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Rock Picks: Deborah Harry, Björk, Richard Hawley, Shonen Knife, Bang Sugar Bang

Deborah Harry at Henry Fonda Theater

“Blondie is a group,” the ad slogans announced a bit defensively after the pop-rock band emerged from the CBGB scene in the mid-’70s. The statement emphasized that the singer’s name wasn’t Blondie and that she was backed by a legitimate band of equals. But if Deborah Harry wasn’t Blondie, she was certainly one of its two main members — along with her partner Chris Stein — in creating such exuberant ’60s-style pop tunes as “In the Sun” and “Pretty Baby” and slightly edgier tracks like “Rip Her to Shreds.” Blondie were one of the first of the new-wave bands to experiment with disco (“Heart of Glass”) and rap (“Rapture”), so you can’t blame Harry for fooling around with sleek dance-music settings on her new CD, Necessary Evil, her first solo album since 1993’s Debravation. There are hip-hop traces in the seductive “Dirty & Deep,” but the production by Brooklyn duo Super Buddha is generically slick instead of soulful, with the rock tunes coming off as bombastic and anonymous, and much of the songwriting is clichéd. At age 62, the charismatic diva is still in fine voice, though, making this rare visit potentially interesting. (Falling James)

Also playing Friday:

ANDREW BIRD, HANDSOME FAMILY at Orpheum Theatre; DENGUE FEVER at the Getty Center; SPICE GIRLS at Staples Center; RAVENS MORELAND, GITANE DEMONE at Blue Cafe; BLOODY HOLLIES, THERMALS at the Echo; JON BRION, NELS CLINE at Largo; ACEYALONE at Malibu Inn; CHARLIE HUNTER TRIO at the Mint; THE MONOLATORS, NATURAL DISASTERS at Mr. T’s Bowl; JEREMY JAY, CHAPIN SISTERS at the Smell; RADARS TO THE SKY, HENRY CLAY PEOPLE at Spaceland; KRS-ONE at Rhythm Lounge.

Saturday, December 8

Joe Baiza’s Congress Of at Mr. T’s Bowl

It doesn’t take a rocket gynecologist to see that truly “outside” and “fringe” music in Los Angeles typically manifests in alleys both dark and bowling. Hence these veterans of the difficult music scene in Los Angeles continually fighting the good fight — age nor fashion notwithstanding — propelling a kind of spiny, hectic creativity that’ll be remembered in the future as fondly as a lover remembering the one who got away. Baiza — guitarist with Saccharine Trust and scores of other local SoCal jazz-punk combinations — drops the “Universal” from his Congress, which these days includes trumpeter Dan Clucas, drummer Wayne Griffin, bassist Pat “Brujeria” Hoed, flautist Tracy Wannomae and, possibly, the recovering Richie Hass on vibes. Yes, it doesn’t sound like jazz — and, no, it’s not the grunt-y dregs of punk to which you’ve become accustomed — but, just like granddad said, anything worth doing is difficult. Also: Fatso Jetson, Half-Assteroids, Not in the House. (David Cotner)

Also playing Saturday:

LINKIN PARK, ANGELS & AIRWAVES, SERJ TANKIAN at Gibson Amphitheatre, 6 p.m.; NAKED RAYGUN, SWINGIN’ UTTERS at Alex’s Bar; BALKAN BEAT BOX, DENGUE FEVER at the Echoplex; JON BRION, NELS CLINE at Largo; CHARLIE HUNTER TRIO at the Mint; ROCKY DAWUNI, LEON MOBLEY & DA LION at Temple Bar.

Sunday, December 9

Shonen Knife, The Juliet Dagger at the Knitting Factory

The kindly pop-punk ladies in Japan’s Shonen Knife just celebrated their 25th anniversary of playing together, but if you think their high-energy Ramones-style attack has softened over the years, think again: Last time I caught ’em, in 2005, they rocked harder and with more determination than plenty of Warped Tour acts half their age. The band has a new album out in Japan called Fun! Fun! Fun!; it hasn’t scored an American release yet, though, so tonight expect to hear more stuff from last year’s Genki Shock! (It’s unlikely you’ll notice the difference.) The Juliet Dagger, from Buffalo, are buddies with Robby Takac (one of the Goo Goo Dolls not on The Next Great American Band); he produced their new album, Hi-Ya, which should warm the heart of any Muffs fan. Fun! Fun! Fun! (Mikael Wood)

Medium Medium at the Echo

A few years back, England’s Medium Medium joined the ever-longer procession of returning post-punk veterans. No longer exhausting themselves with music-press-sanctioned blood sport for the crown of relevancy, M.M. and their peers are now dutifully greeted as inventors of manifold music forms whose patents expired long ago, allowing for new tinkers and hacks. Considered minor league because they burned out quickly, dropping one album, in a revolutionary period overrun with titans, Medium Medium managed a chart hit with the bitterly anthemic “Hungry, So Angry.” While not as militantly meta as the Pop Group or Gang of Four, they pursued a comparable mutant-funk minimalism. Alan Turton’s bass pops out instantly, melodic and percussive, nearly supplanting the drum kit. Guitarist Andy Ryder sheaths his instrument in a vitreous wash of FX that whisks metallic shards, white-hot sparks and ice crystals. There was plenty of Bowie-molded affect in the singing styles of the post-punk vanguard and beyond, but John Rees Lewis might bridge the master’s mad warble and Robert Smith’s whine-to-wail volatility. And, like the Thin White Duke, Rees Lewis can blurt a sax for splats of warped color. (Bernardo Rondeau)

Also playing Sunday:

MUSE, FEIST, MODEST MOUSE, SILVERSUN PICKUPS, SPOON at Gibson Amphitheatre, 6 p.m.; THE SOUNDS, THE BRAVERY at Avalon; HEAVY D at House of Blues; SEN DOG & B-REAL at Key Club; JAIL WEDDINGS at the Smell; PREFUSE 73 at the Troubadour.

Monday, December 10

Tool at Nokia Theatre

While apparently crafted from the same components (bass, drums, guitar, vocals) as rock bands everywhere, Tool’s miles-deep, multidimensional sonic empire has no rivals. Draped over Justin Chancellor’s impending-doom/insectoid bass lines and Danny Carey’s labyrinth percussion, Tool’s monastic air of majesty and mystery emanates from textured, peripheral-vision guitars and Maynard James Keenan’s signature otherworldly wail. Last year’s full-length, 10,000 Days, found these local gurus refreshing what was becoming an overembroidered indulgence, bringing in fresh engineering/mixing ears (Joe Barresi) and allowing more air between each instrument’s song-in-itself contributions. Don’t get me wrong — Tool remain relentlessly prog: The opening bass lick of the single “The Pot” apparently unlocks the lost time signature; and the album opener, “Vicarious,” meshes strings as only true, ’70s-style musos can. Equally satiating potheads and pit-hounds, Tool are at once a lava lamp of mesmeric calm and a volcano of shudderingly adept, polyrhythmic venom. (Paul Rogers)

Also playing Monday:

BLACK GHOSTS, MEZZANINE OWLS, TWEAK BIRD, TRAVEL BY SEA, VALLEY ARENA, LE SWITCH at El Rey Theatre; DEERHOOF at Avalon; DORIAN WOOD, MAMA SUKI, MASTERSLAVE at Crash Mansion; ANAVAN, LACOSTE, MONOLATORS at Pehrspace; SARAH NEGAHDARI, THAILAND, THE PRIX at Safari Sam’s; THE BINGES at Spaceland; GOON MOON, SUN TRASH at the Troubadour.

Thursday, December 13

Richard Hawley at the Troubadour

While there’s never been a shortage of moody, self-absorbed Brits harping endlessly on their star-crossed misfortune and illimitable psychic torment, Richard Hawley’s blend of lowly moaning with Roy Orbison dramatics and crafty Burt Bacharach–style orchestration elevates the standard scab-picking formula to an artful degree that can be, at moments, almost dizzying. He’s the spawn of a guitar-twanging Teddy boy, and his teenage launch as a rock-&-roll roustabout in the blue-collar English hellhole Sheffield soon made it clear that his was a singular voice crying in the pop wilderness. His intense fixation on the high-’60s school of melodic pop — Reprise-era Jimmy Bowen hep and Lee Hazlewood atmospherics — created a pathology that Hawley continues to exploit with no small aplomb. He’s bringing a deck of numbers from his current CD, Lady’s Bridge, so expect a potent demonstration of expressive musical thrills. (Jonny Whiteside)

Also playing Thursday:

R. KELLY at Honda Center; TEAM SLEEP at Henry Fonda Theater; WEST INDIAN GIRL, SARA MELSON at the Bordello; MOVING UNITS, SCISSORS FOR LEFTY at the Echoplex; THE NIGHTWATCHMAN at the Hotel Café; TWISTED SISTER at House of Blues; WATKINS FAMILY HOUR at Largo; MY LIFE WITH THE THRILL KILL KULT at Safari Sam’s; DEWEY COX & THE HARD WALKERS at Guitar Center Hollywood.