Rock Picks: HorrorPops, Steve Earle, Ace Frehley
THURSDAY, MARCH 20
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Rock me, Amadeus: Matthew Dear
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HorrorPops: Somethings rocking in the state of Denmark.
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The Dollyrots prefer spray paint as a hair dye.
Evangelista at Safari Sam’s
For her latest project, Evangelista, singer Carla Bozulich has moved away from the haunted Americana of her old band the Geraldine Fibbers and the industrial clangor of Ethyl Meatplow. It’s all about moody atmosphere on her new album, Hello, Voyager (Constellation). She intones the opener, “Winds of St. Anne,” in a cracked and weary Marianne Faithfull voice over a simmering harmonium that evokes Nico’s windswept collaborations with Brian Eno. “Smooth Jazz” is anything but, riven with Tara Barnes’ doomy, lumbering bass and Bozulich’s cacophonous guitars. “Truth Is Dark Like Outer Space” expands and contracts with monumental Sonic Youth–like guitars, while the somber idylls “The Blue Room” and “Lucky Lucky Luck,” which is dotted with Barnes’ pulsing pinpoints of bass, are relatively melodic interludes amid the stormy chaos. “Most people walk right through me/leave their scent, but that’s all,” Bozulich confides amid the twined strokes of Jessica Moss’ violins and Nadia Moss’ slow-burning organ on the solemn incantation “Paper Kitten Claw.” She intones an impassioned plea for love on the title-track closer as a serenely funereal organ maintains its cool under an awesome “Horse Latitudes”–style racket of jumbled percussion and noisy guitars. (Falling James)
The Cliks at the Knitting Factory
Cross-dressing and gender-bending folks have always found a home in rock & roll — if nowhere else — from the days of Little Richard to Jayne County and David Bowie through to even the (ironically) sexist, closeted virtual drag queens of the ’80s hair-metal scene. The Cliks’ Lucas Silveira is a transman — born as a woman but identifying and dressing as a male. His recent transformation informs the Toronto band’s 2007 CD, Snakehouse (Tommy Boy), when he sings, “I’ve been seeing double/in a world of trouble.” His soulfully androgynous crooning is energetically backed by a new Cliks lineup, who give his mournful love songs a hard-rocking push. Silveira has considerable charisma, and the Cliks have a ton of potential that’s unfortunately undercut by generic lyrics with clichéd titles like “Eyes in the Back of My Head.” The band should be given credit for playing it straight instead of indulging in cheap irony on their version of Justin Timberlake’s sappy “Cry Me a River,” but it’s still a lame song that doesn’t rank with the Cliks’ more interesting original tracks, such as “Oh Yeah.” (Falling James)
Also playing Thursday:
BLACK CROWES at the Wiltern; VAMPIRE WEEKEND, Y.A.C.H.T. at El Rey Theatre; JOE BUCK YOURSELF at Alex’s Bar; THE HEALTH CLUB at Crane’s; X-CLAN, AIRTO MORIERA & FLORA PURIM at Crash Mansion; RAVENS MORELAND at Mr. T’s Bowl; TRISTAN PRETTYMAN at the Roxy.
FRIDAY, MARCH 21
Hanne Hukkelberg at the Hotel Café
In high school this young Norwegian singer-songwriter played in a heavy metal band called Funeral, which makes her one of a surprisingly large handful of gentle Scandinavian types with backgrounds in more extreme sounds. (The Cardigans, for one, started out as a Black Sabbath cover band.) Weird, right? Hukkelberg’s latest solo album, Rykestrasse 68, came out in Europe in 2006, but Nettwerk just issued a North American release this month, and it’s definitely not too late to dig its charms: Like Björk and Joanna Newsom (with whom she’s earned loads of rightful comparisons), Hukkelberg operates in the dreamy space between fantasy and reality; she can’t resist peppering her prettiest material with unexpected bits of avant-pop noise and field-recording rustle, a mission in which she’s aided by members of two Norwegian jazz-metal groups, Jaga Jazzist and Shining. She’s scheduled to go on early tonight, at 7 p.m. Don’t be late. (Mikael Wood)
Religious Knives at the Smell
When I first read the name Religious Knives, my brain instantly toggled to the memory bank for images of the casual rites of hexed cutlery subtly played by Anita Pallenberg and Mick Jagger at the dinner table in Performance. This prolific Brooklyn band, comprised of members from Double Leopards and Mouthus, certainly seem like they belong in the cavernous manor Anita and Mick inhabit in the film; their dank, rustling sound reverberates through its expansive, empty rooms, radiating like its derelict opulence. Though they lie on its edges, Religious Knives aren’t quite a noise group. They don’t blast scorching frequencies but exhale, like curling smoke, wraiths of distortion and hazy organ. They lurk in the sorcerous wilds of psychedelia and communally dream up a miasmic mist pierced only by drum-kit stirrings and shut-eye chants, though these easily blend into the shimmering void. Check the merch table tonight for early dibs on releases forthcoming from Archive and No Fun. (Bernardo Rondeau)
Also playing Friday:
RUTLEMANIA at the Ricardo Montalbán Theater, 8 p.m.; GARY LOURIS, VETIVER at El Rey Theatre; MAE SHI, RTX, BAD DUDES at the Knitting Factory; VERY BE CAREFUL at the Mint; DAHLIA, ROMAK & THE SPACE PIRATES, HOBO GOBBELINS at Mr. T’s Bowl; B-MOVIE RATS, PAT TODD & THE RANKOUTSIDERS at Mr. T’s Bowl; SHANE FONTAYNE, ANNY CELSI at Kulak’s Woodshed.
SATURDAY, MARCH 22 Matthew Dear at Avalon
One of the founders of the influential Michigan-based indie label Ghostly International, Matthew Dear has dedicated the majority of his time over the past few years to the records he’s released under his own name, including last year’s Asa Breed, on which he married his love of dance-floor beats to his knack for pop-radio tunes. (Dude supported the album in 2007 by touring with a live band, a relative oddity in his field.) Yet Dear also records and performs under a series of pseudonyms, and tonight he’ll rock Avalon as Audion, perhaps his most body-centric guise; memorable track titles on Suckfish, from 2005, include “Kisses,” “Titty Fuck” and “Just Fucking.” Expect to hear stuff from Audion releases tonight, but hope that Dear throws in some of the killer remixes he’s done for acts like Hot Chip and Black Strobe. (Mikael Wood)
HorrorPops at House of Blues
Whether HorrorPops are tearing out their rockabilly roots or smashing punk rock and ska together, what sets them apart is Patricia Day’s grand voice. She belts it out powerfully but with a majestically sad undercurrent that evokes Siouxsie Sioux’s dark allure. The Danish band’s third full-length CD, Kiss Kiss Kill Kill (Hellcat), is a typically rocking affair, driven by Kim Nekroman’s souped-up guitars to create a rumbling, bone-rattling racket. There’s even a little keyboards on “Heading for the Disco?,” where Day puts down a fashion-victim rival for wearing spandex and wonders why anyone would “dress up as an ’80s whore.” (Such fashion fascism seemingly contradicts the message in “Freaks in Uniforms,” from HorrorPops’ 2005 CD, Bring It On, where Day decried conformists who judge her by the way she dresses.) Shallow lyrics and subject matter are still the band’s major weaknesses, and the better songs on Kiss Kiss are the ones where Day is given something interesting and personal to say with those mighty lungs, such as the noir romanticism of “Hitchcock Starlet” and the autobiographical “Copenhagen Refugee.” (Falling James)
The Dollyrots at Safari Sam’s
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Were kinda fonda Wanda Jackson.
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Beauty & the beast: Allison Moorer & Steve Earle
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Sad American: Kaki King
You might remember the Dollyrots from a ludicrous episode of CSI: NY in which the band performed under the name Rough Sects and singer Kelly Ogden’s bass was used as an unlikely murder weapon. Rock & roll seldom gets treated accurately and intelligently within the formulaic confines of dramatic television — the episode was so over the top, it bordered on pure camp — but it was nice to see the Los Angeles trio finally getting some well-deserved attention. The Dollyrots moved to Joan Jett’s Blackheart Records with their 2007 CD, Because I’m Awesome, whose title track was used in a slew of other TV shows and ubiquitous commercials. You can hear Jett’s influence in the song’s pop-punk crush, along with the bubblegum-tuff production of Jett producer Kenny Laguna on the girl-group-style melodies of “This Crush” and “My Best Friend’s Hot.” The Dollyrots have toughened up their sound considerably while still retaining the catchy hooks that make them so endearingly homicidal. (Falling James)
Wanda Jackson at the Blue Cafe
Oklahoma-born singer-guitarist Wanda Jackson, the internationally acknowledged Queen of Rockabilly, has well and truly seen and done it all. From her earliest days traveling on the late Hank Thompson’s honky-tonk Western-swing bandwagon to those feverish mid-1950s nights holding her own beside Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley, Jackson never faltered — and it took a hell of a lot nerve to transform herself from simple country sister to the volcanic rockabilly growler responsible for “Fujiyama Mama” and “Let’s Have a Party.” Jackson, with her singular mixture of high-glam image and lowdown R&B-fueled frenzy, remains an unparalleled figure: The fact that she survived rockabilly’s 1959 meltdown, charting country hits (like the self-penned masterpiece “Right or Wrong”) throughout the ’60s, ranks her not only as a taboo-flouting rebel but also a significant predecessor to the country singer-songwriter likes of Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton. Wanda Jackson? One of a kind. (Jonny Whiteside)
Also playing Saturday:
MR. SCRUFF at El Rey Theatre; SAGE FRANCIS, DILATED PEOPLES, LIVING LEGENDS at National Orange Show Fairgrounds, San Bernardino; GITANE DEMONE at Que Sera; MOONEY SUZUKI, THE VACATION, BILLY BOY ON POISON at the Roxy; THE RIPPERS, THE GUILTY HEARTS at the Scene; KINGSIZEMAYBE at Taix; GRAVY TRAIN at the Troubadour.
SUNDAY, MARCH 23
PETTY BOOKA at the Knitting Factory; RUBY DEE, JAIMI SHUEY, DAVE GLEASON at Safari Sam’s, noon; MARIA TAYLOR at Tangier.
MONDAY, MARCH 24
BLUE OCTOBER at Avalon; JIM WHITE at Amoeba Music, 7 p.m.; CHAPIN SISTERS at the Echo; RIPPERS, RED HEARTS at Que Sera; BELL X1, SUBMARINES at the Troubadour.
TUESDAY, MARCH 25 Allison Moorer, Steve Earle at Royce Hall
Her husband might be the headliner with his name in much bigger print in the ads, but Allison Moorer could very well steal the show. She’ll certainly be more enchanting with the languidly melodic way she interprets songs from her 2007 mostly covers collection, Mockingbird (New Line), where she champions and expands on the work of a diverse lineup of a women songwriters. June Carter Cash & Merle Kilgore’s “Ring of Fire” is given a solemnly lulling makeover with a gorgeous sheen of celestial organ and violins weaving smoothly under her glassy vocals. Her spare, intimate version of Kate McGarrigle’s spurned-lover’s lament “Go, Leave” is quietly moving, while Gillian Welch’s “Revelator” is piercingly sad and ruefully entrancing. Acoustic-guitar-based remakes of Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now,” Cat Power’s “Where Is My Love” and her sister Shelby Lynne’s “She Knows Where She Goes” are simply lovely. Moorer’s new single, a straightforward take on Patti Smith’s oft-covered “Dancing Barefoot,” is so appropriately slinky and beguiling that one hopes its heroin references won’t trigger a relapse by former junkie Steve Earle, who celebrates Rush Limbaugh’s favorite crutch on “Oxycontin Blues.” Apart from the self-important crowing of “Steve’s Hammer (for Pete),” Earle’s recent CD, Washington Square Serenade (New West), is an enjoyable assortment of gruff-voiced, Dylanish visions of old-timey Americana, even as one wishes he had dug a little deeper lyrically to avoid corn-prone clichés. (Falling James)
Saul Williams & Dragons of Zynth at the Troubadour
Regarding The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of NiggyTardust (The Fader), the very literate and explosive Saul Williams’ recent album (the fruit of his collaboration with new big brother Trent Reznor) and an offering of his ever-spiraling poetic expression via smart, speedy raps that actually mean something, let’s jump straight to his MySpace page, which says that his band members include Krishna! James Brown! Fela Kuti! John Lennon! Edith Piaf! Nina Simone! Leon Thomas! Miles Davis! Jimi! Harry Potter! Steve Biko! and Jesus! Hope that gives you an idea of the spread and scope of the dude’s interests and abilities. No? Some influences, then: Paul Robeson, Gandhi, Coltrane, Ellington, Hiroshima, Whitman, Ginsberg, Marley, Shakur and the Countless Unnamed. Williams writes prose and poetry, makes music, has a message (many) and sometimes likes loud sounds to get his point across. The proggy metal/spacy soul aggregation Dragons of Zynth (with some TV on the Radio pals) jump into the fray with Williams; they might do some of the heady stuff from their own awesome and strange Coronation Thieves disc on Gigantic. (John Payne)
Jim White at the Silent Movie Theatre
Not to be confused with Dirty Three drummer Jim White, who was just in town backing Cat Power, this Jim White is a former Pentecostal true believer who’s transformed himself into a witty and literate chronicler of Southern culture. He’s been a surfer, a taxi driver, a drifter and a fashion model, but he’s best known for his wonderfully crafted, sometimes oddball songs. His 2007 CD, Transnormal Skiperoo (Luaka Bop), is an engaging collection of rootsy pop tunes such as the mournfully dreamy ballad “Jailbird” (where he tries to leave his past behind, “wipers in the rain tapping out time/coming up on a new state line”). “Fruit of the Vine” is a hazy, humid, spellbinding blues song about toiling in the fields, where he advises, “You learn to take your time/down south in the summertime.” White’s more playful on “Turquoise House,” where he wants a turquoise carpet and matching shoes and righteously wonders, “How’m I ever gonna pass for a normal guy?” He never will, and that’s a good thing. Also at Amoeba Music, Mon. (Falling James)
Ace Frehley at House of Blues
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Dazed & confused: Russian Circles
Kiss sucks without Ace Frehley. It was first apparent when his was the quartet’s only solo album to find life outside bargain bin (with the radio hit “New York Groove”), and it was proved when their failed attempt to pass off his first replacement (Vinnie Vincent, the Ankh Man?) led to washing off the clown white in 1983. Knowing that Paul and Gene are currently with a dude who used to play “Ace” in a cover band makes me think that the mad phantom Abner Devereaux and his “Fake Kiss” won that colossus battle at Magic Mountain, and the half-imposter band may as well be singing “Rip & Destroy.” But rest assured, even as Kiss has become synonymous with caskets and condoms, Space Ace is still all about the “Cold Gin,” meaning he rocks, and let’s hope that the clean-and-sober guitarist will deliver that long-promised comeback album this summer — or at least before Axl Rose ushers in a democratic China. (Daniel Siwek)
Also playing Tuesday:
BOB MOULD at El Rey Theatre; JOSE GONZALEZ, MIA DOI TODD at the Wiltern; EVANGELISTA at Amoeba Music, 7 p.m.
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 26
Kaki King at the Roxy
Wunderkind guitarist Kaki King first came to attention as a busker in the subways of New York City, but she wasn’t strumming the usual sensitive folkie fare. Instead, she crafted engrossingly arty instrumentals and exotically strange soundscapes with a variety of unusual chords hammered out (sometimes literally) with her magician-quick hands. She experimented more fully with vocals on her 2006 CD, ... Until We Felt Red, where her breathy, childlike vocals were generally charming if a bit wispy. Sean Penn used her aptly eerie and spacy tunes on the soundtrack for Into the Wild, and she sang with Dave Grohl on a recent Foo Fighters album (but try not to hold that against her). Her new CD, Dreaming of Revenge (Velour), alternates between freaky instrumentals and relatively simple indie-rock tunes. The songs with vocals, such as the fragile acoustic idyll “Life Being What It Is” and the airy, gauzy “Pull Me Out Alive,” are enjoyable, but the instrumentals are still the most interesting tracks. “Montreal” bobs along on a sea of Cure-like chords before echoing loops of ghostly lapsteel guitar swirl around and the drums kick in. Magical. (Falling James)
Also playing Wednesday:
SOPHIE B. HAWKINS, JANIS IAN at Cerritos Center; THE SIXTH CHAMBER at the Buccaneer Lounge.
THURSDAY, MARCH 27
Russian Circles, Red Sparowes at the Echo
Chicago’s Russian Circles purvey a kind of nü arena rock that takes all that “tasty” ’70s twin-lead-guitar huffapuffa (clean in one channel, riffarama-mama woolly mammoth in the other) and then stretches stuff out, way out, into long-ass tales from the creepy crypt that go through innumerable changes in direction and tone, telling a kind of story, you know. well, they do some wicked jams, bro (seriously), as their upcoming full-length, Station (on Suicide Squeeze), will no doubt tell you; along with super-drummer Dave Turncrantz and guitarist Mike Sullivan, bassist Brian Cook of These Arms Are Snakes and the massive Botch helped out. Meanwhile, L.A.’s own Red Sparowes, featuring that interesting ax man from Isis named Cliff Myer, make an ambient-metallic haze/horsewhipping; their superb Every Red Heart Shines Toward the Red Sun (Neurot) was produced by Fucking Champ Tim Green, a trademark of high quality. (John Payne)
Also playing Thursday:
COLD WAR KIDS at Samueli Theater, Costa Mesa; DANIEL LANOIS at the Vista (see Music feature); CHAPIN SISTERS at Amoeba Music, 7 p.m.; WATKINS FAMILY HOUR at Largo; FREE MORAL AGENTS at Silverlake Lounge; THE DATSUNS, THE BINGES at Spaceland.
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