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Rock Picks: Finland Station, M.I.A., Feist, Suzanne Vega

Friday, November 9

Jesu, Oxbow, These Arms Are Snakes at the Echoplex

Justin Broadrick is Jesu, a one-man nuclear bomb who, as a founder member of Napalm Death, Godflesh and Techno Animal, has done quite a lot to pump new death into the fetid corpse of the black metal/doom/electronic/techno feel-bad genre; scratch that, he almost single-handedly invented it. His new one, though, called Lifeline (Hydrahead), with ex-Swans singer Jarbo helping out, finds him further pursuing something beyond all that, the dense heat of his catastrophically widescreen epics aiming toward some kind of catharsis/ecstasy — the guitars are actually pretty, even, though you still gotta dig through 1,000 layers of mucky sonic marshland to hear that... beautiful agony. Then, from the impacted bowels of the Bay Area, comes the metallically Beefheartian ogre (very scary) known as Oxbow, led by big, smart-mouthed, poetic, charismatic Eugene Robinson. Seattle’s caustic post-post-post-hardcore hotheads These Arms Are Snakes will make you suffer too, which is what you want, really. So be there — or be damned to the lot of ya. (John Payne)

Finland Station at Suzy’s Bar & Grill

Finland Station’s recent debut CD, Eastern Bloc Party, is worth getting if only for the hilarious anthem “Worst President Ever,” in which the squatter currently inhabiting the White House is unfavorably compared to every previous president. “More mediocre than Millard Fillmore!/Less insightful than Franklin Pierce!” singer Alex Duffy rants as bassist Scott Brown and guitarist Ed Che punctuate each accusation with the catchy shout-along title. “Much more forgettable than Martin Van Buren!... More of a drunk than Ulysses S. Grant! Stole an election like Rutherford B. Hayes!... Closer to starting World War III than Harry Truman!... More corrupt than Richard Nixon!... More of a wimp than his dad!” These funny Finns are actually from Los Angeles, and they crank out a series of enjoyably rude, old-school punk rock rants like “Use War!” and “Let’s Go Chill (With Kim Jong Il),” which echo Jello Biafra’s political satires, and “American Fatso,” which draws on the vicious silliness of the Angry Samoans. “L.A.’s only post-9/11 terror rock band” also show their range on such hard-rock bursts as “Here Today Gone Away.” 1141 Aviation Blvd., Hermosa Beach. (Falling James)

ZZ Top at the Greek Theatre

ZZ Top have an eerie grasp on some of pop music’s most primal elements — hardcore old-time blues mysticism and the overstimulated, raw kick of psychedelicized heavy rock — and while that formula could spell disaster in more immoderate hands, this audacious Lone Star threesome not only parlayed it into international superstardom, they also managed, by dropping a series of craftily produced video bombs into a vapid cathode-ray vacuum, to completely turn the tables on ’80s-era MTV (an arena where gnarly, old hairy dudes were scarcely acceptable). But the most amazing part of the Top saga is their sheer sonic consistency — that irresistible buzz-throb groove has changed but little since they first formed in the late ’60s, and 40 years on it just seems to sound better than ever. (Jonny Whiteside)

{mosimage}M.I.A. at the Wiltern

Are we sick of her yet? The messenger pigeons squawking news of Maya Arulpragasam — a.k.a. M.I.A., a pint-sized electro-grime powerball with a prodigious aptitude for crafting intoxicating, wall-slamming songs — are circling the pavement, looking for relief. Too bad for the dirty little fuckers: Kala, the response to the veritable world-music booty call of 2005’s Arular, is equally banging. An unsettling mix of raga, rap and straight-up tuneless pounding, the new record is exhilarating and obeys no rules. Live, she’s even more intense, from the chewy English/Sri Lankan vocals to the spastic visual effects of the coolest girl you’ll never know to the nervy thematic violence, gun-oriented and otherwise (tentative, unspoken sexual elements are felt periodically, like in the wails of “$20” and the histrionic come-ons of “Jimmy,” and they play like subliminal but deeply felt boner-makers). This is drugs, come alive. “Is she for real?” may be the only remaining question. (Kate Carraway)

Also playing Friday:

JOANNA NEWSOM at Disney Hall (see Music feature); LOUDON WAINWRIGHT III, JOE HENRY at El Rey Theatre; OF MONTREAL at Avalon; UGLY DUCKLING at Blue Cafe; FEE WAYBILL, DEBORAH GIBSON, ANIMOTION at Key Club; B-SIDE PLAYERS, LOS PINGUOS, SALVADOR SANTANA BAND, CIPES & THE PEOPLE at the Roxy; KEVIN K, THE BLESSINGS at the Scene; BABYLAND at the Smell.

Saturday, November 10

{mosimage}Heavy Trash, The Ponys at the Echo

Going back to his days with the arty NYC noisemakers Pussy Galore, Jon Spencer has tried to reinvent the blues as a vital, ever-changing musical force instead of a reverently reproduced museum relic. He usually condenses the form into a cramped, claustrophobic, lo-fi, distorted and highly affected mutation that’s sometimes off-putting and jivey, but Heavy Trash — his collaboration with Speedball Baby’s Matt Verta-Ray — is one of his most non-ironically rocking, least minstrelsy projects yet. Much of the straight-ahead drive on their new CD, Going Way Out With Heavy Trash (Yep Roc), comes courtesy of guest stars the Sadies, who pump up the rootsy, rockabilly-fueled tracks with raw authenticity. The thrills continue downstairs in the adjoining Echoplex on a separate bill headlined by Chicago’s fantastic Ponys, who take the rubber-voiced rock revisionisms of the Voidoids and blow them up into expansively psychedelic territory on their latest CD, Turn the Lights Out (Matador). Propulsive staccato riffs slice into echoey vocals on “Everyday Weapon” and the equally spacy stop-&-starts of “Double Vision,” subsiding only for occasional reverb-drenched, Jesus & Mary Chain–style ballads like “Kingdom of Hearts.” (Falling James)

Very Be Careful at the Regent Theatre

Gentrification marches inexorably east as veteran L.A. vallenato fusion band Very Be Careful celebrate a decade of holy Latin joy with “a loft party with a touch of class” in the gutted guts of the Regent Theatre, the last remaining theater on Main Street. Vallenato is a style infused with Caribbean influences, heavy on the accordion, upright bass, percussion and the effervescence of feverish cowbell. Tonight’s action celebrates 10 years as a band with the same lineup, honoring the same vallenato/cumbia music from the ’40s through the ’60s that their notorious hours-long sets have employed to inspire dancing that is both rump-shaking and baby-making. So transfixing are their make-out rhythms that, like sudden color to the blind, when you leave, it’ll be the smoothest your engine ever ran. Also: DJs, the live tango stylings of SheSayDo and the “puppets gone wild” promise of the Cinnamon Roll Gang. 448 S. Main St. (David Cotner)

Also playing Saturday:

STARS, LLOYD COLE at the Orpheum Theatre; SWELL SEASON, MARTHA WAINWRIGHT at the Wiltern; MITCH RYDER, RICK DERRINGER, JOEY MOLLAND at Cerritos Center; MANIC HISPANIC, HITCHHIKERS at Alex’s Bar; QUINCY COLEMAN, MEIKO, COBY BROWN, BRANDI SHEARER at Hotel Café; TIERRA, MALO, THEE MIDNITERS at House of Blues; DAVID LINDLEY at McCabe’s; ROCK & ROLL ADVENTURE KIDS, BARBARY COASTERS, JINXES at Mr. T’s Bowl; REBEL REBEL at Relax Bar; THE JONESES, LOVE ME NOTS at Safari Sam’s; ANAVAN at the Smell; KAZ MURPHY, ANNY CELSI at O’Brien’s Pub.

Sunday, November 11

Coheed & Cambria, Clutch, Fall of Troy at the Wiltern

With No World for Tomorrow, Coheed & Cambria complete the final installment of a four-album saga where the eponymous characters engage in an epic battle to save civilization. If heady concepts like this make you cringe, know that Coheed’s prog ambitions are in the service of slick, melodic songs. Oddly, Foo Fighter Taylor Hawkins was on skins for the recording, but on the throne tonight is full-fledged member Chris Pennie (ex–Dillinger Escape Plan), a metronomic taskmaster pushing an already technical-minded group to step up its game even more. For you no-nonsense rockers, Clutch’s molten riffs might say stoner metal but they bleed the blues. Fierce as these outfits are, Fall of Troy — a Mukilteo, Washington, trio that manages moments of fleeting beauty and flights of falsetto in its mathcore insanity — might upstage both. (Andrew Lentz)

Also playing Sunday:

LOS PLUGZ, THE EYES, THE DEADBEATS, THE BILLYBONES, THE CONTROLLERS, THE FLYBOYS at the Echoplex, 3 p.m. (see feature story); DAVID LINDLEY at McCabe’s; JAMES WILSEY at Molly Malone’s; CRYSTELLES, CHUPA COBRA, F-BOY/F-GIRL at Mr. T’s Bowl; MOONRATS, PITY PARTY, DISTORTION FELIX, L.A. GENTLEMEN CALLERS at the Scene; WALKMEN at the Troubadour; PINKER TONES at Little Temple.

Monday, November 12

Feist, Spoon at Gibson Amphitheatre

We still can’t get over the way the melodica flits around the words on Leslie Feist’s “I Feel It All,” from her recent CD, The Reminder. “I’ll be the one who’ll break my heart,” the Canadian singer declares as her band kicks out a low-key shuffle crowned by that exotic wisp of melodica. Her version of Sally Seltmann’s “1234” is just as charming; it’s a persuasively likable pop tune with a finger-snapping hook and jaunty horn embellishments. Feist is contrastingly somber on the spare idyll “The Water,” which is a cool change of pace from the sunnier tracks. Austin indie-rockers Spoon share the bill with festive, acoustic-flavored cuts like “The Underdog” from their latest CD, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga (Merge). Insistent piano accents dot the hazy reverie “The Ghost of You Lingers” as if an alarm clock were signaling the end of the dream. Disembodied vocals hover in the shadowy murk like reproachful memories; the overall impact is more dramatically interesting and emotionally compelling than much of Spoon’s early work. (Falling James)

Spiritualized at the Vista Theatre

Once you’ve had a hundred people playing on your record, maintaining so gargantuan a cast or even expanding it further seems hardly impressive. That was the problem Spiritualized’s Jason Pierce faced a few years back. Following the swoonadelic, cosmic heartbreak of Ladies and Gentlemen, We’re Floating in Space, the shimmering pinnacle of Pierce’s slow, steady ascent from the toxic wreckage of Spacemen 3, the luxuriance got a bit suffocating. Its follow-up, Let It Come Down, was lovely and big but also somewhat impersonal. After recovering from a bout of double pneumonia in 2005 that left him nearly dead, Pierce is now touring with a light load. The junk innuendo notwithstanding, his latest “Acoustic Mainline” performances strip down in order to move on. In truth, this isn’t Pierce’s first attempt at cutting back. His last album, Amazing Grace, attempted a return to garage-generated raw power with a bit more Howlin’ Wolf grit instead of Pink Floyd pomp. But hopefully this time, without the means of burning white hot and artificially bright, he’ll find his way back on course under blessed, night-sky darkness like before. Also Tues. (Bernardo Rondeau)

Also playing Monday:

LITTLE BROTHER, EVIDENCE at El Rey Theatre; C.D. 1334, BURNING IMAGE at Knitting Factory; OLLIN at Mr. T’s Bowl; SONDRE LERCHE at the Troubadour; GLISS at Viper Room; THE SLANTS at the Whisky.

Tuesday, November 13

KT Tunstall at Avalon

KT Tunstall first came to attention a couple of years ago with the captivating song “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree,” from her debut CD, Eye to the Telescope. The Scottish singer made a striking impression when performing it onstage as a virtual one-woman band, stomping on her guitar pedals and letting voices spring like birds from her effects boxes, with her own ghostly harmonies circling around themselves in a loop. She rocks it up a little more on her new album, Drastic Fantastic (Relentless), backed by a full band for such breezy pop songs as “Little Favours” and “Hold On.” It’s not like she’s suddenly transformed herself into an all-out rocker like Joan Jett, but the added instrumentation lends variety to mellow tunes like “White Bird” and “Paper Aeroplane.” She declares her musical and romantic independence on the acoustic interlude “Beauty of Uncertainty” when she sings, “I need a mirror in the eyes of a man/I need no protection from my bullet-proof plan.” She could be describing her own sonic evolution when she concludes, “But there’s no sense in traveling/if we’ve already been that way.” (Falling James)

Also playing Tuesday:

SPIRITUALIZED at the Vista; BLACK DICE, NO AGE, MIKA MIKO at the Echoplex (see Music feature); JILL SOBULE, JULIA SWEENEY at Largo; SONDRE LERCHE at the Troubadour.

Wednesday, November 14

Suzanne Vega at El Rey Theatre

The love story that lurks in the background of Suzanne Vega’s moving new album, Beauty & Crime (Blue Note), reads almost like a fairy tale: Her new husband, Paul Mills, first proposed to her 20 years ago, but time and life got in the way, and the pair didn’t reunite and fall in love again until last year. She sounds touchingly vulnerable on “Bound” when she asks “if you might still want me” as “all these words/like darling and angel and dear/crowd my mouth/in a path to your ear.” On the ensuing sister song “Unbound,” she frees herself from her own past, confessing that “I was once/bound at the root/confined with twine/both mind and foot.” Perhaps it’s the glow of this new, true love that’s inspired the New York singer-songwriter to craft the most fully realized and emotionally satisfying album of her long career, abetted by a stellar cast that includes KT Tunstall, Sonic Youth ax-man Lee Ranaldo and Patti Smith bassist Tony Shanahan. Vega playfully eavesdrops on tempestuous celebrity lovers “Frank & Ava” and artfully evokes mythically vanishing corners of Manhattan on “Ludlow Street” and “New York Is a Woman.” It’s all quite poetically bewitching. (Falling James)

Also playing Wednesday:

PO’ GIRL at Cerritos Center; H.I.M. at the Orpheum Theatre; CORREATOWN, BROKEN WEST, MONOLATORS, HENRY CLAY PEOPLE at the Bordello; HELL YEAH, OTEP, BLOODSIMPLE at House of Blues; MAGNET, SARA LOV at the Roxy.

Thursday, November 15

Playing Thursday:

H.I.M. at the Orpheum Theatre; ERYKAH BADU, THE ROOTS, TAJ MAHAL at the Wiltern; QUINCY COLEMAN, CORREATOWN, ABBY TRAVIS, JONNEINE ZAPATA at Hotel Café; VOLUMEN CERO at Knitting Factory; LYDIA LUNCH at Largo; AZTLAN UNDERGROUND at the Scene; ANAVAN, CALVIN JOHNSON at the Smell; KING KHAN & BBQ SHOW at Spaceland; ANNUALS, MANCHESTER ORCHESTRA, KEVIN DEVINE at the Troubadour; BINGES at Viper Room.


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