Rock Picks: Holly Golightly, Sergio Mendes, Wu-Tang Clan
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 28
Danny B. Harvey, Insect Surfers at Taix
Guitarist Danny Bryan Harvey might be overshadowed by the bigger names — Motorhead’s Lemmy Kilmister and Stray Cats drummer Slim Jim Phantom — in the Head Cat, but he’s the glue that keeps the Buddy Holly–inspired roots trio together. He also cooks up the music in the country duo Lonesome Spurs, providing sequined backing for Lynda Kay Parker’s fiery vocals. In the past, he’s played with rockabilly revivalists the Honeydippers and various outfits with predictable feline names (the Rockats, the Swing Cats, 13 Cats), and more recently the Kentucky native has worked with Nancy Sinatra and the rockabilly-country legend Wanda Jackson. His ongoing no-cover residency at Taix — still one of the best deals in town — often sees him collaborating with a parade of female singers (perhaps you could call them Harvey girls). Tonight’s bill also features Insect Surfers, the longtime local surf revisionists who got their start in the late-’70s underground scene in Washington, D.C., where they regularly appeared with the Slickee Boys, Bad Brains and the pre–Minor Threat combo Teen Idles. Far from being stuffy traditionalists, Insect Surfers write free-ranging instrumentals that encompass psychedelia, dusty Mojave soundscapes and punk rock drive, with David Arnson’s and Dano Sullivan’s crackling guitars combining for some truly majestic interplay. (Falling James)
Also playing Friday:
THE DENNIS JONES BAND at Harvelle’s; ZOLA MOON at Starboard Attitude; SOULFLY at the Key Club; PASTILLA, CABULA at Knitting Factory; MEDUSA, ELEVATERS at the Mint; MELVINS, BIG BUSINESS at the Troubadour.
SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 29
Holly Golightly & the Brokeoffs at Spaceland
British singer and former Headcoatee Holly Golightly might be best known in this country for singing “It’s True That We Love One Another,” a duet with Jack White on the White Stripes’ 2003 album, Elephant, and the Stripes’ stripped-down blues appears to be the template for the Brokeoffs, her duo with guitarist/percussionist Lawyer Dave. The songs on their new CD, Dirt Don’t Hurt (Transdreamer), are stitched loosely together with acoustic-guitar plucking and old-timey junkyard rattling, and, while there’s nothing really authentic or original about their folksy dabbling, the album still has an easygoing charm. “Best not get too precious,” Golightly coos without irony on “Burn Your Fun,” before adding, “Gonna burn down your still/Ain’t shootin’ no crooked guns . . . only gonna aim to kill.” (Your enjoyment of Dirt may depend on how much you can suspend your disbelief and get into hokey songs about firearms and rural living by folks who’ve seemingly never been anywhere near a farm.) All of the cornpone country-blues archetypes are here — evil preacher men, Jesus junkies, wayward lovers — and the rootsy music seems more inspired by Tom Waits’ Rain Dogs than Robert Johnson. Nonetheless, there is a genuinely ghostly chill to their echoing version of the traditional tune “Boat’s Up the River,” and the sleepy country idyll “For All This” has a spare, unforced intimacy. (Falling James)
Sergio Mendes at Club Nokia
The mid-’60s bossa/samba boom that brought Brazil’s seductive rhythms to American ears for the first time was a most welcome gift. Those exotic new sounds quickly took profound hold, reaching even Sinatra and introducing several numbers that became favorite, enduring standards. Yet, where spearhead Jobim worked a tropi-cool approach so austere, it sounded almost erotic, and the Getz-Gilberto matchup brought a stone-jazz hep to the music, others infused their native style with a gleaming dose of pop. Walter Wonderley’s “Summer Samba” dug into steamy, deep organ grooves, but it was the mighty Sergio Mendes who really nailed it, serving up bright, stickily irresistible confections that layered deep tradition with high-gloss cocktail-hour bubblegum, resulting in a deck of insanely crave-able records that still stands alone today. Mendes, of course, is far more prone to legit Latin-jazz expression these days, but, with classic calling cards like “Mais Que Nada” and his superb version of “The Look of Love,” the pianist is certain to deliver the best of both worlds. (Jonny Whiteside)
School of the Seven Bells at the Henry Fonda Theater
Legend has it that the School of Seven Bells was a legendary South American pickpocket academy. Whether that’s a myth or not, it’s also the name of a young, mystical-sounding Brooklyn-based band. Formed by graduates of Secret Machine (guitarist Ben Curtis) and On! Air! Library! (twin-sister vocalists Claudia and Alejandra Deheza), SVIIB cast an alluring spell on their recently released debut full-length, Alpinisms (Ghostly International), weaving together a hypnotic blend of shoegazing rock, dreamy electro-pop and trance-dance hymns. At their lightest, they sound like Enya with an edge, as the Deheza sisters’ airy vocals float over gently pulsating beats. But when everything coalesces (on songs like the majestic album closer, “My Cabal,” and the Middle Eastern–accented “Wired for Light”), the exotic music transports listeners to an otherworldly plane that swirls with ethereal grooves. It will be interesting to see how the trio (well paired with French ambient popsters M83) re-create their lushly atmospheric sound live, with Curtis handling guitar and drum samples, while Alejandra Deheza plays keyboards, and sister Claudia is on guitar. (Michael Berick)
Ladyfingers at Redwood Bar & Grill
“I’ve got to lose some weight before the wedding, dude/I’ve got to practice my handshake . . . All my friends are geniuses, and they all respect me,” Adam Weiner, a.k.a. the one-man band Ladyfingers, brags/confesses on his new self-released CD, My Handbook. The New Yorker has “no management, label affiliation, booking agent or personal stylist,” and, as he makes clear on the defiant folk-funk rant “Scoliosis in Secaucus” (“Don’t entertain me/I can entertain myself”), he is a self-contained, self-aware and self-propelled song factory, obviating the need for rock critics. He’s a little bit like the early, pre-cute Jonathan Richman, with such sarcastic lyrics as “I’m happy listening to lite FM” and “There’s a World War II memorial underneath your dress . . . and I ain’t impressed,” but Mr. Ladyfingers sluices his raw ballads and electric-guitar-backed shuffles with a mournful beauty that goes beyond simple jokiness. He’ll be here all week (nightly, through December 5), but please don’t try the veal. It’s been through enough already. (Falling James)
Also playing Saturday:
JACKSON BROWNE, BONNIE RAITT, JOAN BAEZ, RY COODER at Santa Monica Civic Auditorium; DIR EN GREY at the Wiltern; JAMES INTVELD at Blue Cafe; DREAD ZEPPELIN at Brixton South Bay; ROSE ROSSI at the Hotel Café; BRUJERIA at House of Blues; MECOLODIACS at Taix; MELVINS, BIG BUSINESS at the Troubadour; LOS FABULOCOS at Joe’s Great American Bar & Grill.
SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 30
Azure Ray, The Whispertown 2000 at the Troubadour
For those about to rock, we salute you, but tonight’s bill is all about subtler, softer sounds. Maria Taylor and Orenda Fink played together in Little Red Rocket in their Birmingham, Alabama, hometown before moving to Omaha and reinventing themselves as the ghost-whispering duo Azure Ray, becoming one of the shining lights in that city’s burgeoning indie-rock scene. They broke up in 2004, following the release of their Hold on Love CD, but they’re apparently reuniting just for tonight’s show. Taylor and Fink specialize in breathy, dreamily gorgeous pop songs like the silky-smooth “Sleep,” where violins hover gently over gauzy lyrics like “Fill these spaces up with days.” They fill the spaces in their songs with even more spaces, creating sublimely intoxicating reveries. Azure Ray are aptly paired with the aptly named Whispertown 2000, who recently opened for the Breeders at the Wiltern. The Whispers’ new CD, Swim, was just released on Gillian Welch’s label, Acony Records, and it’s a fine showcase for singer-guitarist Morgan Nagler’s folksy country laments and includes guest vocals from Rilo Kiley’s Jenny Lewis, one of the band’s early champions. (Falling James)
Also playing Sunday:
BONE THUGS N HARMONY at Club Nokia; THE JONAS BROTHERS at Hollywood Palladium; BLITZEN TRAPPER, PARSON RED HEADS at the Echo, 7 p.m.; NEIL HAMBURGER, MARIA BAMFORD, DAVE GLEASON at Spaceland; CHARLIE WADHAMS at Tangier.
MONDAY, DECEMBER 1
The Herbaliser at the Echoplex
The Herbaliser is an extended big band led by guitarist-bassist Jake Wherry and DJ Ollie Teeba, and their funky mélange of sounds extends beyond funk and hip-hop into coolly cerebral electronica dance grooves and psychedelic jazziness. They describe their swanky style as “James Brown meets James Bond,” and cuts like “Amores Bongo” have a whimsical exoticism that evokes modish spy-movie soundtracks. After a long stint on the Ninja Tune label, they released their latest CD, Same as It Never Was, earlier this year on !k7 Records. “Clap Your Hands” bubbles along on a funky throbbing bass line, with soulful singing and a riotous Greek chorus of horny horns. The track is densely arranged with chunky wah-wah guitar chords and busily percolating keyboards, and it’s simultaneously inspirational and effusively hedonistic. New member Jessica Darling, who sings several songs on the album, will reportedly make her local debut with the Herbs men tonight, adding another seductively slinky voice to their whirlwind of sonic distractions. (Falling James)
Also playing Monday:
WEAVE, WE ARE THE WORLD at the Echo; LADYFINGERS, JAKE LA BOTZ at Redwood Bar & Grill; THE MOVIES, EAGLE & TALON at Spaceland.
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 2
SISTERS OF MERCY at Henry Fonda Theater; SMASHING PUMPKINS at Gibson Amphitheatre; GRAY KID, KÁRIN TATOYAN at the Echoplex; SECONDHAND SERENADE, CUTE IS WHAT WE AIM FOR at House of Blues; SIXTH CHAMBER at Mr. T’s Bowl; NO AGE at the Troubadour; PATTY BOOKER at Joe’s Great American Bar & Grill; CHEATIN’ KIND, HELLO DARLINS, RONNIE MACK at El Cid; LADYFINGERS, MIKE STINSON at Redwood Bar & Grill.
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 3
The Hanson Brothers at Spaceland
The Hanson Brothers — the Canadian punk rock band — were inspired by the fictional Hanson Brothers, who were characters in the 1977 hockey film Slap Shot. To confuse things further, the movie Hansons were portrayed, in part, by real-life pro-hockey-playing brothers, while the “puck rock” Hansons feature siblings John and Rob Wright, who also front the monstrously heavy prog-punk trio No Means No. (None of this sibling revelry should be confused with the godawful lite-pop swill of former teen-idol brethren Hanson.) So, it’s kind of a parody of a parody of a sport that sometimes seems like a parody, if that makes sense. All you really need to know is that the Hanson Brothers — the band — crank out short, fast and brutally silly songs about hockey (“Rink Rat,” “He Looked a Lot Like Tiger Williams,” “Stick Boy”) and beer (“Blitzkrieg Hops,” “We’re Brewing”). The Ramones remain a major influence on their sound and style (the artwork to the Hansons’ 1992 album, Gross Misconduct, even parodies the classic John Holmstrom illustration on the Ramones’ Road to Ruin cover). They’ve apparently got a new concert CD/DVD, It’s a Living (on Wrong Records), but nothing beats getting beaten over the head in person by the Hanson Brothers’ nonstop, high-sticking attack. It’s certainly better than watching the unintentionally funny penalty-killing high jinks of this season’s Anaheim Ducks. (Falling James)
Sébastien Tellier at the Henry Fonda Theater
The new master of French electronic pop may be on his way to becoming famous over here — especially with the ones who got into him by way of a three-month-long American Apparel promotion — but the shaggy haired, bearded romancer is no less than three albums (plus some remixes and singles) deep . . . and we mean deep. Deep like the ’70s-inspired, stoned-out jungle excursion (what if Air had helped out on Pink Floyd’s soundtrack for Obscured by Clouds?) of 2001’s L’incroyable Vérité, and deep like his latest release for Record Makers, the late-night phone-sex-voiced Sexuality (what if Serge Gainsbourg and Marvin Gaye were double-booked for Giorgio Moroder’s American Gigolo soundtrack?). Produced by Daft Punk’s Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo, it’s got a steady electronic heartbeat and curvaceous sequencing, but it also feels spacious and synthetically orgasmic. The summer single “Divine” represented France in the annual Eurovision song contest, and French purists got all bent out of shape when he sang in English. So feel free to stick around, Sébastien; we know you love L.A.! (Daniel Siwek)
Also playing Wednesday:
JONATHAN RICHMAN at El Rey Theatre; SMASHING PUMPKINS at Gibson Amphitheatre; THE FRESAS, WAX APPLES at the Bordello; EVANGENITALS, DIE ROCKERS DIE, THE HEALTH CLUB at Mr. T’s Bowl; LADYFINGERS at Redwood Bar & Grill.
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 4
Oasis at Staples Center
Oasis brought a Sex Pistols sneer and Generation Ecstasy’s studied indifference to their Beatles homage as they rose to Royal Family–rivaling ubiquity in mid-’90s Blighty. Their laddish Manchester swagger and legendary infighting were easy for their young countrymen to identify with and offered odd exotica to global fans. But after the dizzying success of their melody-fest of a second album, 1995’s (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?, they struggled for sonic focus and became squabbling tabloid fodder until guitarist Noel Gallagher released his Stalinesque grip on the band’s songwriting and production for 2005’s Don’t Believe the Truth — a to-the-point effort that played to their organically grandiose strengths and found the other Gallagher bro, singer Liam, back in fine angelic/antagonistic fettle. Dig Out Your Soul, released last month, continues Oasis’ midlife niceness, with the six Noel-penned tunes being a true Morning Glory reawakening and Liam’s belligerently romantic utterances now warmed with lived-in nostalgia. Oasis’ live shows are static, song-centric affairs, with Liam’s signature stooping, hands-behind-his-back stance oozing “come and get me” but never adding “please.” (Paul Rogers)
Wu-Tang Clan at House of Blues
Given the legendary unpredictability of these guys’ live appearances, it’s probably inaccurate to say that this show is the local stop of a U.S. tour in support of Wu: The Story of the Wu-Tang Clan, a just-released CD/DVD package charting the Staten Island hip-hop crew’s bumpy rise to power. Support, after all, requires stability, which is not exactly a priority in the world of Wu. A more likely explanation for the trek: the fourth anniversary of the death of Ol’ Dirty Bastard, the endearing/infuriating clown prince whose absence created in the Clan’s sound a hole they haven’t yet figured out how to fill. Last year’s 8 Diagrams tried to do it with an extra-large helping of RZA’s broken-bottle psychedelia, but online accounts suggested that some members of the group weren’t happy with the album’s neo-hippie vibe. Where does that leave Wu-Tang? As always, it’s anyone’s guess. (Mikael Wood)
The Sea & Cake at the Troubadour
Their entanglements with Chicago’s heralded art-rock and jazz scenes always make the Sea and Cake’s ostensibly ordinary indie-pop songs seem designed to provoke a slightly skeptical response. But theirs is not just simplicity, more an experienced refinement that has made the band masters of a softly driven, fully felt yet supremely intelligent kind of soul-pop, such as the excellent stuff from their recent Car Alarm album on the esteemed Thrill Jockey label. It’s singer Sam Prekop’s sexy, breezy tone and Archer Prewitt’s lazily elegant guitar voicings that brush away encroaching hints of the pointy-headed prowess these players could presumably parlay profitably. In subtle brush strokes, the Sea & Cake (which also includes Tortoise’s John McEntire on drums and Eric Claridge on bass) keep the pace brisk and the vibe aggressively light and airy; their material’s artful, shrewdly designed to demonstrate how pleasant pop music — that oddly rare kind, where every note is tastefully chosen and played, to sensually pleasing effect — need be nothing fancy, and is usually the more memorable for that. (John Payne)
Also playing Thursday:
AMERICA at Club Nokia; MIKE NESS at El Rey Theatre; GIRL IN A COMA at Alex’s Bar; MEAT BEAT MANIFESTO at the Knitting Factory; BUTCH WALKER, SEAN & SARA WATKINS at Largo; LADYFINGERS at Redwood Bar & Grill; EEK-A-MOUSE at the Roxy; RELENTLESS7 at Spaceland; MONSTERS OF SHAMISEN, SHAMALAMACORD at Coffee Gallery Backstage.
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