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Rock Picks: Erykah Badu, Peaches, The Church, Camera Obscura

FRIDAY, JUNE 5

Erykah Badu at Club Nokia
Since Erykah Badu’s nu-soul juggernaut Baduizm hit in ’97, the now-37-year-old has established herself as a monument in the dry desert of R&B’s elite talent in recent years — crafting herself as an instantly recognizable, complex and multidimensional force. It’s a role she’s finally comfortable with, almost flaunting it on two new concept albums, New AmErykah Pt. 1 & 2, and on other projects she has in the wings — like a lifestyle magazine, The Freaq, and a line of skin-care products and clothing. Seems Badu is coolly and contentiously busting through her own creative ceiling and zooming toward the stratosphere. Whether it’s because of her unrelenting confidence or the gutsy heads at Motown who’ll still put out a concept album by a black female artist whose work sometimes veers into the uncomfortable and avant-garde, Badu’s newest is heavy on the social commentary and personal honesty. As is to be expected with Badu, New AmErykah is consistently surprising: rambling, scenic layers of strange, slippery, stony riffs are here complementing the steady verses of her candid expressionism. (Wendy Gilmartin)

 

The Field at Avalon
Lacking lyrics to identify voice, lacking a cocksure lead singer to become a symbol/logo, electronic musicians like Swedish producer Alex Willner, who records under the moniker the Field (among others), languish — and thrive — in the insular world of the techno community while remaining essentially unknown outside it. Which is a shame: Because woven through the steady four-on-the-floor thump of the Field’s collected oeuvre are some striking melodies, sophisticated compositional ideas and gorgeous sounds that many nonheadz can’t hear due to the thump. Take the eight-minute freak-out known as “The More That I Do,” from the Field’s new album, Yesterday & Today. Aesthetically built on ideas set forth in the Cologne, Germany, school of techno minimalism, the track is so dense with activity it’s hard to hear the whole due to the chaos of the parts; it moves through your head like a meteor shower, or, depending on your mind-state, that 6 a.m. moment after a long night’s dance when you’re lying in your bed trying to figure out what just happened during those four hours on the dance floor. Your brain is racing with a hundred different micro-thoughts. They mix with the melatonin pouring into your tired-ass head to create this foggy, surrealistic-image stew. Your head space winds up in that freaky place, where you don’t know which sounds are real and which are fake; if the moaning that you hear is your roommate or that one Basement Jaxx song, or the siren is the mental echo of the set-capping Villalobos breakdown or an emergency on the highway. The track runs, sprints, swirls until the very end, when, seemingly out of nowhere, arrive Caribbean-sounding steel drums to fuck the whole thing up even further. What? Where did that come from? Was it real? (With the Juan Maclean.) (Randall Roberts)

 

Ink-n-Iron at the Queen Mary
This three-day celebration of the fine art of stitching and sinking pulsating gobs of ink into blank flesh features more surprises than your average tattoo festival. Sure, there’ll be the usual hordes of retro rockabilly, roots and garage-rock bands, as well as such fiery punks as Long Beach hellions Civet and hard rockers the Bronx. But you also get the smarmy charms of Palm Desert kingpins the Eagles of Death Metal, who, despite their name, are much more than just a joke band; “WannaBe in L.A.” and “I Want You So Hard (Boys Bad News)” are inescapably catchy tunes that are too smart and coolly grooving to be lumped in with typical heavy metal. Genitorturers’ theatrical, vaguely S&M-themed shock-metal isn’t nearly as witty, but what the group lacks in subtlety, it makes up for in visceral, sensually grinding impact. But the real shock comes from an extremely rare local appearance by mid-’60s garage-rock legends the Sonics. While most of the British Invasion groups were still dabbling in timidly formal covers of American blues and R&B songs, the Tacoma band were tearing up such standards and their own certifiable classics (“Strychnine,” “The Witch,” “Psycho”) with massive amounts of fuzz and leering attitude. They’re quite possibly the greatest garage band ever, and they set the template for practically every punk band that followed them a decade later. Also Sat.-Sun. (Falling James)

 

Also playing Friday:

A PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION at the Greek Theatre; LITTLE JOY at the Troubadour; JOE COCKER, THE EDGAR WINTER BAND at Nokia Theatre; KING’S X, CONSPIRACY OF THOUGHT, YEAR OF THE DRAGON, CIRCUS ROYALE, A RACE CALLED MAN at the Key Club; NEW BOYZ, ROSCOE UMALI, SMALL CHANGE & THE BANGZ at the Knitting Factory; TIM EASTON, JOHN EDDIE, TOM FREUND, ERIK JANSON at the Mint; THE FUXEDOS, KILLSONIC, QUAZAR & THE BAMBOOZLED, MOXY PHINX at Spaceland; RESTAURANT, TELEGRAPH CANYON, SLANG CHICKENS, LAST OF THE BLACKSMITHS at Pehrspace; TEMPLE OF DAGON, MANDOLA, HOLOKAUST, SUBSISTENCE, LIFE IN EXILE, GALLERY at Relax Bar.

 

SATURDAY, JUNE 6

Peaches at the Henry Fonda Theater
The world has changed in the three years since Peaches challenged prevailing sociopolitical and sexual mores with Impeach My Bush, but the Canadian electroclash chanteuse hasn’t exactly mellowed out on her latest CD, I Feel Cream (XL), co-produced by Simian Mobile Disco, with additional mixes by Soulwax, Digitalism and Shapemod. “Some call me trash/Some call me nasty, call me crass/but you can’t match me,” she announces on the opening track, “Serpentine (I Don’t Give a ... , Pt. 2).” With Peaches, the political is always personal — and overtly sexual. Jaggedly sinister synth lines bump up against slogans like “Never go to bed without a piece of raw meat” on “Trick or Trick,” as airy harmonies ride over funky electro-disco beats. She teases that she’s “comin’ up to see you like I was Mae West” on “Mommy Complex,” which works as sort of a thematic complement to her 2003 CD, Fatherfucker. Throughout the album, the rhythms are rude, bracing and inexorably compelling — just like the former Merrill Nisker herself. Also Sun. (Falling James)

 

L.A. Acoustic Music Festival at Santa Monica Pier
For most of human history, music was an activity performed by many members of a community, not just designated “stars” represented by commercial interests. That changed with the advent of recordings, when music became a spectator sport. You could argue that the pervasive dumbing down of America was encouraged by the dismantling of arts and music programs in schools; we know that intelligence increases when one learns how to play a musical instrument (save the drummer jokes, please). The California Acoustic Music Project (CAMP) pays musicians for in-school residencies, as well as for the instruments for kids to play. To benefit this program, CAMP is sponsoring a first-annual festival featuring talented members of the North American “acoustic music” community. Saturday’s lineup includes folk icons the Kingston Trio, Canadian songwriter Bruce Cockburn, Cape Breton fiddler Natalie MacMaster and Richard Thompson, the legendary singer/songwriter/guitarist who blends Celtic traditions and kick-ass rock & roll. Sunday’s bill includes two of the past half-century’s hottest pickers, David Lindley and David Bromberg, and is headlined by the extraordinary Texas songstress Nanci Griffith, whose new album, The Loving Kind, offers further proof that one can merge beauty and subversion. (Michael Simmons)

 

The Chelsea Girls at the Roxy
Tweaking the cover-band concept from campy to vampy, the superskilled, supersexy musicians who comprise the Chelsea Girls should never be on the receiving end of condescending jabs like the ol’ “They’re good . for girls.” The fact that drummer Sam Maloney (Hole, Mötley Crüe, Peaches), bassist Corey Parks (Nashville Pussy, Die Hunns), guitarist Allison Robertson (the Donnas) and singer Tuesdae are foxy femmes is definitely part of their appeal onstage, but as they’ve proven with previous bands, each is an imposing and instrumentally relentless individual. Together, their chemistry is pure (cherry) bombast. Doing monster rock anthems like Heart’s “Barracuda” and Pat Benatar’s “Heartbreaker,” and inviting famous pals onstage to jam (so far they’ve had Lemmy, Stephen Pearcy, Macy Gray, to name a few) might not be a new idea, but CG have a wild camaraderie the all-star dude bands lack. More important, their covers are tighter than Pat Benatar’s ’80s-era butt. (With the Dreaming and Darling Stilettos.) (Lina Lecaro)

 

Also playing Saturday:

MATTHEW DEAR at Avalon; HOLY FUCK, CROCODILES at the Troubadour; DONOVAN LEITCH, LANNY CORDOLA at Largo at the Coronet; ZIGGY MARLEY FAMILY at Club Nokia (kids’ show, 10 a.m.); GAVIN ROSSDALE, NICO VEGA at El Rey Theatre; THE STYLISTICS, THE DRAMATICS, THE CHI LITES, BLOODSTONE, HEATWAVE, THE MANHATTANS, BLUE MAGIC, THE MAIN INGREDIENT at the Greek Theatre; CHITA RIVERA at Walt Disney Concert Hall; RALPH’S WORLD, LISA LOEB at the Echoplex (kids’ show, 10:30 a.m.); JANIVA MAGNESS at McCabe’s.

 

SUNDAY, JUNE 7

Fortress of Amplitude, Mincemeat or Tenspeed, Nero’s Day at Disneyland at the Smell
Skeleton mittens, plastic, pink toy rattles, a billowy Grim Reaper robe and eardrum-peeling shreds of metal pedal-fed guitar madness can only mean one thing: You’ve entered the lair of the Fortress of Amplitude. Extreme Animals collaborator and post-medieval, doom-drone stagecrafteur David Wightman rendered a crowd of 100 Silent Movie Theatregoers stone-faced and, fittingly, silent in February at Extreme Animals’ “Cinefamily” night there, after a set of mock Druidic theater, including his usual sonic barrage of nimble finger playing and one-note noodling (yes, it’s possible). Mincemeat or Tenspeed, on the other hand, do their noise in a panicky yet minimal way — layering tinny, Dan Deacon–like fuzz over more scrambled samples, frantically trying to keep up with their chug-a-chug drone. Nero’s Day at Disneyland channels Nina Hagen and Diamanda Galas, offering up atonal, operatic contortions set to booming beats and swirling symphonic samples. (Wendy Gilmartin)

 

Also playing Sunday:

PEACHES, DRUMS OF DEATH, DJ TRAVIS KELLER, EVIL BEAVER at the Henry Fonda Theater.

 

MONDAY, JUNE 8

Metric at the Wiltern
To make their new album, Metric had to split up into separate parts to recharge their creative batteries after several years of hard touring to promote their breakthrough 2005 CD, Live It Out. That album, of course, featured such memorable tracks as the sinuously beguiling pop song “Poster of a Girl” and the exhilarating “Monster Hospital,” whose inverted Bobby Fuller lyrics (“I fought the war/but the war won”) made it seem like a passionate anthem against the war in Iraq. Lead singer Emily Haines stepped away from such in-your-face intensity to release a couple of solo CDs of somber, mortality-themed piano ballads (2006’s Knives Don’t Have Your Back and the 2007 EP What Is Free to a Good Home?) under the name the Soft Skeleton, while bassist Joshua Winstead and drummer Joules Scott-Key worked with their side project, Bang Lime. Eventually, the individual band members — including guitarist Jimmy Who, who was off building his own recording studio in Toronto — came together again as Metric for the new album, Fantasies, which ranges from the shimmering bubblegum pop of “Sick Muse” and the angular twists of “Satellite Mind” to the electro-pop sweetness of “Twilight Galaxy.” Biggest and baddest of all is the massive album-closer, “Stadium Love,” which Haines says is set in “a gladiator-style enormo-dome where” monster trucks, wild animals and even spectators fight to the death in a bloody and appropriately apocalyptic finale. (Falling James)

 

Also playing Monday:

OLIVER FUTURE, OTHER LIVES, BAND OF SKULLS at the Echo; CASTLEDOOR, HOPEWELL at Spaceland.

 

TUESDAY, JUNE 9

Patrick Wolf, Living Things, Jaguar Love, Plastiscines
at the Roxy

Brought to you by the folks at New York’s downtown style mag Nylon, this hipster-bait quadruple bill brings together four acts who don’t have much to do with one another but who are all fairly awesome in their own ways. English art-pop eccentric Patrick Wolf has a new one out this summer called The Bachelor, on which he flexes his appealing drama-queen croon over constantly undulating electro-folk arrangements; for extra cool points, it features a guest appearance by English art-film eccentric Tilda Swinton. Living Things are a band of pissed-off garage-rock bros from St. Louis, who rarely let their anticapitalist rhetoric get in the way of a fist-pumping chorus. Portland’s synth-punk Jaguar Love used to feature two dudes from Blood Brothers and one dude from Pretty Girls Make Graves, but earlier this year the Pretty Girl left. (Don’t they always?) Last but not least, Plastiscines, from France, are like the Donnas with French accents. (Mikael Wood)

 

Also playing Tuesday:

THE LEMONHEADS at Spaceland; SECRET CHIEF 3, KAYO DOT at El Rey Theatre; GASLAMP KILLER, BIG MOVES, POLLYN at the Echo; PRICE, BUSHWALLA, RAINING JANE, MACEK, LINDSEY RAY at the Hotel Café; WHITE WIZZARD, CAREFUL NOW at the Scene; THE TRAGICALLY HIP at the Troubadour.

 

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 10

Crystal Antlers,  Constantines, I Was a King at The Echo
Former chimney sweeps Crystal Antlers are a wickedly undefinable bunch whose recent long-player, Tentacles, (Touch and Go) has earned major huzzas for its punky prog noize of highly ambitious sprawl. All well and good, yet the buzzing swarms of organ/guitar interscratch and tricky drum polybeats tend to make the band’s soaring squawk — refracting Harmonia via the Velvets and the entire Nuggets catalog — cloud over pealing melodies embedded in the songwriting, a beautiful lyricism that will lift them far above the rutting psych-rock herds below. Constantines’ latest, Kensington Heights, and its companion-piece EP, Too Slow for Love (both Arts & Crafts), find the Canadian band pummeling their reliably passionate, post-punk indie-rock with a seasoned confidence and an intriguing, compressed rage. Kensington was named Rock Album of the Year for 2008 by the Associated Press. Fuzz-toned Norwegian power-pop band I Was a King open in support of their eponymous debut (The Control Group), a ’60s/’90s psych-drenched beauty that features Sufjan Stevens, Danielson, Ladybug Transistor and Serena Maneesh. (John Payne)

 

Also playing Wednesday:

RAINBOW ARABIA, SPIRIT VINE, VOICES VOICES at Spaceland; PATRICK PARK, BUTTERFLY BOUCHER at the Hotel Café; HONEYHONEY, NICOLE ATKINS at Largo at the Coronet; CHASING KINGS, MR. GNOME at the Silverlake Lounge; THE TRAGICALLY HIP at the Troubadour.

 

THURSDAY, JUNE 11

Camera Obscura at the Henry Fonda Theater
There are certain songs that make such an impact on your psyche that specific times/dates/weather conditions can be recollected when thinking about that first moment when the melody, voice, sound entered your world. It’s one of the wonders of music appreciation — and neurology — that a consciousness can be permanently altered through a series of notes to create a song like, say, “Dory Previn,” by the Scottish band Camera Obscura. The slow, languid ballad is about escape, about disappearing under the covers, about being sick of whatever and vanishing inside a song, and a singer — someone like ’50s songstress Dory Previn. It’s a simple tune about a feeling. What’s beautiful about it is the way Obscura vocalist Tracyanne Campbell conveys the idea while creating the circumstances for a similar escape — into a song called “Dory Previn.” It was raining. I was driving. “Dory Previn” came on the radio. It had the echo and feel of an old Phil Spector hit, “Be My Baby” or “He Hit Me (And It Felt Like a Kiss)”: Beauty wrapped inside of desperation enveloped by sonic comfort. “How I adore you, Dory Previn,” sings Campbell, “turned you up to eleven.” The band’s new album, on the great 4AD label, is called My Maudlin Career, features more snapshot narratives and smart, girl group–classicist pop, and manages to collect a dozen gorgeous such moments. (Randall Roberts)

 

Au Revoir Simone at El Rey Theatre
The Brooklyn trio Au Revoir Simone purvey gentle indie-pop songs with soothing melodies that are delivered by little more than keyboards and a drum machine. On their new CD, Still Night, Still Light (Our Secret Record Company), Erika Forster, Annie Hart and Heather D’Angelo coo soft confessions as they pump out laid-back, slowly swirling reveries. Their diarylike lyrics range from such simple, self help–style observations as “Take Me as I Am” and “Only You Can Make You Happy” to more poetically evocative idylls like “Organized Scenery.” Candy-cane chimes anoint “Trace a Line” with an air of delicate, ethereal beauty, as scraps of romantic lyrics cast a cumulatively engrossing spell: “Trace a line down my arm/You’ll be the end of me ... Getting drunk in taxicabs and writing names on backs of hands and figuring how to get to you ... Be careful now, we’re camping in the corner of the room.” Au Revoir Simone have a gift for conjuring such intimate moments and evoking indescribably subtle feelings from thin air, as they map out the hidden corners of their hearts. (Falling James)

 

The Church, Adam Franklin at the Roxy
“Big in Australia” isn’t always the best barometer of quality, but few bands in the history of post-punk have remained so steadfastly present on one continent while being completely invisible on another. We’re talking about the Church, a band that arrived during the peak of the echo-laden Paisley Underground movement of the early 1980s with a gorgeous, plaintive pop song called “The Unguarded Moment.” It remains a post-punk classic of the time, with members Marty Willson-Piper, Steve Kilbey and Peter Koppes creating a memorably lackadaisical room that they fill with drenched Rickenbacker guitars and humming bass. The band then vanished in America while continuing to do well in their homeland. In 1988, they landed in Los Angeles to record Starfish, which became an unlikely hit (even though the band reportedly despised L.A.). If you’ve heard a Church song and it’s not “The Unguarded Moment,” it was “Under the Milky Way,” which was featured in the film Donnie Darko. Though they haven’t had much stateside success since then (but they do have an avid fan base), they’ve been incredibly productive in Australia, where they now have at least 29 albums and EPs to their name (!). Holy cow. The new one’s called Untitled #23. (Randall Roberts)

 

Also playing Thursday:

BALKAN BEAT BOX at the Key Club; MANDY MOORE at the Grammy Museum; PETER MURPHY at the Canyon; HANDSOME FURS, THE CINNAMON BAND, THE MONOLATORS at the Echoplex; MAREN PARUSEL at Genghis Cohen; THE TRAGICALLY HIP at the Troubadour.