Rock Picks: Black Lips, Maria Taylor, Audacity, Irina Bjorklund
FRIDAY, MAY 1
BLACK LIPS AT EL REY THEATRE
Black Lips come trudging out of a thick swamp of their own creation on their fifth album, 200 Million Thousand (Vice), once again tracking in the mud and blood of the 1960s to dress up their modern garage-punk psychodramas. Perhaps it’s no surprise that such jangling folk tunes as “Drugs” lead to acid-casualty revelations like the crackling (and cracked) country rock of “I Saw God” and the sarcastic, raw blues of “Big Black Baby Jesus of Today.” In the hidden bonus track, “Meltdown,” they invoke the Vietcong, over a Hendrix-y groove (they also fantasize about an orgy with Obama, Osama and the Dalai Lama for no apparent reason except that their names rhyme). Unlike their late-’60s blues-rock counterparts, who noodled endlessly to the point of feathery insubstantiality, the Lips paste even their most fried insights over a more concisely catchy hybrid of mid-’60s garage-punk and bubblegum fuzz. With primitive Stones/Velvets guitars, tons of reverb and howled Sam the Sham–style vocals, the overall impact is closer to Sky Saxon & the Seeds’ oxymoronically sinister flower-children phase ... just before he lost his mind. The point is, catch this Atlanta band now before they go completely insane and can’t leave their gardens for decades at a time. (Falling James)
JOE LALLY AT THE SMELL
For a ham-fisted salute to labor, the political left and its musical fringe this international day of workers, check out Fugazi’s massively influential bassist and all-around man of the people, Joe Lally — the dude still only plays shows that cost five bucks or less. In the past, Lally’s solo work featured a revolving door of ex-Fugazi guys and various DC scenesters like Ian MacKaye, Amy Farina (The Evens), Guy Picciotto, etc. But now he’s taken it out of the box, plucking along in a fusion-jazz meets prog-punk fashion. The driving rhythms and the frenetic bottom are still there, as one might expect, but the energy plays out in a more nuanced way, like he’s re-engineering the primary role of the bass work in terms of melody and foundational mechanics. Lally’s spare backing band, made up of Ricardo Lagomasino on drums and a sinewy Elisa Abela on the guitar and sax, weaves in and out of his bass flow, forming a formidably tight trio. Also at the Echo, Sun. (Wendy Gilmartin)
Everyone’s got useless keys. Nobody knows where they come from, but you don’t dare throw them away in case they turn out to be important. Much like the new L.A. band Useless Keys. They feature former members of the Front, Molecules and the Green & Yellow TV, but they don’t really sound like any of those bands. Hazy, weary vocals sing druggy lyrics like “Arizona state highway/don’t let it define you” and “More valium, please/It helps me fall asleep,” as post-punk guitars spiral toward the clouds. There’s a celestial, Pink Floyd spaciness to songs like “It’s All Made Up,” from the Keys’ upcoming debut album. Psychedelic flourishes and a shoegazer storminess creep between the beats, which are mostly midtempo or slower, leaving plenty of room for head-nodding and trying to decipher such lyrics as “My baby’s got a shotgun ... You never hide your hat the way I want you to.” (Falling James)
Also playing Friday:
IAN MCLAGEN & THE BUMP BAND at the Mint; WOLFMOTHER,RUBY SUNS at the Natural History Museum; UNWRITTEN LAW, DIRTY HEADS, SEX AND VIOLENCE, KILLEM GILLEM at the Roxy; LOUDON WAINWRIGHT III at McCabe’s; STARSAILOR at the Troubadour; DAN FRIEL, CHEN SANTA MARIA, ERIKA ANDERSON at Pehrspace; JON BRION at Largo at the Coronet; GROAMVILLE, THE HASH ASSASSINS, DRACULOVE at Relax Bar.
SATURDAY, MAY 2
AUDACITY AT THE SMELL
Fullerton punk band Audacity — not to be confused with either the electronic act or the barbershop quartet of the same name — has that thing, that magic, that sense of impending destruction, that fuck-all ’tude that separates a great punk band from a boring one. It’s hard to tell where they’re coming from, exactly, but it’s definitely not from the Epitaph, Revelation or Victory schools of punk. Rather, it’s the lo-fi, smart-as-hell version, the kind Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments, No Age, Pissed Jeans and Fat Day make: bursts of songs that hit like a fist to the face. The band’s debut full-length, Power Drowning, is — how to put it? — fucking awesome, recalling the first-wave SoCal punk of the Descendents, Black Flag and Germs without resorting to mimicry. The band seems to have no fear. “Sister Menthol” is not only a genius name for a song but it is a 1:43 basement scream that’s as insanely tight and inventive as it is furious. On “The Feds,” they move from speed to grinding halt and back again, shifting tempos and melodies like a stupid prog-rock band — except Audacity isn’t a stupid prog band but the opposite. (Randall Roberts)
IRINA BJORKLUND AT THE HOTEL CAFÉ
Irina Bjorklund is a striking figure onstage, wielding her musical saw like a fearsome weapon — which it literally is. Far from being a mere novelty performer, the Finnish actor-singer bends and manipulates her saw to coax out quivering, high-pitched sounds that have a chillingly alien beauty. The musical saw is similar to a more-controllable theremin, and, when its glassy waves are combined with Bjorklund’s warm, soft folk-pop cooing (in Finnish, English, Swedish and French), the effect can be quite haunting. Much of the impact depends on the songwriting, which ranges from mysteriously alluring ballads like “So She Runs” and the eerie “Natascha’s Bee Song” to blander easy-listening pop tunes like “Leroy.” She’s less mysterious and more lighthearted in Vintage Espresso, a pop side project with guitarist/co-songwriter Peter Fox, but even a sleepy Western instrumental like “Sawlero” is enchanting when her saw hovers overhead like a shimmering spacecraft. (Falling James)
Also playing Saturday:
JENNIFER HUDSON, ROBIN THICKE at Nokia Theatre; KREATOR, EXODUS at House of Blues; EEK A MOUSE, B FOUNDATION, PURE ZION at the Roxy; DAVE ALVIN, STAN RIDGWAY at McCabe’s; TONY LUCCA at the Knitting Factory; PRINCETON, DIVISIBLE at Spaceland; BLACK LABEL SOCIETY, SEVENDUST, CYCLE OF PAIN, DOPE at the Wiltern; MADE IN BRAZIL featuring LIFE IS A LOOP, ERIC MORELLO at Avalon; YANN TIERSEN, ASOBI SEKSU at El Rey Theatre; WAR TAPES at Downtown 81; THIRD DAY at Club Nokia.
SUNDAY, MAY 3
LAURA GIBSON, DAMIEN JURADO AT SPACELAND
Laura Gibson is from that part of Oregon known as “neither here nor there,” and there’s a correspondingly timeless and pastoral restfulness to her music. That’s not to say that her simple folk songs are simplistic, and on her new CD, Beasts of Seasons (Hush), they’re fleshed out by a small army of friends, including Rachel Blumberg (ex-Decemberists) and Laura Veirs. Her guests’ subtle adornments never overwhelm Gibson’s delicate melodies, which are rendered through spare acoustic-guitar plucking and flecks of distant piano. A gently orchestrated backing pushes along the chorus sighs of the aptly titled “Spirited” as if they were puffs of white clouds floating across a blue, uncomplicated sky. It’s a lovely moment, and certainly as tuneful as anything KT Tunstall has come up with so far. Gibson opens for the Seattle singer-songwriter Damien Jurado, whose straightforward pop-rock music sometimes splinters off into more spectrally intriguing songs like “Caskets,” from his 2008 album, Caught in the Trees. (Falling James)
MARIA TAYLOR, THE WHISPERTOWN 2000 AT THE TROUBADOUR
Maria Taylor’s new solo album, LadyLuck, is the most conventional outing yet from the former Azure Ray songstress, who for the most part has traded the spooky electro-goth ambience of yore for a strummy folk-pop vibe that wouldn’t necessarily offend a Sara Bareilles fan. (Perhaps Taylor’s ex-bandmate Orenda Fink made off with Azure Ray’s residual weirdness; her new project is a dark, hip-hop-inspired collaboration with Remy Zero’s Cedric LeMoyne called O+S.) Azure Ray devotees may miss the old duo’s arty inscrutability, but admirers of tight, tuneful songwriting will find much to love in tracks like the disco-grooved “A Chance” and “Cartoons and Forever Plans,” the latter of which features guest vocals by Michael Stipe of R.E.M. Last year, local openers the Whispertown 2000 released Swim, a lovely set of pop-minded alt-country gems, through Gillian Welch and David Rawlings’ label Acony Records. (Mikael Wood)
CHRIS CORNELL AT THE WILTERN
The former Soundgarden front man has maintained a respectable game face as harsh reviews of Scream, his unlikely grunge-soul team-up with Timbaland, have poured in from critics and peers alike. (“You know that feeling you get when somebody embarrasses themselves so badly, you feel uncomfortable?” Trent Reznor famously asked via Twitter. “Heard Chris Cornell’s record?”) That said, a man can only go so long before acknowledging the noise roaring around him, which is probably why Cornell is giving away copies of Scream to whomever buys tickets for this show on Live Nation’s Web site. For what it’s worth, the album’s headstrong wackiness is kind of a kick to behold, if only to marvel at how confident in their idea Cornell and Timbo sound. Even if your opinion skews closer to Reznor’s, though, you won’t suffer long tonight: Reports from the road indicate that Cornell is singing stuff from throughout his lengthy songbook. (Mikael Wood)
Also playing Sunday:
NAPALM DEATH at the Key Club; T-BONE BURNETT at McCabe’s; MARTIN LANDSKY, JOHN TEJADA, DROOG at Standard Downtown; JOE LALLY, SLANG CHICKENS, MEMORY at the Echo; TONY GILYKSON, THE GOLDEN DAYS, NEXT OF KIN, TRIPLE CHICKEN FOOT at the Echo; MANIC HISPANIC, LOS CREEPERS at El Rey Theatre.
MONDAY, MAY 4
GANGI, HEAD LIKE A KITE AT SPACELAND
Matt Gangi has this precious, high-pitched voice, one that adds a delicate, if off-kilter, layer of sound to his band Gangi’s songs. Not that there aren’t a lot of layers to begin with. Gangi creates bedroom electronic rock music, if that makes any sense, filled with samples and rhythms and stops ’n’ starts galore, but unlike a lot of preciously antiseptic music, Gangi’s has a layer of dirt over the surface, which gives it an analog warmth, employs loads of echo to give the sensation of a warehouse space or an underground, and features distorted electronic guitars strumming along with cymbal-heavy percussion. It’s a strong, constantly surprising sound that the band perfectly captures on A, its recent album. Also on the bill is Mush Records artist Head Like a Kite, which merges electronic beats with more traditional song structures — with great success. (Randall Roberts)
Also playing Monday:
GOLDEN ANIMALS, MY PET SADDLE, SLIPPING INTO DARKNESS at the Silverlake Lounge; JULIETTE COMMAGERE at the Echo; STATIC-X, BURN HALO, MY EVOLUTION, THE FLOOD at House of Blues.
TUESDAY, MAY 5
LOS CREEPERS, REZUREX, VIERNES 13, THE TENDERBOX, OTHERS AT THE ECHOPLEX
In honor of Cinco de Mayo, the Echoplex is hosting a big-ass psychobilly/ska/punk/rock throwdown featuring burlesque (by La Cholita), tattooing (courtesy Into Pain Tattoo), “fyne art” from David Lozeau and Bigtoe, and at least eight bands. Among the eight are a number of the city’s tightest tattooed love boys: Los Creepers bring bouncy punk energy and smart hooks (especially on their “Mistakes and Broken Hearts,” which rolls along with grace and confidence); Viernes 13 play remarkable ska music that draws from both Tex Mex and southwestern tejano traditions but keeps its feet firmly rooted in fourth-wave ska (or have we progressed to the fifth wave yet?); Resurex’s singer Daniel deLeon looks like a Dia de los Muertos doll the way he paints half his face like a white skull, and his band delivers spooky dead-inspired psychobilly that draws from the Cramps, Misfits and Elvis Presley (and they’ve got awesome mohawks). Overall it should be a good night to catch up with the L.A. psychobilly and ska scene. (Randall Roberts)
Also playing Tuesday:
IGLU & HARTLY at the Roxy; AVI BUFFALO, DEEP SEA DIVER, TENLONS FORT, 60 WATT KID, TIME OF WOLVES at the Echo; THE FORECAST, DEATH IN THE PARK, LIMBECK at the Knitting Factory; MIKE DOUGHTY at the Hotel Café.
WEDNESDAY, MAY 6
PARIS, DEAD PREZ, PLANET ASIA, OTHERS AT EL REY THEATRE
For nearly 20 years, gravel-tongued lyricist Paris has never minced words — calling his post-9/11 album Sonic Jihad and issuing it with cover art that depicts a plane kamikaze-ing the White House — developing a fervent fan base full of fisted fury. All without anything approaching a hit single. Dead Prez, on the other hand, while very much in the same pissed-off spirit as Paris, has one of the greatest and most celebrated songs in rap history. “Hip Hop,” from the duo’s debut album, Let’s Get Free, is a soundtrack for revolution that ranks right up there with “Fight the Power” and “Sound of da Police.” (Brandon Perkins)
Also playing Wednesday:
DANIELSON at Spaceland; WAR PAINT, EXITMUSIC, VOICEs VOICEs, ALEXANDRA HOPE at the Smell; RYAN BINGHAM at the Troubadour; SEAL, PETE CINCOTTI at the Nokia Theatre; MIKE DOUGHTY at Largo; GRAN RONDE at the Bordello.
THURSDAY, MAY 7
TOM BROSSEAU, HAUSCHKA
Tom Brosseau’s voice — a little shaky, sincere but never saccharine — is an affecting thing that pulls you in the way teacher whispers to capture children’s attention. Brosseau’s new Posthumous Success, out in June on Fatcat, is a deceptively plainspoken round of ruminations on the ups and downs of life. His folky-blues acoustic palette owes much to his early life on the wide plains of North Dakota. Like a good book or movie, the unadorned sentimentality of Brosseau’s songs creates a terrain of far denser proportions. Brosseau says he’s guided by the spirits of the great literary figures of the 20th century, but the soundtracks to silver-screen blockbusters move him just as much. Thus he’s always stood apart as a singer-songwriter, as consumed with mood-altering atmosphere as he is with your deeper lyrical content, a predisposition given blurry focus on Posthumous’ intriguing instrumental interludes of spidery banjo lace and hovering voice, Jew’s harp and silvery strings. It’s a fascinating carpet of sound, and subtly so — wholly in tune with Brosseau’s North American dreams. Arrive in time to experience Dusseldorf’s prepared-piano minimalist Hauschka, a.k.a. Volker Bertelmann. (John Payne)
Also playing Thursday:
VAN MORRISON at the Orpheum; HER SPACE HOLIDAY, CITY LIGHT at the Echo; FONSECA at El Rey Theatre; RUMSPRINGA, THE OUTLINE, THE NEWNO2 at the Echoplex; THE SILENT YEARS at Spaceland; RESTAVRANT at the Silverlake Lounge; OH NO NOT STEREO at the Viper Room.
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