Rock Picks: Al Kooper, Year Long Disaster, Steven Severin, the Phenomenal Handclap Band
Atlas Sound, Tune-Yards at Natural History Museum
The Natural History Museum’s new season of First Fridays opens this week with a nifty double bill pairing an indie-rock A-lister’s solo project with a buzzed-about one-woman band. Atlas Sound is Deerhunter front man Bradford Cox, who’s no less interested in corrupting melody with noise on his own than he is with his celebrated Atlanta outfit; Cox’s second official Atlas Sound disc, last year’s typically woozy Logos, sounds like Neil Young taking a Slowdive into some old-school Stereolab. Its best cut features Noah Lennox (aka Panda Bear of Animal Collective) crooning wistfully over a bouncy ’60s-pop beat; curious to see how (or if) he’ll deliver it tonight. Merrill Garbus shares Cox’s fondness for fuzz, loads of which she uses to adorn the lo-fi digital-folk jams on Bird-Brains, her debut as Tune-Yards. Yet it’s Garbus’ voice that sets her apart from any number of fellow laptop jocks; it requires no treatment to shine. (Mikael Wood)
Nerfbau, Actuary, Sunken Landscapes, others at Tribal Café
Some of the area’s most experimental noise mongers meet tonight to cross-pollinate and damage eardrums the most arty way they know how: with sprawling cables, effects pedals, jerry-rigged guitars, junk-shop gear, sample boxes and throat-scratching vocals funneled through broken microphones. Actuary brings a dark black hole of un-danceable, mathematical plateaus that rise and swing between elation and bottomed-out, thundering reverb, while Sunken Landscapes dig a deep dirge that explodes out into intense, reflective seas of corroded and ricocheting, metallic collisions. Prepare for an escalating scourge of speaker-strewn, grinded-out grunge with melting, blaring, ear-damaging, glorious, pulsating, cross-plagiarizing, mostly musical, hot coals of elation from Nerfbau, Oakland’s children of demented, frantic frequency. Nerfbau’s warped, Wolf Eyes–like intensity fills the room with apocalyptic horror and awe. Melody seekers stay away — atonal, computer-manufractured ferocity rules tonight downtown. (Wendy Gilmartin)
Also playing Friday:
FEAR, THE DICKIES, D.I. at House of Blues; ART FEIN’S ELVIS PRESLEY BIRTHDAY SHOW FEAT. FRED WILLARD, JIMMY ANGELS, THE BLASTERS, MICHELLE SHOCKED, OTHERS at the Echoplex; THE HAPPY HOLLOWS, SOFT HANDS, GANGI, USELESS KEYS at the Viper Room; KENNY EDWARDS, ERNEST TROOST at McCabe’s; GUITAR CENTER DRUM OFF FINALS FEAT. STEPHEN PERKINS, TOMMY LEE, BEZERK, JASON BONHAM, OTHERS at the Wiltern; DEATH SENTENCE: PANDA, PILES, KIT, DUNE at the Smell; GOLDEN ANIMALS, ALLAH LAS, KINCH, JEFFERTITI’S NILE at Spaceland; ANDY CLOCKWISE, AUSTIN HARTLEY LEONARD, BROTHER SAL, OTHERS at the Hotel Cafe; THE MONTHLIES, DARLINGS OF THE DAY, JASON HEATH & THE GREEDY SOULS, OTHERS at California Plaza; SONIC YOUTH, SIC ALPS at Fox Theater Pomona.
Sonic Youth at the Wiltern
Seasoned old Sonic Youth have broken free from the yoke of their long-running Geffen label contract (under which, to be fair, they made a lot of their best music) and signed with Matador, which has released the band’s new disc, The Eternal. And it sounds like the move has given ’em a swift kick in the kiester; the album is all noisy energy, urgency, sonic risk, like a very conscious return to SY’s beginnings in the New York no-wave scene. Taking a new joy in pitting tone against tone in twin-guitar-howl bombs, the band — with the departure of multi-instrumentalist Jim O’Rourke, now back to their “classic” lineup of guitarists Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo, bassist-singer Kim Gordon and drummer Steve Shelley — relentlessly mines a rich vein where fine-art experiments in microtonality combine with heavily rocking lyrical themes involving various beat poets, abstract painters and ’60s fashion models. A highlight, as well, is Gordon’s sort-of tribute to Britney Spears on “Malibu Gas Station”: “A tough cross to bear/Oops, no underwear.” (John Payne)
60 Watt Kid, Glasser at Spaceland
Armed with a hefty load of vintage electronic gear and a thirst for adventure, 60 Watt Kid’s Kevin Litrow and Derek Thomas pulled up roots in San Francisco and moved south to L.A., where they picked up an 18-year-old drummer named Dylan Wood. They came equipped, too, with a new album, We Come From the Bright Side (Absolutely Kosher), which showcases a beautifully uncategorizable but, sure, let’s call it “solar system–attuned pop” aesthetic. The album — mixed with nuance by Thom Monahan (Devendra Banhart, Entrance Band, Vetiver and Lavender Diamond) — is a bloody gold mine of pleasantly strange pop songs precisely assembled, all this warmly off-kilter odd-tuned-guitars/arcane-sound-effluvia/multiple-cyclical-percussion wall. The album’s got a vague concept running through it, possibly something to do with escape and all its broader ramifications, which you’ll want to mine for meaning over and over again. (John Payne)
Al Kooper at McCabe’s
To paraphrase an old Dr. John lyric, keyboardist Al Kooper has been at the right place at the right time so many times, he’s become one of rock’s most notorious Zelig-like figures. The Brooklyn native wasn’t even a trained keyboardist when he found himself noodling on an organ during a break at a Bob Dylan recording session in 1965. Next thing he knew, he was improvising the famous part that infuses “Like a Rolling Stone” with so much gospel radiance. Speaking of the Rolling Stones, Kooper has also recorded with them (on their Let It Bleed album), as well as Jimi Hendrix, Cream, the Who and B.B. King. As a 14-year-old guitarist, he was a member of the Royal Teens (who sang the campy-sexy novelty song “Short Shorts”) and later co-wrote the Gary Lewis & the Playboys hit “This Diamond Ring.” Kooper was a founding member of the Blues Project and Blood, Sweat & Tears and has collaborated with Mike Bloomfield, Stephen Stills and a young Shuggie Otis. On top of that, he also produced Lynyrd Skynyrd’s first three albums and has released his own fine, underrated blues-funk-rock solo albums, including the excellent 2005 CD Black Coffee and, most recently, 2008’s White Chocolate. We’re running out of space to list everything in the man’s résumé, but it should be clear by now that the Koop knows a little bit about this thing called rock & roll. Also Sun. (Falling James)
Eagle Winged Palace at the Redwood Bar & Grill
In photos of the freaky folk group Eagle Winged Palace, leader Cashew (formerly of the Prix) is usually surrounded by a coven of foxy women as if he were some kind of nouveau-hippie reincarnation of Hugh Hefner (or perhaps a kinder and gentler Charles Manson). Of course, neither Hefner nor Manson ever sang such sweetly mellow folk-pop songs as Cashew and his gang do on their recent EP, Hand of Doom (Park the Van Records). “Light up a fire and shed out a tear/while a wild wind knocks a desperate ghost into gear,” he croons softly on “The Mansion on the Hill” amid acoustic guitars, piano, violin and a chorus of shimmering, heavenly voices, which includes Michelle Vidal, Meegan Michel, Karma Velasquez and Cashew’s wife, “Uncle” Rhea Harding. There’s a haunting glow to those soothing voices, as Mr. Cashew strums such gauzy, pastoral reveries as “The Ballad of the Red-Legged Hawk’s Fountain” and the playfully sensual “By God, Let’s Make Sure That We Do It Tonight.” (Falling James)
Also playing Saturday:
THE GLITCH MOB at El Rey Theatre; MELLOW MAN ACE, FUNKDOOBIEST at the Roxy; RUFUS WAINWRIGHT at the Long Beach Terrace Theater; STEVIE B, LISA LISA, COVER GIRLS, C&C MUSIC FACTORY at the Nokia Theatre; COWBOY MOUTH, JUNIOR BROWN at House of Blues; THE LYMBIC SYSTEM, HELIOS, THE ONE A.M. RADIO at the Bootleg Theater; DICK DALE at the Canyon; MALAKAI, FREZ at the Dakota Music Lounge; RAILCARS, TAN DOLLAR, ITALIAN INDIANS, OTHERS at the Echo Curio; DEATH VALLEY HIGH, MADLIFE, ELEMENT A440, OTHERS at the Good Hurt; TOM RUSH at Largo at the Coronet; JEREMIAH, JULIE CAIN, DUKES & GANNON at Taix.
Zola Jesus, Pocahaunted, Sissy Spacek, Dean Spunt (DJ Set) at the Smell
Nights at the Smell don’t come better stacked than this. Headliner Zola Jesus, aka Madison’s no-fi chanteuse Nika Roza Danilova, deals in dark miniature epics whose moods play out in waves of pretty fuzz, echoing drums and haunting Ian Curtis–like vocals. As grating as her compositions can be at times, they’re spurred onward by a genuine pop sensibility, evidenced by her work with Xiu Xiu’s electro-oriented spinoff group, Former Ghosts. Zola recently contributed a track to the excellent My Estrogeneration vinyl compilation, released on the label run by Pocahaunted’s two principals. When Amanda and Britt Brown aren’t tending to the workings of Eagle Rock’s Not Not Fun Records, they specialize in a winning combination of tribal rhythms and spooky melody. Sissy Spacek, on the other hand, is about as harsh as they come — a spazz-happy grindcore quartet led by L.A. noise fiend John Wiese — but you’d be hard-pressed to find an outfit better at what they do. To top it all off, No Age’s Dean Spunt plays DJ into the night. (Chris Martins)
Also playing Sunday:
TRAINWRECK, KIDNEYS, ARI SHINE at the Viper Room; MY DADS, PUSSY COW, NATIONAL SUNDAY LAW at the Echo Curio; THE TERRAPIN, THE HECTORS, SEASONS at Spaceland.
Year Long Disaster, Fatso Jetson, It’s casual, others at Spaceland
There are so many hard-rock bands in the world, but few of them have anything new or intelligent to say. Yet the L.A. trio Year Long Disaster have a lot on their collective minds on their second album, Black Magic: All Mysteries Revealed (Volcom). Singer-guitarist Daniel Davies (who happens to be the son of Kinks lead guitarist Dave Davies) explains the ambitious scope of his new lyrics, which are about “traversing schizophrenia interspersed with graveyard seductions, Pontius Pilate ... 6-foot-tall cats with pistols, at least four songs about the sensuality of blood, two songs concern turning over a car and riddling it with bullet holes while screaming random obscenities at the top of my lungs to every passing motorist ... ancient sexual rites of the Celtic goddess Agrona ... observations of a bloated man standing before a jukebox and, of course, a song just about wondering how my clothes got soaking wet, covered in kerosene, and why I was in a storeroom behind a riverfront Waffle House in Mississippi ... desperate to find a hacksaw to free my shackled legs.” Such fascinating back stories aside, Black Magic is a richly satisfying combination of Southern-rock power, doomy Sabbath-y riffage and Davies’ mournfully eloquent singing, which ranges from snarling rockers like “Show Me Your Teeth” and “Venus at the Crossroads” to such strange and trippy tunes as “Foggy Bottom” and the acoustic idyll “Seven of Swords.” Year Long Disaster continue their free January residency, billed tonight with the similarly monstrous (and musically expansive) hard-rock jammers Fatso Jetson. (Falling James)
Also playing Monday:
JESCA HOOP & MARK GROWDEN, MARIA TAYLOR, BRANDON WALTERS, NICOLE SIMONE at the Hotel Cafe; THE NORTHSTAR SESSION, CLOCKWORK, REGAL at the Bootleg Theater; THE FRENCH SEMESTER, LETTING UP DESPITE GREAT FAULTS, THE SPIRES, THE HEALTH CLUB at the Echo; ODAWAS, DOMINIQUE LEONE at the Echo Curio; THURSTON MOORE IS A FAGGOT, TENIONS FORT at Pehrspace; BLIND BOY PAXTON & FRANK FAIRFIELD VARIETY SHOW at the Redwood Bar.
THE RUBY FRIEDMAN ORCHESTRA AT THE HOTEL CAFÉ
With a name like the Ruby Friedman Orchestra, you might expect some retro swing or jazz chanteuse dusting off ancient standards in front of a fussy, fusty big band, but the actual dame in question isn’t so easily tied to any one genre or era. In fact, her “orchestra” is really a group of rock veterans who’ve variously backed the disparate likes of Powerman 5000, Shakira, Glen Campbell and Avril Lavigne — none of whom sounds remotely similar to the titular Ms. Friedman. The singer, it turns out, is no shrinking violet, belting out glammy power ballads like “Shooting Stars” and “Hang Around” with a big voice and plenty of charisma. “That’s why I let you hang around/Because you make me laugh ... You cut the pain in half,” Friedman declares with stirring romantic intensity. She and her hard-rocking band show considerable commercial potential, although at this stage the otherwise smart songwriting isn’t nearly as wild and untamed as Friedman’s voice. But give them time. On the ork’s faithful yet savage transformation of the Beatles’ “I Want You (She’s So Heavy),” she sounds deliriously feverish as she bends her wraithlike cries into the fat dip and curve of Adam Zimmon’s guitar licks. It’s possibly the best version of one of the most intense songs by the most famous band in rock history — that’s not easy to do, you know. (Falling James)
Vampire Weekend at Henry Fonda Theater
Vampire Weekend spent a good chunk of November playing a series of small-scale shows in such out-of-the-way California burgs as Visalia and Lomita — they also cropped up at the Gibson last month for the second night of KROQ’s Almost Acoustic Christmas — and now the New York indie stars are back again to celebrate the release of their excellent new sophomore disc, Contra, with a higher-profile (but still relatively intimate) gig at the Henry Fonda in Hollywood. (Are these dudes considering a West Coast relocation or what? New album includes one tune called “California English.”) World-music purists who balked at Vampire Weekend’s appropriation of African-pop guitar riffs last time around will have an even harder time choking down this new one, which finds them dabbling even more boldly than before. So far my favorite cut is the one where frontman Ezra Koenig gets his Auto-Tune on. (Mikael Wood)
The Phenomenal Handclap Band at Cinespace
Hands down, one of the great details about albums from the ’60s and ’70s is the real hand claps. The cowbell comes in a close second, but the concept of musicians gathering around a microphone to clap their hands is the ultimate testament to the communal celebration that once took place in the studio — before the party was replaced by the lonely solitude of 808s, 909s. Daniel Collás and Sean Marquand felt the same way when they put together this outfit, which consists of more than two handfuls of bad-ass players. Call them the Polyphonic Spree of dance music, but the collective (which also includes Bart Davenport, TV on the Radio’s Jaleel Bunton, L’Trimm’s Lady Tigra) brings the sounds of the “me” generation back to the “we” generation, and successfully combines the liberation of psychedelic soul (à la Undisputed Truth and Shuggie Otis) with the elevation of cosmic disco (as coined by Daniele Baldelli and remixed by Prins Thomas, who recently did his thing for Phenomenal’s “You’ll Disappear”). Their self-titled debut is out now on Friendly Fire Recordings. You can also catch them at the Echo tomorrow night. (Daniel Siwek)
Also playing Tuesday:
BETH ORTON at Largo at the Coronet; RUIDO DE FONDO, BEATMO, WAIT.THINK.FAST, LEO MACHADO at the Troubadour; SEVEN SATURDAYS, THE PARSON RED HEADS, GO WEST YOUNG MAN at the Bootleg Theater; OLIN & THE MOON, ELENI MANDEL at the Echo; ROYAL CROWN REVUE at the Mint.
Willi Williams at the Echoplex
The Dub Club scores another wet-dream booking with this ultrarare show from reggae kingpin Willi Williams, the potent Jamaican chanter responsible for apocalyptic groove masterpiece “Armagideon Time.” With it’s darkly irresistible riddim and haunting end-time lyric, Williams crystallized reggae’s emphasis on doom and destiny, oppression and justice, with memorably epochal flair, and its music went on to serve as backing track for innumerable Jamaican discs before finally being introduced to the Anglo mainstream, when the Clash slapped their version onto the B-side of the “London Calling” single. Williams, of course, has quite an impressive additional slew of credits — he’s been cutting records since ’66 as part of the essential, unbeatable Studio One crew, and he brings the full experiential weight of that musical revolution along with him. Backed by able acolytes the Expanders, with the crucial addition of veteran reggae percussion legend Larry McDonald, not to mention Slackers saxist David Hillyard and Italian trombone man Mr. T-Bone, there will be very little suffering here tonight. (Jonny Whiteside)
STEVEN SEVERIN AT CINEFAMILY AT THE SILENT MOVIE THEATER
As the founding bassist for Siouxsie & the Banshees, Steven Severin (whose surname was nicked from the foolish, masochistic narrator of Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s Venus in Furs) helped to create the shadowy, arty soundscapes that made the band more musically diverse than the other early British punk bands. He later went on to collaborate with part-time Banshee guitarist Robert Smith (better known as the leader of the Cure) in the early-’80s project the Glove and has also worked with Lydia Lunch, Marc Almond and Altered Images. In recent years, Severin has turned his attention to composing film soundtracks, and at this two-night stand he’ll focus on material from his recent album, Music for Silents. On Wednesday, he unveils his score to Germaine Dulac’s 1928 surrealist landmark, The Seashell & the Clergyman, while Thursday’s program features his new soundtrack to the Jean Cocteau film Blood of a Poet. Also Thurs. (Falling James)
Also playing Wednesday:
OH DARLING, THE PASSPORTS, MIA MAESTRO, NADINE & TERENCE at the Bootleg Theater; THE PHENOMENAL HANDCLAP BAND at the Echo; BOATS, BATWINGS CATWINGS, ROUGH KIDS at the Echo Curio; TIG, UH HUH HER, MARY LYNN RAJSKUB at Largo at the Coronet; LE SWITCH, NEW WORLD RECORD at Pershing Square.
Kimya Dawson, Your Heart Breaks, Angelo Spencer at the Smell
While it’s true that Kimya Dawson may be best known for her contributions to the Juno soundtrack (as part of the defunct duo The Moldy Peaches), the Washington-based anti-folk artist has earned all kinds of stripes over the years. She lives in Olympia, specifically, which puts her bare-bones, truth-seeking tunes shoulder to shoulder with likewise output from the indie-hallowed K Records collective, whose label she currently calls home. Dawson has also collaborated with a surprising roster of marquee-name artists, from spry piano guy Ben Kweller and moody piano gal Regina Spektor to, oddly enough, Third Eye Blind. But it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Dawson’s songs put her in poppier company — rough-hewn as her work may be, it’s devilishly catchy. Your Heart Breaks is a somewhat Seattle-based collective that boasts around 50 members (nontouring) and at least seven albums. Dawson is a regular contributor, as is Karl Blau, though it’s not clear exactly who’ll show for this gig. Angelo Spencer is Dawson’s husband — a one-man band with a knack for Afro-inspired electric guitar–driven epics. (Chris Martins)
The Cigarette Bums, Manhattan Murder Mystery, Robert james at L’Keg Gallery
The Cigarette Bums are primarily guitar player/singer Steven “Slaughter” Carrera and bassman Eamon McGinniss, with other dudes occasionally coming in on drums, sax, keys and percussion. Theirs is a Dylan-meets-Daniel Johnston–meets-Replacements-meets-Beefheart smash-up that’s a real pleasure to watch. The Bums play repetitious, folksy stanzas with a snot-nosed, garage-band delivery, and they throw in an occasional, speedy jazz-intoned riff for flare. Since they rock the bohemian Echo Park vibe, it’s only right that their new 7-inch record, “Jailbird,” can be found exclusively at local Eastside music stores. Manhattan Murder Mystery riles up crowds with an intense combination of fast, tinny drums, banjos, bongos and power-chord pop anthems that respectfully regurgitate the Pixies and the Cult. MMM craft an onstage intensity through the course of their live show that’s undeniably solid, not to mention totally infectious, rowdy and engaging. (Wendy Gilmartin)
Also playing Thursday:
THE TWILIGHT SLEEP, THE ARMS, A DECENT ANIMAL, RED TIDE at the Silverlake Lounge; ALBERTA CROSS, HACIENDA, THE JAKES at the Troubadour; AGNOSTIC FRONT, DEATH BY STEREO at the Redwood Bar; CREEDLE, UPSILON ACRUX at the Bootleg Theater; PONCHO SANCHEZ at the Canyon; JULIA NUNES at the Echo; CHRISTOPHER DALLMAN, ADAM TRAUM at Genghis Cohen.
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