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Rock Picks: Hank III, Joe Strummer Tribute, Wu-Tang Clan

FRIDAY, Dec. 21

Busdriver gives a hoot. (Photo by Jessica Miller) (Click to enlarge)

Cowgirl in the sand: Patria Jacobs (Photo by Dorit Thies) (Click to enlarge)

Suicide Silence try to look menacing. (Click to enlarge)

Busdriver at the Troubadour

Much like the title of his recent CD, Roadkillovercoat (Epitaph), Busdriver re-purposes the wreckage of the past and fashions it into a cool new fashion statement. The L.A. rapper, a.k.a. Regan Farquhar, spits out a rapid-fire flurry of dazzling, dizzying imagery as he pulls “the gauze off your scabs” and turns “stages into firewood.” The mainstream music industry — and industry in general — withers under his caustically poetic observations, such as “They want an everyman milking the oldest gags/Spilling the contents of a Pepsi can on a folded flag” and “They want someone lowbrow, a philistine/With iron-on irony for Viacom’s white honkies.” On “Less Yes’s, More No’s,” he recites a blurred litany of soccer moms, Fox News, the war in Iraq, Noam Chomsky and George Bush before concluding, “We refuse the ruling class/in broadcast antennae headdresses.” He looks out balefully over a modern landscape of “broken TV sets” and “pop culture’s lame vestiges” on the febrile statement of purpose, “Ethereal Driftwood,” in which he nimbly “jumps from the plane wreckage . . . covered in a blanket of ash.” His artful surrealism is more truthful than mere journalism. (Falling James)

Lilys at Spaceland

Kurt Heasley has taken a circuitous route back to the present. In 1992, Lilys brandished fuzz-doused guitars, spiraling drum-kit cascades and soft vocals befitting the post-Loveless zeitgeist. Shedding members compulsively, Heasley moved to a sleepy, shambling jangle before settling, albeit for one spellbinding album only, on a blend of FX-damaged etherea and lock-groove drums. Just as suddenly, he took a sharp turn and began chiming kinda Kinks-ish pop, which scored him a hit single in Europe and a major-label deal. His sole Sire release was gloriously overstuffed with hooks (requiring some tracks to run over seven minutes). Since then, Heasley has been nearly methodical in his return to now. He even went Krautock. But his last two albums, garish with giddy melodies and wonky processing like mid-’80s castoffs, is, to some, a decline. But live, with a pickup band of his usual Los Angeles cohorts (the Beachwood Sparks/All Night Radio pool), Heasley’s disparate tunes and styles will be delivered in uniform blasts of distortion, rhythm and melody. Here, the brilliance of his craft should be radiantly evident. (Bernardo Rondeau)

Die Rockers Die, Madamn Grislee, Finland Station at Pehrspace

Here’s a double shot with two of this town’s rudest and funniest punk bands, contrasted by the subtler charms of a mellow local combo who are celebrating the release of their debut album. Die Rockers Die have so many songs — ranging from Minutemen-like funk-punk (“Land of the Free”) and claustrophobically fuzzed-out garage-rock (“A Much Clearer Vision”) to Krautrock spaciness (“The Principles of Accounting,” “Space Jam for Vonnegut”) — that the prolific Filipino-American group are planning on releasing a 37-track triple CD. Finland Station, meanwhile, recorded the catchiest punk rock anthem of the year, “Worst President Ever,” a catalog of George W. Bush’s most egregious sins that also works as a brutally hilarious presidential lesson, from their debut CD, Eastern Bloc Party. Despite their gory name, Madamn Grislee actually specialize in low-key art-rock on their new CD, Blue Dog. Guitarist Merf Schultz’s coolly airy talk-singing nicely evokes Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon on “All Is Fair in Love and War and Songwriting,” while guitarist-drummer Pete Lee’s echoey vocals on “Mirror Move” recall the Jesus & Mary Chain, mixed with some Velvet Underground haziness. (Falling James)

Terrors, Heavy Face, Wire Werewolves, Admiral Angry at the Smell

It’s exciting when The New Yorker is wrong, even a little bit. Suck it, paragon of elevated standards! The real import of the Smell isn’t the venue’s multifunctional purpose or the hype it’s driving toward new L.A. punk and its derivatives, or, as a certain glossy rag recently posited, its symbiotic relationship with postcard-from-the-future local band No Age. Really, the Smell is the city’s best example of the fact that shared cultural space is still crucial, interweb or no interweb, and the spirit and glory of underage basement shows and punk-house all-nighters are essential to cultivate local scenes and individual investment in good independent music. This week, the Smell hosts an appropriately off-kilter bill, with Terrors, who provide a chugga-chugga kind of folkie psych, sort of like a lazier Animal Collective; the full-bodied histrionics of Heavy Face; Wire Werewolves and Admiral Angry, who both do thrashy near-grindcore, and Obstacle Corpse, whom I’ve never heard of, but that’s basically the point. (Kate Carraway)

Also playing Friday:

BRIAN SETZER ORCHESTRA at Gibson Amphitheatre; THE DAN BAND at Avalon; SCARUB, HOLLOW & SUPA, HUMANBEINGS at the Airliner; UNION 13 at Anarchy Library; RADEMACHER, WAIT THINK FAST at the Echo; OZOMATLI, CHALI 2NA, CUT CHEMIST at House of Blues; YIN YANG TWINS at Key Club; OJOS ROJOS, CHUCK DUKOWSKI SEXTET at Knitting Factory; JON BRION at Largo; THINGZ, ROVER’S PINKY at Mr. T’s Bowl; VESSY MINK, MARTIN KLINGMAN at On the Rox at the Roxy; THE PLIMSOULS at Safari Sam’s.

Saturday, Dec. 22

Patria Jacobs at Taix

The former Rubyfish singer Patria Jacobs has been lying low for a long time now, so it’s good to see that she’s finally back, performing a low-profile solo set tonight at Taix. Her 2005 CD, Poison of the Sea (Buniwabbit Records), is a frequently beguiling reminder of her various talents. “We could destroy each other,” she sings in a deceptively innocent and pure voice on “Sweet Pea,” her heartbroken message veiled by Corky Hale’s lulling harp. “Stayed Away Too Long” is a rueful country lament with properly rustic guitar by I See Hawks in L.A.’s Paul Lacques. The Negro Problem’s Stew co-produced the album and co-wrote its ethereally mesmerizing opening track, “Hurricane,” where Jacobs coos, “I impressed him with my use of Triple A maps,” before driving fearlessly right into the approaching storm. The CD includes “Indian Burn,” a lost 1995 track by Rubyfish, which swirls and seethes within a heat mirage of intriguingly tangled romantic imagery: “Voodoo heat like foliage trapped/Tie me up, tie me up, for I must match the furniture . . . those nights when water pipes shake/and it’s creepier than ever.” It’s a beautiful kind of creepiness. (Falling James)

The Gene Taylor Blues Band at Cozy’s Bar & Grill

Are you ready for some Hank III? (Photo by Mike Boles) (Click to enlarge)

Gene Taylor, the hard-charging piano monster who rose to well-deserved renown whipping the 88s for everyone from Canned Heat to the Blasters to the Fabulous Thunderbirds, has only very rarely been afforded a chance to hog the spotlight — yet that is precisely where he belongs. He has an icy-hot set of pipes, a formidable sense of rhythm and a keen grasp on the essential spirit of the blues, and his masterly keyboard assaults are second to none; after all, he made his bones as a teenager here, working gigs with such long-lost geniuses as Joe Turner, T-Bone Walker, Pee Wee Crayton and Lowell Fulson (he’s also sandwiched in stints with such notable white boys as Doug Sahm and Ronnie Hawkins). This Yuletide spate of action reunites him with longtime Blasters cohorts Bill Bateman, John Bazz and Dave Alvin, and, as Taylor eschews such mundane formalities as a set list, they’re hitting it strictly on instinct. Spontaneity rarely holds such promise. 14058 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks. (Jonny Whiteside)

Joe Strummer tribute at the Key Club

As modern punk rock devolves into defanged corporate-rock careerism and mall-punk-derived rebellion, the late Clash singer Joe Strummer is missed more than ever. Luckily, his music lives on, as does Strummerville, an organization founded in his name by friends and family that benefits struggling musicians. Tonight, some of those friends gather to perform tunes from Strummer’s various projects (the Clash, the 101’ers, the Mescaleros). While one wouldn’t normally associate Bauhaus bassist David J with the confrontational sociopolitical intensity of the Clash, he’ll be on hand, and there are rumors that he may bring along the rest of Love & Rockets for an extremely rare appearance. The multi-talented, if frustratingly erratic Zander Schloss, who’s best known for playing bass in the later lineups of the Circle Jerks and the Weirdos and who also appeared alongside Strummer in Alex Cox’s self-indulgently sprawling spectacle Straight to Hell, appears with his new band, the Wilderness Years. His solo material, dubbed Schloss Angeles, includes surprisingly enjoyable somber balladry and intricately plucked folk songs. With Hellride, La Plebe and the local rockabilly trio Three Bad Jacks. (Falling James)

Also playing Saturday:

BRIAN SETZER ORCHESTRA at Gibson Amphitheatre; SHINY TOY GUNS at the Wiltern; VERY BE CAREFUL at the Bordello; THE VANDALS at House of Blues; JON BRION at Largo; GARY HOEY, JAMES WILSEY at Safari Sam’s; MEDUSA at Temple Bar; LAS 15 LETRAS at the Westchester; RRIICCEE at Rec Center Studios.

SUNDAY, Dec. 23

Wu-Tang Clan at House of Blues

Wu-Tang Clan’s 8 Diagrams is just out, and, yes, it was worth the wait: It’s good, real, real good. In fact, this is one of those rare long-anticipated returns to action by a superstar act that not only ranks with their greatest past stuff but whose quantum conceptual/experiential leaps even trump the group’s entire back catalog. RZA, GZA, Ghostface Killah, Raekwon, Method Man, Inspektah Deck, Masta Killa and U-God compose the current lineup, each bringing a wizened depth to their raps, which are in turn chilling, hilarious, ruminative and sorta sweet. In production genius RZA’s amazing kung-fu hands, these soul jams and mystery-theater raps are cinematic, quite dramatic and, maybe most importantly, kind of organically avant-garde. (It’s as if the RZA simply lacks the ability to make music that doesn’t sound different.) They do the guest-superstar thing too, with Dhani Harrison, Erykah Badu, John Frusciante joining in on the single “The Heart Gently Weeps,” which takes off on George Harrison’s original in a surprisingly sentimental way. And the beats? Slamming, of course, but also hugely varied. I.e., they’ve done it again, establishing a new state of the art with some extraordinary new shit. (John Payne)

Also playing Sunday:

HAPPY CASUALTIES, HAPPY DWARF, SLY DIGS, WEATHERGROUND at Mr. T’s Bowl.

MONDAY, Dec. 24Playing Monday:

JAY CHOU at the Galen Center, USC campus.

TUESDAY, Dec. 25

Playing Tuesday:

MURS, 2 MEX, SELF SCIENTIFIC, PIGEON JOHN at Vault 350.

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 26Suicide Silence at the Knitting Factory

Where so many grindcore bands indiscriminately rub their daemonic putrefaction in your face, Suicide Silence dole theirs out with a trained performer’s sense of timing, and the result is a higher-quality brutality. The Riverside band are the winners of this year’s “Banned From MTV” award thanks to the video for “The Price of Beauty,” and their appeal lies largely in the air-tight blast beats of drummer Alex Lopez, the oozy low end of bassist Mike Bodkins, and the tireless shred of guitarists Chris Garza and Mark Heylmun, all of which rip consistently throughout their debut full-length, The Cleansing (think Slaughtercult-era Exhumed). Still, it’s Mitch Lucker’s vocals, a de-facto fifth instrument that alternates between raspy shriek and Cookie Monster roar, that will permanently dispel visions of sugarplums dancing in your head. With the Faceless, Light This City and Oblige. (Andrew Lentz)

Also playing Wednesday:

REPEATER, GO BETTY GO at the Boardner’s; NEKROMANTIX, BARNYARD BALLERS, THE HOWLERS at House of Blues.

THURSDAY, Dec. 27

Reverend Horton Heat, Hank III, Nashville Pussy at the Wiltern

As every holiday-music expert knows, nothing says the day after the day after Christmas like a triple bill of redneck cowpunk. Reverend Horton Heat mastermind Jim Heath has an album coming out in January by his new side project, Reverend Organdrum, on which he tries his capable hand at old-school Hammond B-3–based soul-funk. Don’t be surprised if he throws in a tune or two from it tonight, but expect him to spend the majority of his set concentrating on his signature rockabilly rave-ups (request “Bales of Cocaine”), as well as stuff from We Three Kings, his spirited 2005 Yuletide set. Backstage at the Gibson before a tribute to Hank Williams Jr. a few weeks back, Shooter Jennings told me that Hank Jr.’s son Hank III probably wouldn’t be caught dead at a fete for his father. Sad, but true? Nashville Pussy are actually from Atlanta, which isn’t to say the handle’s inaccurate. (Mikael Wood)

Build an Ark at Temple Bar

The many different genres and subgenres that arrive during any given period of time — whether it be punk, fusion, drum & bass or bebop — tend to run their course and then vanish, to be sorted out later. L.A.-based Build an Ark exists outside this rat race of hits and misses, flavors and varietals, and the proof is Dawn, the 28-piece collective’s 2007 full-length. Moving from gentle piano compositions that recall the underrated South African pianist Abdullah Ibrahim to the percussive expansiveness of Alice Coltrane’s mind-blowing free-jazz work, Build an Ark’s 10 compositions unroll like silken rugs, and, as the whole reveals itself in all its colorful glory, little patterns start to emerge, be it Joshua Spiegelman’s luxurious flute, Miguel Atwood-Ferguson’s viola, Dwight Trible’s vocals or Carlos Niño’s unobtrusive production. If you’d like to experience true spirit this season, Build an Ark will provide it. (Randall Roberts)

Kevin Shields at the Smell

Not the My Bloody Valentine guitarist — although with the prospect of a new MBV album, a name change may be in order — Kevin Shields tonight kicks off the Smell’s 10th-anniversary series, which stretches into January. Not a stretch: to say that Kevin Shields, a.k.a. Eva Aguila, is quite simply one of the most polymorphously creative women working in the Los Angeles music scene today. Not only does she tirelessly uphold the fine spazzy DIY standards of the Deathbomb Arc aesthetic on her latest CD, Death of Patience, she also knits and crochets CD and cassette cases for her label, Hate State. Her instrument is a table festooned with effects processors creating a hail of noise blossoming forth like the scent of new sex in the shower, mingling with the miasma of melody that splits the noise perplexingly in half and elevates the experience to another plane entirely. Also: Argumentix, Budweiser Sprite, I.E., Kyle H. Mabson, Teenage Zsa Zsa, Toxic Loincloth. (David Cotner)

Also playing Thursday:

CHRIS VALENTI, BRIAN TRAVIS BAND, THE DIRGES at Mollly Malone’s.