Rock Picks: Beirut, The Cure, Jonathan Richman
THURSDAY, MAY 29
Ladytron at the Henry Fonda Theater
Despite being one of the world’s leading electropop stylists since they started in 1999, Ladytron don’t have the typical cold and robotic sound you might expect. That’s partly because the coed Liverpool quartet go to the trouble of using vintage analog equipment, which gives the music a warmer, dreamier feel on their upcoming fourth full-length CD, Velocifero (Nettwerk). Singer-keyboardist Mira Aroyo claims that Dr. John was among her influences on the new album, and while it’s not readily apparent how the salty old Night Tripper figures into Ladytron’s modern, dance-heavy grooves, it is clear that she and co–lead singer Helen Marnie have a gift for haunting pop-music structures. Underneath swarming, buzzing synthesizers, “Burning Up” has an ethereal, romantically aching loneliness that’s more poignant and affecting than most electropop. The ambiguous apologies of “Ghosts” ride along on a Daniel Hunt’s guitars and programmer Reuben Wu’s shimmering rhythms, while “Season of Illusions” intrigues with such enigmatically poetic imagery as a “night of fading stars and a legacy of clouds.” Aroyo deepens the mystery by singing in her native Bulgarian amid the swirling chimes of “Kletva.” Also Fri., May 30. (Falling James)
Neva Dinova at Spaceland
The name Neva Dinova sounds like an exotic Eastern European chanteuse, but it’s actually a quintet of guys from Omaha who are named after singer-guitarist Jake Bellows’ grandmother. Their occasionally freaky music is very much rooted in Americana on You May Already Be Dreaming, their third full-length CD and first on hometown label Saddle Creek. The deceptively named Bellows croons in a tunefully downbeat way on such pokily morbid country-rock ballads as “Will the Ladies Send You Flowers,” “Funeral Home,” and the lovely “She’s a Ghost,” which floats away with a faintly glowing limestone shimmer. “It’s so hard to love your body from the ground,” he declares on “Love From Below.” “I’m walking through traffic like I’m a prophet.” But Bellows (who has also recorded with Conor Oberst) and bassist Heath Koontz are at their best when they remember they have amps and plug into them to power through Crazy Horse rambles like “Someone’s Trippin’” and “Clouds” and the driving, straight-up power pop of “What You Want” and “It’s Hard to Love You,” as well as weirder stuff like the whimsically muffled underwater section of “Squirrels” and the Flaming Lips/Roger Waters haze of “Apocalypse.” (Falling James)
R.E.M., Modest Mouse, The National at the Hollywood Bowl
While it’s certainly goosed the band’s record sales (or at least its mainstream media coverage), all the R.E.M.-is-back hype surrounding the new Accelerate has in a way done the veteran alt-rock band something of a disservice. If we’re to truly believe that their aimless electro-pop days are behind them, these dudes had better kick out some serious jams at the Bowl; none of the self-satisfied coasting captured on R.E.M.’s recent two-disc live set will be tolerated tonight. Selecting Modest Mouse as an opening act suggests that Peter, Mike and Michael (as they identify themselves in Accelerate’s liners) think themselves up to the challenge: M.M. front man Isaac Brock is a live wire waiting to crackle. I don’t get what the big deal is about the National — depressive indie-rock mumblers from Brooklyn — but people on the Internet can’t seem to get enough of ’em. (Mikael Wood)
Also playing Thursday
OK GO, ZION I, NICO VEGA at Ackerman Grand Ballroom, UCLA, 7 p.m.; THE CURE at Santa Barbara Bowl; THRICE at Avalon; SONNY LANDRETH, JEFFERSON STEELFEX & HIS NEPTUNE SOCIETY at Safari Sam’s; CULVER CITY DUB COLLECTIVE, CAVA at Temple Bar; SUPERDRAG, KAY HANLEY at the Troubadour.
FRIDAY, MAY 30
Beirut, The Brunettes, Devon Williams at the Wiltern
In the “global mash-up” aspect of things, you could do a lot worse than donning your babushka and immersing yourself in the arcane world summoned forth by young Albuquerque/New York fella Zach Condon, a.k.a. Beirut. His records, like 2007’s The Flying Club Cup, are all over the place stylistically since he’s at that point in life when he’s bursting with ideas and the will to communicate them in myriad new ways. Condon’s stuff occupies this crackly, dusty old place of handed-down tales of Gypsies and bohemians, warbled earnestly over strummed ukuleles and lumbering brass ensembles. It’s quite an original sound, heard to especially good advantage on the recent Elephant Gun EP. Don’t miss Beirut’s Ba Da Bing label mate Devon Williams, whose other job is playing guitar in Lavender Diamond. His Carefree album is a gloriously ornate batch of smart-pop tunes, not just unusually well written but also wonderfully arranged. Come to think of it, you ought not miss New Zealand’s hugely charismatic pop playfuls the Brunettes, either. Also Sat. (John Payne)
Tom Rush at McCabe’s
Tom Rush emerged from the midcentury American folk revival, but he can rock like rock & roll oughta rock, roaring on Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly standards. His hallmark blue-noted and growling baritone is also a natural for ballads and, displaying an uncanny ear for songwriters, he was among the first to record early masterpieces by Joni Mitchell, James Taylor and Jackson Browne. His occasional originals have become classics as well (the haunting “No Regrets,” for example). He’s a working road warrior, and his live performance of “The Remember Song,” Steven Walters’ hysterical ode to the challenges of technology on the aging, got 3,500,000 hits on YouTube in the last year. Rush is one of those cats: a singer’s singer, a guitarist’s guitarist, a songwriter’s dream and, in person and solo tonight, a superlative delivery man of cathartic fun. (Michael Simmons)
Also playing Friday:
LADYTRON at Henry Fonda Theater; FLIGHT OF THE CONCHORDS at the Orpheum Theatre; THRICE at Avalon; IRON MAIDEN, ANTHRAX at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater; THE STITCHES, JAIL WEDDINGS at Alex’s Bar; FISHBONE at Malibu Inn; THE SATIRISTAS at the Mint; VAGABOND OPERA at Molly Malone’s; DIE ROCKERS DIE at Pehrspace; FIERY FURNACES at Spaceland.
SATURDAY, MAY 31
The Cure at the Hollywood Bowl
Few bands can boast 30 years of international arena-filling success while still making albums that people actually give a fuck about. The Cure — for all their lineup changes, essentially a bunch of mates since their teens from nowhere-town England — have achieved perhaps the ultimate career while seldom triggering traffic-stopping hysteria or becoming stale, Rolling Stones–y institutions. The formula appears simple: unkempt main man Robert Smith’s writhing, childlike, yelp-flecked vocals; melodic-backbone bass lines; twinkling/cascading effected guitars (and sometimes keys); and lyrics both melancholy and mischievous. Yet with these tools the Cure have spanned the brisk post-punk of their 1979 debut, Three Imaginary Boys; the Eraserhead-bleak, wrist-slitting disconnection of 1982’s Pornography; the lush darkness of the 1989 breakthrough Disintegration; and seemingly flippant pop ditties like “The Lovecats.” “The Only One,” the first of four monthly singles leading up to the Cure’s 13th studio album in September, suggests that Smith’s in a (relatively) jaunty mood, and his band’s current four-piece incarnation is its leanest yet dreamiest yet. Also at the Shrine Auditorium, Sun. (Paul Rogers)
Also playing Saturday:
IRON MAIDEN, ANTHRAX at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater; BEIRUT, THE BRUNETTES, DEVON WILLIAMS at the Wiltern; SWERVEDRIVER, FILM SCHOOL, XU XU FANG at the Henry Fonda Theater (see Music feature); JACKSON BROWNE at Barnum Hall; BILLYBONES, RAVENS MORELAND, SMOGTOWN, SUNTRASH, at Alex’s Bar, 1 p.m.; DANNY B. HARVEY at Blue Cafe; MY LIFE WITH THE THRILL KILL CULT at Boardner’s; ADOLESCENTS, THE CROWD at Knitting Factory; UH HUH HER at the Roxy; GRAM RABBIT at Safari Sam’s; ANNY CELSI at Taix; GREEN JELLO at Vault 350.
SUNDAY, JUNE 1
Type O Negative, Hatebreed, 3 Inches of Blood at Avalon
With Type O Negative and Hatebreed as co-headliners, the Jagermeister Tour might have been dubbed the Goths & Thugs Concert, but apparently potent black liqueur unites metal fans of all stripes. For all their ghoulish surfaces and gallows humor, Type O are essentially a prog-pop band, stretching their hooks over fuzzy walls of guitar, pipe-organ-style keyboards, and multipart harmonies led by Lurch-like bassist Peter Steele, who rolls his r’s with Transylvanian relish. Amazingly, one track off their 2007 record Dead Again is almost 11 minutes long, and it’s the catchiest song of the bunch (how’s that for upending rock convention?). By contrast, every bumper-sticker slogan barked by Hatebreed front man Jamey Jasta drips with sincerity, which kinda makes sense since the Connecticut band is Tuff Guy hardcore’s flagship act, if not its most commercially viable. Triangulating the mix are the classic-metal stylings of 3 Inches of Blood, replete with clean vocals, twin-ax onslaughts and old-fashioned unambiguous heroism in the lyrics. (Andrew Lentz)
Little Jimmy Dickens at Safari Sam’s
Veteran country-music star Little Jimmy Dickens may be best known for his novelty smasheroo “May the Bird of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose” and Loretta Lynn’s description of him as “Mighty Mouse in pajamas,” but get it straight: Dickens is one of the toughest singers ever to wander out of the West Virginia hills. With the morbid romance of “Slow Suicide,” the knockdown jolt of “Salty Boogie” and his signature tearful ballad, “Take Me as I Am” — a song that he delivers with all the choked-up, melodramatic intensity of Johnnie Ray — Dickens has routinely covered territory that would guarantee a ban at the Grand Ole Opry, but the wild little dude is so irresistible that he’s been a regular there for decades. Now pushing, dig it, 90 years of age, he’s hardly softened, and chances are good that this unspeakably rare Los Angeles show will showcase that mind-ripping repertoire. The recent loss of Eddy Arnold only heightens the crucial status of an innovator like Dickens, a guy whose friends included Roy Acuff and Hank Williams. Treat him right — he could just as well have stayed in Tennessee for a typical Sunday, fishing with Bobby Bare and Jerry Reed. (Jonny Whiteside)
Miles From India at Grand Performances at California Plaza
The fusion of Indian classical music and jazz may not be a novel idea, but the Miles From India project propels the concept to a whole ’nuther spirit level. A shifting collective of some 34 musicians, roughly split between Miles Davis alums and subcontinental traditionalists, recorded 11 chestnuts from the growling genius’ canon in various U.S. and Indian locations. The resulting two-disc set dances around the void’s edge as it straddles several streams of Miles’ sonic legacy. As expected, the ensemble runs the man’s jazz-funk-rock voodoo down with Shivaesque transformative intensity, but the shared modalities also get kinda blue in surprisingly re-imagined ways. Whether the live stew will end up a potent brew, bitches or otherwise, remains an open question. But the inter-dimensional depth of the MFI road team, featuring leonine stalwarts like ageless bass man Ron Carter, Miles-channeling trumpeter Wallace Roney and tabla tickler Badal Roy, sets up great expectations for ecstatic serenity. 350 S. Grand Ave., dwntwn. (Tom Cheyney)
Also playing Sunday:
FLIGHT OF THE CONCHORDS at the Orpheum Theatre; THE CURE at the Shrine Auditorium; MIKE STINSON at the Echo, 5 p.m.; SIMON STOKES, MURDER JUNKIES at Relax Bar; NEIL HAMBURGER at Spaceland; THE SIXTH CHAMBER at Viper Room; OLLIN at the Eagles Club, Eagle Rock, 4 p.m.
MONDAY, JUNE 2
Minuit at Nacional
Don’t let the name mislead you. Minuit aren’t French, and their sound is quite giant, actually. A live breakbeat act from New Zealand, they’ve toured the world with the likes of the Crystal Method and the Chemical Brothers, but they’ve got something those heavyweights don’t: Ruth “Minuit” Carr. She’s not just any lead singer; this chick banged the drums before joining up with Paul Dodge and Ryan Beehre, who put her out front to shine while they work the samplers. Their 88 Guards is finally available to us on Dollhouse Records, and it’s both dance floor and stereo friendly. It immediately evokes the promise of the breakbeat era (mid-to-late-’90s), when it looked like electronica would become the new stadium rock. So what if most of it ended up the new muzak? The damage was done, and indie electronica is the compromise that Minuit happily embrace. At the Monday Social (www.myspace.com/mondaysocial), which is superbly run by the Bud Brothers. 1645 Wilcox Ave. (Daniel Siwek)
Also playing Monday:
SALLY KELLERMAN at Genghis Cohen; AIMEE MANN at Largo at the Coronet; BIG BANG, THE HEALTH CLUB at Mr. T’s Bowl.
TUESDAY, JUNE 3
Little Jackie at the Viper Room
Casual listeners might remember Imani Coppola from her left-field 1997 radio hit, “Legend of a Cowgirl” — it’s the one where Coppola swore she’d “spend all my money on absolutely nothing” over a sample of Donovan’s “Sunshine Superman.” Though she hasn’t replicated that single’s mainstream penetration, Brooklyn-based Coppola has actually been releasing records since then; last year, she put out a great one on Mike Patton’s Ipecac label called The Black & White Album. Now she’s assembled a new act with multi-instrumentalist Adam Pallin, who most recently worked on American Idol finalist Elliot Yamin’s undervalued debut. The pair call themselves Little Jackie, and on The Stoop (due July 8 on the relaunched S-Curve label), they offer a percolating mixture of machine-shop funk rhythms, swinging pop-soul melodies and street-smart hip-hop swagger; fans of Gnarls Barkley will recognize much in the approach. At the Viper Room, Coppola and Pallin will be joined by a handful of extra players, which should only increase the music’s considerable exuberance. (Mikael Wood)
Also playing Tuesday:
COLIN HAY at Largo at the Coronet; AIMEE MANN at Amoeba Music, 6 p.m.
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 4
Jonathan Richman at the Mint
Truly lovable entertainers are a rare happenstance, but Jonathan Richman is totally that guy. A longtime prototype for the coolest Jews, kiddie singers (his repertoire is, largely, thematically suited for kindergartners) and sensitive urban males, Richman has developed a persona and songwriting rep that’s closely akin to an affably simple Catskills troubadour. This all belies his early days with the Modern Lovers, a quietly influential proto-punk group, and the import of his solo work since then, which plays dumb but brims with humour and darkness and the various tragedies of adulthood. Though generally understood to be a semi-weird guy, with a marked disinterest in both the media and the Internet and their attendant abilities to promote him, our friend Jonathan really gets cooking live, and happily courts an audience with performance savvy built on years of touring (he’s currently making the rounds with longtime drummer Tommy Larkins). Also Thurs.-Sat., June 5-7. (Kate Carraway)
Also playing Wednesday:
CHRIS THILE at Largo at the Coronet; THE LONG BLONDES at the Troubadour; THE BINGES at the Viper Room.
THURSDAY, JUNE 5
GO BETTY GO, THE FRESAS at the Bordello; MURDER JUNKIES at Cobalt Cafe; GEORGE CLINTON at Crash Mansion; PETER MURPHY at House of Blues; WATKINS FAMILY HOUR at Largo at the Coronet; JONATHAN RICHMAN at the Mint; THE CHAPIN SISTERS at Silverlake Lounge; JAIMI SHUEY at Taix; THE BLACK ANGELS, DARKER MY LOVE at the Troubadour.
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