Rock Picks: Pelican, Herman Dune, Rasputina, Bill Frisell, Random Patterns
FRIDAY, MARCH 27
Pelican, Wolves in the Throne Room, Tombs at the Troubadour
Hugely heavy-hairy metallic Earth-doom thrashing ’round your stoned skull on the phones whilst you shop for your new Pelican T-shirts, bags, hoodies, badges, well, they’re a cottage industry now, ain’t they, but it couldn’t have happened to a more righteously epic buncha experimental-film-score-surfy-hot-rod-desert-dream dudes. The little girls understand, so do the boys who love ’em, how two minutes of enormous-whomping-fuzzy-tidal-wave-out-of-Chicago lads Pelican (now L.A.-based) can corkscrew one’s head in novel positions, and 20 minutes (it’ll be the same song) can change your life forever — for the better. They have had the good sense to align themselves with two trademarks of quality, namely the Hydrahead and Southern Lord labels, and right about — now! — they’re at the very peak of their brain-plowing prowess, guaranteed to blast all comers all the way back to the muthafuggin’ bungalow. With Wolves in the Throne Room and Tombs. (John Payne)
Gloria Trevi at Gibson Amphitheatre
Infamous south-of-the-border pop belter Gloria Trevi has well and truly got it all. A pepper-hot stage persona, a wildly physical presentation equal parts semiacrobatic dance moves and indecent come-hither abandon, a high-volume hypercrunchy melodic dynamism and a singularly lurid reputation — the black honey of her past as a convict and international fugitive running from criminal charges of procuring and exploiting a gaggle of teenage aspirants as sexual playthings for her then-manager. And, perhaps best of all, a lyrical penchant for championing women’s rights and skewering the fragile machismo congenital to so many Hispanic males. A sociocultural whirlwind La Trevi is, and in performance all of it combines for an eye-popping display of unbridled celebration. Vivid, vulgar and charming all at once, Trevi even makes rock & roll libertine Alejandra Guzman seem tame by comparison (and that, kiddies, is no small feat), but her mix of showstopping high jinks and indomitable survivalism ranks her as one of the most arresting (no pun intended) Mexi-pop temptresses of all time. (Jonny Whiteside)
Cold War Kids at the Orpheum Theatre
Even with the economy heading south, Long Beach’s Cold War Kids continue their ascent in the pop-rock world, opening for more famous bands (the White Stripes) and headlining in bigger venues like the Orpheum. Their recent CD, Loyalty to Loyalty (Downtown Records), is mounted on swirling riffs and massive hooks, while Nathan Willett’s airy, pleading falsetto vocals deliver unexpected insights. “Earthquake in your pajamas, huddled in doorways while your houses sway ... you never really know what you can’t really see ... everything will be explained,” he promises on “Relief” while Matt Maust holds things down with a spiny bass line. There’s a Velvet Underground stomp to such songs as “Something Is Not Right With Me,” and elsewhere Willett’s and Jonnie Russell’s luminescent guitars unwind with a Radiohead-style sheen. Yet, for all of their influences and their taste for experimental remixes, underneath it all, they write memorable, distinctive songs. (Falling James)
Also playing Friday:
PETE ROCK at the Key Club; 3OH!3, A ROCKET TO THE MOON, FAMILY FORCE 5, HIT THE LIGHTS, THE MAINE at Avalon; CARNEY at Vanguard; GLISS, THE TAKEOVER UK at Spaceland; THE ASTEROIDS GALAXY TOUR at the Echo.
SATURDAY, MARCH 28
Women, Chad VanGaalen at Spaceland
Calgary’s Women is most certainly a band founded upon contradiction. There’s the name of course (the quartet can only muster two pairs of X chromosomes between them), but it extends to their musical DNA as well. On the one hand, the experimental zeal of This Heat appears to be alive and well in this crew’s taste for industrial skronk, monotone vocals, drone-outs and angular guitar fits. On the other, Women is just as prone to extended passages of lackadaisical pop beauty à la Zombies. Most importantly, rather than tow the psych-rock middle ground between these influences, the band’s eponymous debut (released by Jagjaguwar last year) oscillates wildly between the two, which makes it a crisply challenging document as prone to turning out lovely singles (“Black Rice”) as it is works of pure art (“Shaking Hand”). The album was made on tape machines and boom boxes in the basement of Chad VanGaalen, the Sub Pop folk-rock tinkerer who headlines this show. (Chris Martins)
Herman Dune at the Natural History Museum
“Alternative bands once avoided melody. No longer,” ran a recent headline in Newsweek about the return of hummable tunes to indie rock. There are many possible reasons for its absence: punk versus pop snobbery, focus on rhythm (both punk and hip-hop are beat-centric), or shameful inability to write a decent hook. French duo Herman Dune are champs of the sing-along song. Their lyrical eccentricities, whimsical vocals and small-label status make them legitimately “indie,” but their catchy melodies are welcomed by one’s frontal lobe, and they ensure that your hippocampus will remind you of them long after a listen. Guitarist David-Ivar Herman Dune sings and writes mirth like “Baby Is Afraid of Sharks” and the gorgeous title track, “Next Year In Zion,” from their most recent album. “Brother” Néman Herman Dune drums and sings harmonies. As I pay bills, the piper, and dues, I play Herman Dune on the box of boom to stave off the doom. We’re all afraid of sharks these days, baby. (Michael Simmons)
Also playing Saturday:
PRINCE at the Nokia Theater, Club Nokia and the Conga Room; TOM MORELLO/THE NIGHTWATCHMAN, WAYNE KRAMER, SERJ TANKIAN, SLASH, OTHERS at the Henry Fonda Theatre; MADELEINE PEYROUX at Club Nokia; AIDS WOLF, WHITE MICE, BIPOLAR BEAR, OKIE DOKIE at the Smell.
SUNDAY, MARCH 29
Rasputina at the Troubadour
Melora Creager created a bewitchingly strange alternate universe on Rasputina’s 2007 album, Oh Perilous World, blending real-life events and references to Osama bin Laden and the battle for Fallujah with a fantastic cast of literary and historical figures, including Fletcher Christian and poor, demented Mary Todd Lincoln. Creager’s goal wasn’t escapism so much as it was to examine the real world anew with a fairy-tale sense of wonder. For all of her highflying whimsy, songs like “Cage in a Cave” were undeniably catchy and poppy, contrasting the hard and sinister lurch of “Draconian Crackdown” and the foreboding tangle of cellos of “In Old Yellowcake.” She’s woven her unique cello sound into collaborations with Nirvana, Belle & Sebastian, and the Pixies, and on this tour she’s paired with Rasputina’s first male co-cellist, Daniel DeJesus, and a new drummer, Catie D’Amica. (Falling James)
The Idan Raichel Project at the Orpheum Theatre
What is it about Idan Raichel that makes every girl who understands the Hebrew tongue feel as if he’s just whispered sweet somethings in her ear? Is it his dreads, his boyish good looks, his soft-spoken delivery or the fact that he’s got no hesitation in rocking the raver pants? It’s simple, boys; no matter how culturally significant his Project may be, it’s the songs from the heart (that longing for romance as much as peace) making these ladies melt like butter in Beersheba. But let’s not underestimate the cultural diversity, either. It may not be a big deal to see Ethiopian musicians totally entwined in the Tel Aviv music scene, but few expected an album (his self-titled) utilizing the masenko (Ethiopian violin) and partly sung in Amharic to penetrate Israel’s pop scene, where the charts are dominated by Eurovision-meets–American Idolchahra (drech). His latest Cumbancha (www.cumbancha.com) release, Within My Walls, continues to break down barriers between Africa, South America and the Middle East, if not politically, then at least emotionally and musically. (Daniel Siwek)
Also playing Sunday:
THE RENDERERS at the Smell; DJ QUIK’S GROOVE at the Key Club; RADAR BROS., LE SWITCH at the Echo (chidren’s show, 1 p.m.); THE HOMOSEXUALS, SHARK TOYS at the Echoplex; CRYSTAL ANTLERS at Founders Park.
MONDAY, MARCH 30
Summer Darling at the Echo
The local band Summer Darling churn up some engrossing indie rock on their recent EP, Good Feeling. Ben Heywood sings in a Thurston Moore sort of deadpan, revealing fascinatingly mysterious lyrics like “I stole honey from a horde of hungry bees” and “I’ve got cancers to reward for sticking with me,” from “The Zealot.” What’s even better is the way Heywood’s and Dan Rossiter’s guitars intersect with mesmerizing Television-style angles and are bumped firmly along by Heather Bray’s warm bass. “Born Again” starts out as a regretful tale of too much partying, but it soon ascends into the clouds, borne aloft by those interlocking guitar chimes and Bray’s soothing harmonies. There’s a bit of Neil Young on funereal ballads like “Young Forever,” but ultimately Summer Darling don’t sound like anyone but themselves, especially on the surging, expansive anthem “Ride This Wave of Good Feelings.” Ride on. (Falling James)
Also playing Monday:
WHITE MAGIC at the Smell; CHRIS DUARTE GROUP at the Redwood Bar.
TUESDAY, MARCH 31
Random Patterns at the Silverlake Lounge
The hills of Mount Washington are far from the desert breezes of the Mojave, but these five Highland Park–area cats have got the magic of Joshua Tree in their bones, and they infuse it into their soulful psychedelia. Their racks of keyboards, chiming guitars, thrift-store cowboy shirts and whisper-to-a-scream vocals add up to far more than the sum of their parts. Like a messier All Night Radio or a bouncier Beachwood Sparks, Random Patterns’ cinematic explosions of glossy keys, shimmering beats and swarming melodies swell up into hypnotic, booty-moving numbers — maintaining their LSD-colored cellophane-skies vibe, but also pushing the jingle-jangle style beyond the risky realm of a Byrds cover band. Catch their live radio set on KXLU Saturday night for a preview. Inland Empire’s Starkiller, on the other hand, keenly orchestrates a subtle and understated groove that’s layered with samples, bass beats, strings, keys and harmonies reminiscent of Dummy-era Portishead. (Wendy Gilmartin)
Also playing Tuesday:
MIA DOI TODD, CHRISTY & EMILY at the Echo; LESS THAN JAKE at Avalon; THE DAVE RAWLINGS MACHINE at Largo at the Coronet; BOHREN & DER CLUB OF GORE, VOID OV?VOICES at Spaceland.
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 1
The Rakes at the Troubadour
It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what it is about the Rakes that sets the group apart from the other youthful, ale-swilling U.K. bands that made their debut in the early ’00s. They wear stripy shirts, prefer their music slightly art-damaged but danceable, and sing about the pub crawl with a mix of humor and disdain. Cue the queue: Bloc Party, the Futureheads, Art Brut, Maxïmo Park, Razorlight ... the list could go on, but the Rakes rise above the pack. Or rather, they sink below it in the best way. Singer Alan Donohoe is easily the biggest self-loather in the bunch, and songs like the Rakes’ breakout workaday anti-anthem, “22 Grand Job,” excel at illustrating the nuanced murk found at the bottom of life’s sludgier gutters. Fittingly, the band’s music is a hair punker, too, owing more to their Whitechapel mates the Libertines than, say, Franz Ferdinand. They appear here behind their third album, Klang, which finds the Rakes as cynically club-ready as ever. (Chris Martins)
Also playing Wednesday:
WHITE DENIM, THE PAINS OF BEING PURE AT HEART at Spaceland; GAVIN DEGRAW at El Rey Theatre.
THURSDAY, APRIL 2
Bill Frisell at Skirball Cultural Center
Bill Frisell’s Disfarmer Project: Musical Portraits from Heber Springs features the madly eclectic ax titan swinging low in gently avant-garde acoustic mode. Joined by an interestingly chosen combo of players, each of whom is his equal in the chameleonic nongenre stakes — charismatic violinist Jenny Scheinman, steel-guitar ace Greg Leisz and bassist Viktor Krauss — Frisell performs a new suite inspired by the life and work of photographer Mike Disfarmer (1884-1959), a near-mythical character best known for his poignant and harrowing photographs of country life in Arkansas during the Depression. Heavily inspired by Frisell’s own roots in Ozark fiddle music, the Disfarmer sounds draw, as usual, upon a panoply of trad and futuristic American musical modes, from rock to jazz to the burnished, airy soundscapes in between. (John Payne)
Lily Allen at the Wiltern
British songbird Lily Allen is catty, vain, self-centered, insecure, overly obsessed about her image, and continues the nasty habit of publicly exposing her boyfriends’ sexual inadequacies on her latest CD, It’s Not Me, It’s You — yet in the end, she still manages to come off as charming. This time around, she collaborated with The Bird & the Bee’s Greg Kurstin, who played all of the guitars and keyboards and produced and co-wrote most of the album’s songs. Gone are the sunny, buoyantly lilting ska-pop stylings of Allen’s 2006 CD, Alright, Still ... , replaced by the gauzy electronica of “Back to the Start” and the new-wave shimmer of “The Fear.” There are occasional tunes like “22” and “He Wasn’t There” that evoke the joy of The Bird & the Bee’s retro pop, but much of the time Kurstin’s backing sounds surprisingly anonymous. It’s up to Allen, then, to provide a few sparks, enlivening the bland setting of “Him” with witty asides (“I don’t imagine he’s ever been suicidal/His favourite band is Creedence Clearwater Revival”). The jaunty pomp of “Fuck You” is contrasted by her cheerily rude lyrics, and she raises a smile on “The Fear” when she confesses to being “a weapon of massive consumption.” (Falling James)
Also playing Thursday:
TIFT MERRITT, MIRANDA LEE RICHARDS at Largo at the Coronet; JASON ISBELL, JUSTIN TOWNES EARLE at Spaceland; JEREMY JAY at the Smell; BONNIE PRINCE BILLY at El Rey Theatre (see music feature); OMAR SOSA at the Jazz Bakery.
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