Palladium; FISHTANK ENSEMBLE at the Blue Cafe; TWISTED SISTER at House of Blues; P.F. SLOAN at Largo; STARSAILOR, TAYLOR HICKS, THE LIKE, SIMON DAWES, MELLOWDRONE at the Roxy; FAIR TO MIDLAND at the Whisky.

WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 13

{mosimage}Peaches, Whitey, Jeffree Starr at Avalon

Peaches is a lot like George Clinton reimagined as a sexually charged extreme feminist from planet Amazon: Free your vagina, and your mind will follow. She espouses that liberation of all kinds can be found between the legs, exemplified in orgiastic anthems like “Fuck the Pain Away” set to her signature electro-metal maelstrom. She’s downright civic-minded on her latest CD, Impeach My Bush, using sex as a political weapon (“I’d rather fuck who I want/than kill who I am told to”), bolstered by even brasher beats and new buds like Joan Jett and Josh Homme. Live, she’s backed by her new band, the Herms (as in Peaches & Herms — cute, right?), which boasts Le Tigre’s JD Samson and former Hole tub-thumper Samantha Maloney. Electro-shocked U.K. indie act Whitey and local glam-slammed tranny Jeffree Starr set it off. Also Thurs. (Scott T. Sterling)

Also playing Wednesday:

TRISTON PALMA, TIPPA LEE & ANDREW WRIGHT at the Echo; THE LIVING END, THE BRIGGS at House of Blues; FU MANCHU at the Key Club; PLAIN WHITE T’s at the Knitting Factory; THE BANGLES, MATTHEW SWEET, THE SOUTHLAND, WIRES ON FIRE at the Roxy; THE CHAPIN SISTERS, MIKE ANDREWS at Tangier; TRIBALJAZZ at Hear Music.

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 14

Under the Influence of Giants, Big City Rock at the Roxy

Maroon 5 fans tired of waiting around for the proper follow-up to 2002’s Songs for Jane should consider biding their time with Under the Influence of Giants, another self-consciously sleazy L.A. outfit whose blue-eyed soul jones runs as deep as the Maroon guys’. On their self-titled major-label debut, the Giants reveal the added bonus that they’re very unafraid of disco, a quality I don’t believe has ever hurt a rock band. So whose influence are they under? Oh, all the greats: Chic, Elton, Queen, Steely Dan, the newly hip Hall & Oates. People always say that they sound like the Scissor Sisters, and that’s true too. Fellow locals Big City Rock play shiny pop-rock perfect for New Radicals fans tired of the fact that the New Radicals no longer exist. (Mikael Wood)

Also playing Thursday:

PEACHES, WHITEY, JEFFREE STAR at Avalon; THE NEW CARS at Ventura Theatre; THE BRONX, RIVERBOAT GAMBLERS, CHUCK RAGAN, PUNK ROCK KARAOKE at the Key Club; TOCA, 2MEX, BUSDRIVER at the Knitting Factory; MERLE JAGGER, LONESOME SPURS at Lava Lounge; QUINTO SOL at Temple Bar; GREAT NORTHERN, THE SUBMARINES at Pershing Square.

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