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Rock Picks: Jimmy Scott, the Raspberries, Sharon Jones, Wreckless Eric

{mosimage}Friday, November 30

Jimmy Scott at the Echoplex

Just when it seemed as if he might never again pay a call to our foul city, Jimmy Scott — the peerless, drastically idiosyncratic jazz/R&B stylist who has mesmerized an avid cult of followers since 1949 — turns up to dispense his complex musical confections. Scott is a master at redefining American popular standards: Using a mixture of unspeakable tenderness and apocalyptic torment, always delivered with such languorous phrasing that only a chosen few players can successfully accompany him, he imbues familiar lyrics with a personalized psychic involvement so that just about any tune he chooses becomes something entirely different (“Pennies From Heaven” becomes a cosmological dirge, “All the Way” plays as a statement on not just romance but, it seems, the entire human condition). Although now in his 80s, Scott can still slay ’em — his performance at Ruth Brown’s NYC funeral earlier this year was reportedly a profoundly moving experience — and we’re damn fortunate he’s still willing to work. (Jonny Whiteside)

The Raspberries at House of Blues

A Raspberries reunion is something of a wet dream for power-pop fanatics. For a brief period in the early ’70s, the Cleveland-based band was heralded as an American Beatles. Songs like “Go All the Way,” “I Wanna Be With You,” “Tonight,” “Ecstasy” and “Let’s Pretend” are as sublime a quintet of pure-pop treats as any U.S. band has produced, and the Raspberries produced them all within a two-year period. The sheer sophistication of their rock-&-roll tale “Overnight Sensation (Hit Record)” stands up with anything Brian Wilson has attempted — and more than makes up for lead singer Eric Carmen’s subsequent lite-rock career. The original quartet (Carmen, guitarist Wally Bryson, bassist Dave Smalley and drummer Jim Bonfanti) regrouped a few years back, and, as demonstrated on their recently released concert disc, Live on the Sunset Strip (recorded at this same House of Blues), time hasn’t diminished their magic. (Michael Berick)

{mosimage}Dust Galaxy at the Knitting Factory

Rob Garza of Thievery Corporation got together a bunch of his superstar pals from bands such as Primal Scream, Ted Leo & the Pharmacists, Cornershop, Brazilian Girls, Fugazi, Gogogo Airhart and others, mashed them in a set of tunes determined to rock, not dance, in a loose and garage-y way while reining in all that glossy sonic futzing he might be apt to do with his more high-gloss Thievery Corp. The eponymous new album (ESL Music) they all came up with feels good, because it 1) slams hard and authentically sloppy; 2) has lots of tambourine on it; 3) and some groovy sitar too; 4) the overall gnarly vein comes off like the Seeds jamming with Iggy Pop at a really trippy party in a Turkish nightclub circa 1971. It does manage to take you places, in other words, though it does so in spite of Garza’s humdrum singing, which doesn’t irritate so much as gets sucked into the swirling vortex of colorful noise. (John Payne)

Also playing Friday:

CAKE, DETROIT COBRAS at Orpheum Theatre; NOT IN THE HOUSE at Hyperion Tavern; DON CABALLERO at Alex’s Bar; THE JONESES, THE GEARS, MAD PARADE at Blue Cafe; THE BRAVERY, TEST YOUR REFLEX at the Canyon; LIZ PAPPADEMAS at Hotel Café; LUCY KAPLANSKY at McCabe’s; JONATHAN RICHMAN at Safari Sam’s; EVIL BEAVER, CHAIRS OF PERCEPTION at the Scene; CAROLE KING, JAMES TAYLOR at the Troubadour.

{mosimage}Saturday, December 1

Steve Forbert at McCabe’s

It’s been nearly 30 years since a fresh-faced Mississippi kid scored an unexpected hit with the infectious folk-rocker “Romeo’s Tune.” Dubbed the “new Dylan,” Forbert — like all new Dylans — never matched the original’s commercial or critical success, but he didn’t disappear back to Mississippi either. Over the years, he has aged gracefully as a tunesmith and grown comfortably into his older-than-his-years voice. He even nabbed a Grammy nomination for Any Old Time, his tribute to fellow Magnolia State musician Jimmie Rodgers. Forbert’s latest effort, Strange Names & New Sensations, is stocked with sharp-eyed observations about politics (“The Baghdad Dream”), love (“Man, I Miss That Girl”), aging (“Middle Age”) and death (“Simply Spaulding Gray”). Forbert, on the phone from New Jersey, told me that his songs are “all of a piece” — personal tales that now come from his middle-age perspective. Maybe that’s why he doesn’t deny his past by concluding his disc with a warm revisiting of “Romeo’s Tune.” (Michael Berick)

Also playing Saturday:

SLIGHTLY STOOPID, FISHBONE at the Wiltern; ADOLESCENTS, FISHBONE at Galaxy Theatre; YOUSSOU N’DOUR at Royce Hall (see Music feature); JON BRION at Largo; CHUPACOBRA, THE UV’s at Mr. T’s Bowl; GIRL IN A COMA at the Roxy; ENTRANCE BAND, TSK TSK at Spaceland (see Music feature); ANNY CELSI, CAROLYN EDWARDS at Taix; JEWMONGOUS at Tangier; THE LEMONHEADS at the Troubadour; SARA LOV, PATRICK PARK, SEA WOLF at the Rhythm Lounge.

{mosimage}Sunday, December 2

VHS or Beta at El Rey Theatre

With perhaps the ultimate ironically retro name, and uniting that holy trinity of hipster cred — jittery guitar-pop, angular Gang of Four dance-punk and en vogue European house — VHS or Beta are the in-flight meal of indie-rock. They have all the correct components, nice presentation and are sufficiently satiating until a real meal/deal (in their case, the Rapture, Duran Duran or the Cure) is back on the table. Grafting six-string swagger to four-on-the-floor, DJ-ish jelly-quiverin’ (main men Craig Pfunder and Mark Palgy also tour as deckhands), these Louisville muggers equally excite the haircuts and the hedonists. Surprisingly, considering the current Daft Punk/Justice drooling, VHS or Beta minimized the French touch on this year’s third full-length, Bring on the Comets, in favor of their more melodic/organic side. Smart move too, because, for all their stylistic savvy and genre-awareness, it’s VHS or Beta’s solid songwriting that might stretch their already decadelong run in the sun. (Paul Rogers)

Also playing Sunday:

VOXTROT, DIVISION DAY at Henry Fonda Theater; EUGENE CHADBOURNE at Center for the Arts, Eagle Rock; NERVOUS GENDER, NEW COLLAPSE at the Echo; THE LOCUST, UPSILON ACRUX, YIP YIP at Knitting Factory; JAMES WILSEY at Molly Malone’s; SOULSAVERS, SPAIN at the Troubadour; FISHTANK ENSEMBLE at Getty Center, 12:30 & 3 p.m.

Monday, December 3

Playing Monday:

MICKEY CHAMPION at Babe’s & Ricky’s Inn; VAMPIRE WEEKEND, GRAND OL’ PARTY at the Echo; VADER, CATTLE DECAPITATION at House of Blues; CLARE BOWDITCH, JANA LOSEY at Knitting Factory; THE BINGES, BIBLICAL PROOF OF UFOs at Spaceland; CARBON/SILICON at the Troubadour; A PLACE TO BURY STRANGERS at Viper Room.

{mosimage}Tuesday, December 4

Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings at El Rey Theatre

Before Amy Winehouse came along, Brooklyn-based Sharon Jones pretty much had a lock on repackaging scrappy old-school R&B for savvy new-school hipsters. A reassuringly lifelike presence in a field of perfectly poised Beyoncés and Alicia Keyses, Jones channeled the anxiety and the jangled nerves that accompany love in the real world; where her younger, sleeker counterparts sang odes to their own resolve and self-confidence, Jones proudly embodied doubt and disquietude. Of course, now that Winehouse (who hired Jones’ crack backing band for “Rehab”) has morphed into a sad parody of show-biz excess, Jones sounds like a paragon of well-being on 100 Days, 100 Nights, her latest studio album with the Dap-Kings. As always, the material could have been written at any point over the last 45 years or so; Jones sticks to universal emotions (like heartbreak) that haven’t exactly become more scarce in the age of MySpace. And the Dap-Kings’ funk remains as sharp as that made by any machine. (Mikael Wood)

A Place to Bury Strangers at Silverlake Lounge

Had the Jesus and Mary Chain not gone cold and mellow with their sophomore effort, Darklands, the self-titled debut from Brooklyn’s A Place to Bury Strangers could pass as the sequel to the Glaswegians’ wall-of-fuzz touchstone, Psychocandy. Backed by snare blasts and stuttering beats, APTBS (not as catchy an acronym as JAMC, alas) bathes its sharp pop flashes in a wash of trebly distortion of such skull-scraping acidity, it disintegrates notes into swirls of white light. The spikes and slashes of rampant electricity are so fierce, the trio has given itself the needless distinction of “loudest band in New York.” On closer inspection, though, they comfortably slip out from under the frizzy shadow of the brothers Reid. Oliver Ackermann, a noise chemist on the side via his FX-pedal business Death by Audio, switches his mic-time between a graveyard monotone and rainy-day yearning on tunes that also overlay My Bloody Valentine’s warped glide, the smoke-machine chill of vintage goth and early industrial’s thwacking might. Also at the Viper Room, Mon. (Bernardo Rondeau)

Also playing Tuesday:

JONATHAN DAVIS at Orpheum Theatre; PORT O’BRIEN, CAVE SINGERS at the Echo; CHUPACOBRA, MAMA SUKI at the Scene; OLIVER FUTURE at Viper Room.

{mosimage}Wednesday, December 5

The Cult at the Wiltern

Though they’ve barely made a meaningful recorded statement since the first four of their eight studio albums, on-again-off-again local Brit transplants the Cult remain — when mercurial mouthpiece Ian Astbury is in the mood — one of hard rock’s most distinctively seductive live draws. The songwriting yin-yang between the unpredictable Astbury and his more stoic (and perpetually underrated) guitarist foil Billy Duffy has been out of whack since their multiplatinum Sonic Temple opus in 1989, yet it’s the front man’s succulent high-plains yowl and confrontational wolf-child demeanor that continue to connect. This year’s Born Into This veers between flirting with (and even mimicking) former glories and blush-inducing, Buckcherry-ish Camaro-metal, but not to worry: The Cult’s enviable back catalogue (from the tribal surrender of ’84’s “Spiritwalker” to ’87’s headbang-compulsory “Wild Flower” to Temple’s arena-slaying “Edie”) allows them to all but ignore their latest disjointed effort. Come for the hits; sit through the shit. (Paul Rogers)

Also playing Wednesday:

SPICE GIRLS at Staples Center; PINBACK, SPOON, SEA WOLF, DATAROCK at Avalon; LETTER OPENERS, AUTOMATIC MUSIC EXPLOSION, DOLLYROTS at El Cid; JESSE MALIN, HOLLY RAMOS at Hotel Café; NELS CLINE SINGERS, EUGENE CHADBOURNE, MENTONES at Safari Sam’s; THE DILETTANTES at Silverlake Lounge.


Thursday, December 6

Eyedea & Abilities at the Knitting Factory

Two buds from Minnesota, Mike Averill and Gregory Keltgen, compose the rather wicked DJ/MC duo known as Eyedea & Abilities. They come from a background as serious competitors on the Midwest battle circuit (you’d be surprised) and, as representatives of the heavy-duty Rhymesayers crew, scored big at crucial events like Scribble Jam and the Blaze-Battle World Championship. Not exactly prolific as record-makers, they’ve put out just two discs since 2001, both excellent slabs of gritty, raw, musically deep and wordily ripping hip-hop. They’ve been busy working on solo side projects for the last couple of years, as well as preparing their new disc for release, coming out soon. This is their Appetite for Distraction tour, to give you a taste of the new flavor; Minnesota homies Sector 7G and Abzorbr open the show. (John Payne)

Mike Stinson at the Echo

Mike Stinson, the Los Angeles–based, Virginia-born country singer and writer of exquisitely sadsad songs, is a goddamned poet. Neither a dopey, jangled-up Americana goon nor one compelled to seek an “alternative” form of country music, Sintson instead just reaches down and pulls up some of the gnarliest, most artfully expressed gobbets of agony you’ve ever heard. And while he is definitely not unappreciated here, the hell of it is that Stinson is essentially a man without a context, caught between the Americana vacuum and Music City’s pop fetish, yet that very paradoxical limbo seems only to further ennoble his self-propelled venture into honky-tonk’s illimitable well of shame and frustration. And here he is tonight, stuck on a holiday event touted as (barf) a Hee-Haw–style revue, quietly proposing his superb and original model of modern country within a setting made for clowns, not princes. (Jonny Whiteside)

Wreckless Eric, Amy Rigby at Safari Sam’s

Among Stiff Records’ gifted Class of ’77, Wreckless Eric wasn’t the one most likely to succeed (Elvis Costello), the class clown (Ian Dury) or the savvy senior (Nick Lowe). He was the scruffy, quirky kid who was mates with them all, although never getting as much fame. It wasn’t that he lacked the talent. Wreckless Eric (a.k.a. Eric Goulden) fashioned a string of catchy yet rough-edged pop-punk tunes in the late ’70s. His contributions (“Semaphore Signals” and “Reconnez Cherie”) to the fabled Live Stiffs compilation rival those of his better-known colleagues. After making only the occasional album in the last 25 years, Eric received a jolt of attention when Will Ferrell performed his signature tune, “Whole Wide World,” in the film Stranger Than Fiction. For this show — his first in L.A. since 1980 — he’ll be sharing the stage with his traveling companion, Amy Rigby, a witty singer-songwriter in her own right. (Michael Berick)

Also playing Thursday:

FABOLOUS, T-PAIN, BABY BASH at Gibson Amphitheatre; DENGUE FEVER at the Getty Center; THE NIGHTWATCHMAN at Hotel Café; WATKINS FAMILY HOUR at Largo; FAIR TO MIDLAND at the Troubadour; POWDER, AFTER MIDNIGHT PROJECT, WARNER DRIVE at King King.


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