Rock Picks: Dethklok, Billy Bragg, Erykah Badu, Mr. Gnome
THURSDAY, JUNE 5
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Mr. Gnome: God save the queen.
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Simone White takes it like a man.
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Tony Joe White: Cutting deeper
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.
FRIDAY, JUNE 6
Dethklok at the Wiltern
The shades of the Wiltern will be darkened as Dethklok unleashes what is sure to be a night of unmatched brutality. Taking a fictional group on tour obviously poses a couple of obstacles; in this case, the problem is solved with killer musicians and a giant screen playing cartoons behind the band. The Gorillaz-esque live execution of Brendon Small and Gene Hogland’s studio effort is graphic, heavy, hysterical and packed with double-bass goodness. Dethklok’s debut CD, The Dethalbum, which was the highest-charting death-metal album of all time, is melodic enough to suck in anybody. One can envision the animated Valhalla-worthy violence already with song titles like “Go Forth and Die,” “Bloodrocuted,” “Kill You” and “Hatredy.” Furthermore, Small realized that cartoon doesn’t mean doodle. The backgrounds for Dethklok’s live shows, in addition to being violent and crass, are vivid and incredibly lush. Lush violence, mmm. (Diamond Bodine-Fischer)
Mr. Gnome at the Knitting Factory
Breathy femme vocals waft airily through ethereal soundscapes. Surges of jagged hard-rock guitars come out of nowhere, shake things up and disappear again. Boxy rhythms trip and hop, connecting disparate pieces of sound. Disembodied vocals float above churning snare rattles. Something weird and wonderful is going on in Cleveland, where the indefinable duo Mr. Gnome started in 2005. “Kill the king, save the queen,” Nicole Barille howls against the frantic scraping of her guitar while her partner Sam Meister punches out his drum kit on their new CD, Deliver This Creature (El Marko). Barille’s vocals range from wraithlike keening to softer, more fragile melodies, much like the way Mr. Gnome’s songs shift inventively from placid idylls into febrile storminess, often within the same verse. You can hear traces of PJ Harvey and Portishead in their music, but they reassemble their inspirations into fascinating new collages. Barille and Meister are certainly a charismatic pair. An intriguing undercurrent of sadomasochistic yearning runs throughout the album, from the chaotic title song (“Tie my hands/where are you taking me?”) to the gently climactic sensuality of the closing track, “Tied.” (Falling James)
Listing Ship at the Velaslavasay Panorama Theatre
The members of Listing Ship sometimes seem like the smart-kid honors students who used to play in the school orchestra. They’re studious and well read, and their music is carefully thought out and poetically evocative, if a bit restrained. That’s why it’s surprising to see them sink their arms deep into the blood, guts and animal parts of their latest CD, A Hull Full of Oil and Bone. Their folkie laments and laid-back ballads are still anointed with dreamy swoops and dips from Julie Carpenter’s violin, Heather Lockie’s viola and Laura Steenberge’s lowing bass, and salted further with Lyman Chaffee’s banjo plucking and Michael Whitmore’s mandolin. But Chaffee is unexpectedly randy (albeit with a stiff formality) when he sings in his bottom-end croon, “I’d like to sink my shaft in your soft Virginia hills.” It’s just as weirdly unsettling when Heather’s sister Shawn Lockie confides, “I’ll have to kill her/I’ll leave her bloody corpse for all the rest,” amid the welling strings of the icily pretty ballad “Depression.” Listing Ship reveal their playful side on the jaunty “Hollow Bones” and “Voice of the Future,” a sarcastic ode to modern conveniences. 1122 W. 24th St. (Falling James)
Joan of Arc at the Knitting Factory
For more than a decade, Tim Kinsella — a major player in the Chicago emo scene, dating back to his early-’90s days fronting the influential Cap’n Jazz — has been making records as Joan of Arc with a constantly rotating crew of collaborators. Like the band’s lineup, the essence of Joan of Arc’s sound is change: Kinsella has no interest in deciding between pretty acoustic laments, skronky free-noise jams and sleek post-rock soundscapes, so you never really know what you’re gonna get from a new Joan of Arc album. Boo Human, the outfit’s latest, includes all of those, as well as a weird art-funk jam in which Kinsella reflects on the “worst fucking thing that ever happened to me” and a chamber-folk freak-out dubiously titled “9/11 2.” Tonight Kinsella will be joined by four Chicago-scene regulars; predicting more than that is a fool’s errand. Also at Pehrspace, Sun. (Mikael Wood)
Also playing Friday:
LIVING LEGENDS at Henry Fonda Theater (see Music feature); MOUNTAIN GOATS, ANNUALS at Natural History Museum; BLACK REBEL MOTORCYCLE CLUB, WAYNE HANCOCK, THE BLASTERS, ROSIE FLORES, JAIL WEDDINGS at the Queen Mary; SIN 34 at Anarchy Library; J.F.A., UNION 13 at House of Blues; B-SIDE PLAYERS, DESOL, CAVA at the Key Club; JONATHAN RICHMAN at the Mint; THE MONOLATORS at Mr. T’s Bowl; ATOMIC SHERPAS at Taix; BLUE HAWAIIANS at Farmers Market, 7 p.m.
SATURDAY, JUNE 7
Invincible at Grand Star Jazz Club
Few MCs of either gender straddle the line between artist and activist the way 25-year-old rapper Invincible does. The Detroit-based lyricist fuses hip-hop with social change as a way of life, not as a gimmick, and it’s a big part of why watching her perform live is so warming to the soul. Within much of hip-hop’s inner circle, she gets kudos galore, and Talib Kweli calls her one of the best MCs he’s ever heard, male or female. Her wordplay really is that good, but, more importantly, there’s substance behind it. Raised in Israel/Palestine until the age of 7, she frequently works with youth groups, performs at juvenile detention centers, and raises awareness on everything from the prison industrial complex to the public school system (and cleverly points out the similarities that exist between the two). She’s in town celebrating the release of her debut album, ShapeShifters, and if you’re hungry for true-school hip-hop with world appeal, this show isn’t to be missed. With Finale, DJ Rhettmatic, DJ Revolution and the Soul.Scienz Residents. 943 N. Broadway, Chinatown. www.myspace.com/boomboxlosangeles. (Jonathan Cunningham)
Firewater at the Roxy
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Canadian bakin: dd/mm/yyyy
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Lipstick traces: The Detroit Cobras
In the wake of 9/11, a divorce from his wife, the apparently terminal gentrification of New York City and the re-election of on-the-job-trainee George Bush, Firewater main man Tod A couldn’t take it anymore. He hit the road, Jack, and not just any road. He put all his possessions in storage and embarked on a solo adventure through India and Pakistan. The former Cop Shoot Cop singer-bassist found himself making sounds that were worlds away from the music he’d made in the past. He recorded the tracks that would end up on Firewater’s new album, The Golden Hour (Bloodshot), with musicians he met on the road, including in Israel and Turkey. His previous recordings were already infused with a world-music expansiveness (after all, early members of Firewater have turned up in Gogol Bordello and Balkan Beat Box), but Tod A finds himself venturing into even stranger territory on The Golden Hour. Hazy horns exhale over the funky rhythms and shouted vocals of untraceably exotic tracks like “Some Kind of Kindness,” where spy-movie guitars and percussive rumbles slide into a sublime dub groove. (Falling James)
Also playing Saturday:
JUNIOR BROWN, DAVE ALVIN, MIKE STINSON, DEAD ROCK WEST, LONESOME SPURS at the Queen Mary; CECI BASTIDA at California Plaza, 3 p.m.; KANYE WEST, RIHANNA, N.E.R.D., LUPE FIASCO at Staples Center; FROG EYES, THAILAND at the Echo; THE UNTOUCHABLES, HORNY TOAD at the Good Hurt; THE DICKIES, AGENT ORANGE at Harvelle’s (Redondo Beach); JOSH FIX at the Hotel Café; JONATHAN RICHMAN at the Mint; LIZ PAPPADEMAS at Pehrspace; THE QUEERS, KEPI GHOULIE at Safari Sam’s; THE BELLRAYS at Saint Rocke; MYSTERY HANGUP, OLMECA at Self Help Graphics, 6 p.m.; SWORDS OF FATIMA at Old Towne Pub.
SUNDAY, JUNE 8
Simone White at the Hotel Café
Simone White’s debut long-player, I Am the Man (Honest Jon’s), came out in the States a couple of weeks ago. An enchanting but curious batch of darkish folk stories sung in a sort of melodiously wizened young voice, laced instrumentally with a languid melodic grace cued from ’50s-’60s dream pop, the album was recorded in Nashville with the producers and players involved in several Lambchop, Calexico, Will Oldham and Silver Jews projects. The album is loaded with surprises that blow away easy references, which owes somewhat to White’s interesting background — she was born in Hawaii and raised in a commune where she listened only to classical music and didn’t have a TV; later, she found her voice under the sway of Sonic Youth, Odetta, Cesaria Evora and Bonnie Prince Billy. For whatever reasons, White’s sardonic but sweet songs of politics (personal and otherwise), fated love, and times good and bad contain an oblique ecstasy that sounds purely musical, untarnished. (John Payne)
Also playing Sunday:
SWINGIN’ UTTERS, DEADBOLT, GHASTLY ONES at the Queen Mary; TIERNEY SUTTON, SHARON LAWRENCE, LILI HAYDN, DEBORAH GIBSON at Orpheum Theatre; THE QUEERS, KEPI GHOULIE at Alex’s Bar; I SEE HAWKS IN L.A., THE CHAPIN SISTERS at the Echo, 5 p.m.; BOSS MARTIANS, ROMAK & THE SPACE PIRATES at the Knitting Factory; JOAN OF ARC at Pehrspace; WAYNE HANCOCK at Safari Sam’s; NO AGE, MIKA MIKO, ABE VIGODA at the Smell, 11 a.m.
MONDAY, JUNE 9
DANITY KANE at the Wiltern; KEVIN SHIELDS at the Echo Curio; AFTERNOONS, WESTERN STATES MOTEL at Spaceland.
TUESDAY, JUNE 10
Tony Joe White at the Key Club
The venerable swamp-rock auteur Tony Joe White — whose songs have been covered by Elvis Presley, Tom Jones, Dusty Springfield, Waylon Jennings and Hank Williams Jr. — roars back into town not only with an impeccable four-decade musical pedigree but also a positively brain-pulping new album. A master of dirty-toned electric-guitar eloquence and off-kilter, ultra-maxi groove mongering, White has consistently explored forbidding musical territory, areas fraught with menace and passion, and he has an abiding insight when it comes to matters of human folly. On the just-released Deep Cuts, the singer-guitarist’s perspective is as resolutely insightful and deeply funk-informed as ever; produced with tastefully apocalyptic doses of severe techno-distortion by his son Jody, it’s a kaleidoscopic mixture of instrumental thrillers and some startling remakes (“Soul Francisco” becomes an ominous, symphonic fuzz and wah-wah workout thrilling in its audacity and execution), all perfectly framing White’s richly muddy, near-subsonic vocals and lowdown, incendiary guitar style. White remains a fabulously individualistic artist, and one who rocks with a vengeful intensity that’s nothing short of wondrous. (Jonny Whiteside)
Billy Bragg at El Rey Theatre
Whenever Billy Bragg pops up in town, it’s like one of those supposedly long-extinct prehistoric fish being dragged from the depths by some unsuspecting fisherman. See, Bragg shouldn’t exist anymore either: He’s a working class, folk-punk protest singer, replete with social conscience, message-before-money ethics, and worthy cause associations (championing parliamentary reform in his native Britain, and he’s a former face of the left-wing musicians’ collective Red Wedge, alongside Paul Weller). He’s been called a “one-man Clash” — a one-man New Model Army might be more like it. Yet here comes the craggy featured, sometime Wilco collaborator again, headlining another theater with his honestly accented busker’s timbre and gently rollicking, proudly organic material — not just political stuff, but romantic and nostalgic expressions too — that still adds a little aggro to trad-folk, Dylanesque and Motown ingredients. Like that crusty old fish, it’s kinda heartening that Bragg’s still out there somewhere — and with minimal mutations. (Paul Rogers)
Also playing Tuesday:
PRISCILLA AHN at the Hotel Café; AIMEE MANN at Largo at the Coronet; REBIRTH BRASS BAND at the Mint; JEREMY ENIGK, DAMIEN JURADO, HAPPY STARS at Spaceland; ROB DICKINSON at the Viper Room.
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 11
dd/mm/yyyy at the Roxy
The high-art-plus-heaviosity indie-rock band dd/mm/yyyy (and, yeah, you do say it “day month year”) are as emphatically spazzy and earnest as after-school skate kids rolling on Pizza Pockets and big ideas, but the Toronto band’s high-strung and cluttered art-rock bangers are ordered enough to get inside of. Crossing the sweet dampness of Do Make Say Think and the lurid, unhinged freedom of Battles with the friends-forever, post-ironic sensibility of Canadian indie rock at large, dd/mm/yyyy are the crossover darlings of their city’s bro-centric noise community, as well as the shifting indie scene. Their new EP, 777, is a quickie follow-up to last year’s album Are They Masks? and is an antecedent to whatever effed-up, experimental sound is contained on their next full-length, which is expected to spin heads in the fall. (Kate Carraway)
Singer at the Smell
Just like Battles simplify the carpal-tunnel intricacy of brainiac headbangers Don Caballero, whose Ian Williams plays guitar for both, and deliver its somewhat pop reduction, now Singer takes the shambling, dizzy algebra of U.S. Maple and somehow turns it into abstract expressionist hard rock. Guitarist Todd Rittman and drummer Adam Vida were one-half of U.S. Maple, though the latter didn’t join until that band’s “country” swan song Purple on Time. In Singer, they’re joined by multi-instrumentalist Ben Vida and drone magi Robert A.A. Lowe, both of whom release solo explorations in textured electricity through Kranky Records (Vida as Bird Show, Lowe as Lichens). Altogether, these Chicago all-stars discombobulate toker tropes on Singer’s debut, Unhistories. Noodles get tangled and riffs crumbled up. Guitars chime mystery chords or drip, dash and dot like scrambled Morse code. Instead of rhythm, drums splash tones: metallic cymbal splotches and deep ridges of tuned plastic. Bring towels and brooms — these guys are messy. (Bernardo Rondeau)
Also playing Wednesday:
SPAIN, ANGELA CORREIA at the Echo; WAILING SOULS at the Echoplex; MALACATES TREBOL SHOP, PALENKE SOUL TRIBE at the Knitting Factory; REBIRTH BRASS BAND at the Mint; OSLO at Spaceland; ELENI MANDELL at Tangier.
THURSDAY, JUNE 12 The Detroit Cobras at the Troubadour
More than anything, the Detroit Cobras’ Rachel Nagy and Mary Ramirez are passionate fans of crucial R&B, soul, pop and garage music, and over the course of four albums they’ve covered great songwriters like Jackie DeShannon, Irma Thomas, the Staple Singers, Willie Dixon, Solomon Burke and the Shangri-Las. Unlike a zillion other cover bands in the world, the Detroit Cobras get away with such musical poaching because Nagy is an unrivaled vocal powerhouse whose interpretations are sometimes even more memorable than her classic inspirations. This is a rather mighty achievement when you consider that she’s holding her own with such giants as Otis Redding and Koko Taylor, but Nagy’s voice is simultaneously serene and fiery, lit up with a saucily boozy and wise-cracking, rude confidence that makes a soul-revising latecomer like Amy Winehouse seem like a shrinking violet. Ramirez prevents the group from coming off as some slickly reverential museum piece by riffing with dirty, punky garage chords, a major reason that the Detroit Cobras are the ultimate rock & soul party band. (Falling James)
The Roots, Erykah Badu at the Greek Theatre
The next time someone tells you that all hip-hop is the same, with narcissistic MCs rapping about their jewelry to pre-programmed backing tracks, make sure to sling the new Roots CD, Rising Down, in their direction. The Philly band — and they are a real band — would be remarkable if only because they use live instrumentation that moves and breathes with all the dynamics of any tight rock or funk outfit. Ahmir “?uestlove” Thompson hammers down the beat with a ferocious attentiveness, buttressed by Owen Biddle’s nimbly slinky yet sludgy-thick bass. But what really makes the Roots stand out is that Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter and a stellar cast of guests (Mos Def, DJ Jazzy Jeff, Saigon, Common, Chrisette Michelle and Talib Kweli) have something relevant to say. Themes range from the unjust justice system (“Criminal”), modern paranoia (the title track), child soldiers (“Singing Man”) and addictions, both chemical and cultural (“I Will Not Apologize”). The co-billed Erykah Badu adds to the excitement with her intelligently dreamy soul, which is grounded with hip-hop grooves and elevated with a farsighted social perspective that gives equal weight to personal politics. (Falling James)
Also playing Thursday:
JAMES INTVELD at the Autry Museum; GO BETTY GO, THE FRESAS at the Bordello; ?UESTLOVE at Crash Mansion; NELLIE McKAY at Largo at the Coronet; REBIRTH BRASS BAND at the Mint; THE SUPERBEES at Safari Sam’s; THE BANGKOK FIVE at the Viper Room; STEVE PRIEST & THE SWEET at the Whisky.
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