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Rock Picks: Raveonettes, Amebix, Thorns of Life

The Spanks
Sean P. Costello

THURSDAY, JANUARY 22

CHROMEO AT THE KEY CLUB

Chromeo robo-walk down the mothership’s ramp, chanting “Take me to your dealer!” through pawnshop vocoders before re-materializing at some word-of-mouth loft party full of American Apparel models. The Montreal-based pair produce electro-funk laced with dangerous doses of irony, introducing the club-staple synths of New Order and Human League to karaoke-evoking early Madonna disco-lite, the brittle guitars and optimistic keys of Billy Ocean and even that chummily vomit-inducing Ghost Busters theme. It’s a tired, oversaturated genre but, as ever, it’ll be the strong left standing, and Chromeo — alongside their Aussie cuzzes Cut Copy and the Presets — are rippling with DJ instincts. They grasp that those of a certain age want to be transported back to responsibility-free high school/college days and that, dammit, no one wants to be “challenged” by music all the time. Anyone on a stage has an ego, but Chromeo’s music is an escapist dance-floor soundtrack, not some self-pitying/-important window into their oh-so-fascinating souls. (Paul Rogers)

GEORGE JONES AT SAN MANUEL INDIAN BINGO

George Jones, the undisputed king of country music, has always been a weird, enigmatic character. Capable of the most intensely moving song interpretations known to man, he seems, offstage, a near-inarticulate, withdrawn character (remember his painfully wooden “interview” style on TNN’s early-’90s gab fest The George Jones Show?). Jones’ proclivity for mixing genius with self-destruction is unrivaled — his greatest artistic success was achieved at a point in his life when whiskey and cocaine use had so badly ravaged the singer, he was missing many of his bookings and his weight had dropped below 100 pounds. He’s still barnstorming the hinterlands in his mid-70s (this date was only confirmed within the last two weeks). Jones’ pipes may be somewhat diminished, but he remains the same purely aesthetic force he was as a 10-year-old street singer in Beaumont, Texas; Jones was stunned when people began pitching coins at him because, as he said, “I would’ve been happy to do it for free.” (Jonny Whiteside)

Also playing Thursday:

SHITN A, KEVIN LITROW, HALLOWEEN SWIM TEAM at the Airliner; WILLIE NELSON at the Canyon; AMEBIX at the Echoplex; THE RESCUES, JOSH KELLEY, AM at the Hotel Cafe; DUANE PETERS GUNFIGHT, PRIMA DONNA at the Knitting Factory; FOUNTAINS OF WAYNE at Largo; LOVE GRENADES, WAR TAPES at the Roxy; NORTH MISSISSIPPI ALLSTARS at the Troubadour.

 

FRIDAY, JANUARY 23

THORNS OF LIFE, UNDERGROUND RAILROAD TO CANDYLAND AT EAGLE ROCK CENTER FOR THE ARTS

The world’s been a lonelier place since Blake Schwarzenbach disappeared nearly six years ago. The former Jawbreaker and Jets to Brazil singer-guitarist left fans with a gaping hole that couldn’t be filled with the limitless supply of heart-on-sleeve imitators who emerged after his departure. Schwarzenbach didn’t write the handbook for the genre the media call emo, but he sure as hell perfected it with Jawbreaker. If the YouTube video evidence means anything, then that despair is now gone, because Thorns of Life, Schwarzenbach’s latest trio (rounded out by drummer Aaron Cometbus and bassist Daniela Sea), have taken the three-chords-and-sorrow formula from Jawbreaker’s Unfun and 24 Hour Revenge Therapy and slowed it down a tad for a graceful transition into the third (and hopefully not final) act of Schwarzenbach’s career. And on the off chance Thorns of Life totally suck, San Pedro’s the Underground Railroad to Candyland are playing. Led by headband-wearing extraordinaire/Toys that Kill frontman Todd Congelliere, the former quartet have added a percussionist and keyboardist to their bag of catchy, punk-meets-pop-meets-surf tunes. (Ryan Ritchie)

AMEBIX AT THE COBALT CAFÉ

If you find the insipid giddiness, mindless euphoria and manufactured escapism of modern corporate-punk bands to be profoundly depressing instead of cheerily goofy, you might be in need of a serious shot of Amebix. Some of the crucial, long-out-of-print early releases by the ’80s British crust-punk originators were released last year on the Alternative Tentacles collection No Sanctuary: The Spiderleg Recordings. The CD is a welcome blast from the days when being a punk rocker was actually a dangerous lifestyle choice instead of a Hot Tip marketing ploy, back when Amebix were living in freezing squats, stealing food from shops, supporting leftist causes and battling the police at Stonehenge. Although Rob “The Baron” Miller’s caustically blasphemous lyrics might be in the same league as fellow anarcho-punks Crass, Amebix’s music also combines the scabrous minimalism of punk rock with heavier, darker post-punk riffery and guttural vocals à la Venom and Killing Joke. The intro to the deceptively titled “Sunshine Ward” unfolds with elegant guitar chimes and mournfully melodic vocals (which have an almost-Morrissey-like melancholy) before segueing into a mechanized crunch of sinister power chords. The lyrics to “The Church Is for Sinners” (where the Baron howls, “The priests, when told of starving kids, look on in mock dismay”) reminds me of the smug expression I saw on Cardinal Roger Mahony’s face just last week, as he blew off two young environmental activists who tried to get him to sign a petition outside Gelson’s supermarket. As long as repressive (and repressed) criminals continue to hide behind generals’ uniforms and priests’ smocks, the music of Amebix will always be relevant. The band is doing two sets tonight, at 6 & 9:30 p.m. (Falling James)

 

THE HEAD CAT, MISS DERRINGER AT THE ROXY

At heart, Lemmy Kilmister is an old rockabilly-loving Teddy Boy, which isn’t that strange when you realize that many of the late-’50s Teds in Britain evolved into Lemmy-like leather-clad rockers in the ’60s. Hearing Mr. Kilmister’s acoustic rockabilly-roots trio the Head Cat may come as a shock to fans used to Motorhead’s supersonic locomotive rattling and punk-metal intensity, but his lovably craggy vocals have a certain amount of gruff charm on their 2006 CD, Fool’s Paradise. It helps that he’s backed by former Stray Cats drummer Slim Jim Phantom and Danny B. Harvey (the Lonesome Spurs, Wanda Jackson, 13 Cats), who brightens Lemmy’s acoustic strumming with tastefully scintillating electric-guitar licks. These Cats dig classic rockabilly songwriters like Carl Perkins (“Matchbox”) and Johnny Cash (“Big River”), but they really love Buddy Holly, covering almost a dozen of his tunes on Paradise. Harvey also plays with openers Miss Derringer, who combine singer Liz McGrath’s ’60s girl-group melodramatics with a noir-ish rootsiness on their 2007 EP, Black Tears. Her guitarist-husband, Morgan Slade, churns up retro guitar chords on the title track, with McGrath sounding a little like Deborah Harry. McGrath is perhaps better known locally as an artist-sculptor who specializes in gory imagery, but Miss Derringer’s music is ultimately more sugary than blood-stained. (Falling James)

Also playing Friday:

ANIMAL COLLECTIVE, ARIEL PINK, LUCKY DRAGONS at Henry Fonda Theater (see Music feature); O.A.R. at Club Nokia; LUDACRIS at Bridges Auditorium, Claremont Colleges; JAY REATARD, EARTHMEN & STRANGERS at the Echoplex; ADOLESCENTS, THE CROWD, WHITE FLAG, LOS CREEPERS at the Knitting Factory; JON BRION at Largo; VERY BE CAREFUL, BUYEPONGO at the Mint; DEPARTMENT OF EAGLES, CAVE SINGERS at the Troubadour.

 

SATURDAY, JANUARY 24 

THE SPANKS AT THE PUKA BAR

The Spanks are another local garage band in a city full of garages, and while there’s nothing terribly original about their blend of mid-’60s rock and early punk, they write catchy, simple songs that are simply catchy. “Told You So” stops and starts smartly with Daisy Spanks’ jack-rabbit guitar riffs and Nikki Spanks’ rollicking drums, while singer-bassist Scotty Spanks chants his way through “Black Fuzz” as he dodges the feints and jabs of Livingston Spanks’ appropriately fuzz-overdriven lead guitar, which sounds like it would fit right in on a Nuggets compilation album. The way Scotty and Daisy trade off vocals on “I Gotta Know” is simply infectious, much like how “Arundhati Roy” moves from its surging guitars and peppy verses into a supremely poppy call-&-response chorus. “Let’s make love in the afternoon, yeah, just like the hippies do/Let’s smoke pot and it’ll mean a lot, yeah,” Daisy sings with a nimbly rapid-fire delivery on “Hippie.” The track’s references to 1967 and free love are kind of ironic, considering that the band’s look and style largely predate the Summer of Love. Seldom has a song about the hippie generation sounded so wonderfully out of date. 710 W. Willow St., Long Beach. (Falling James)

THE RAVEONETTES AT HENRY FONDA THEATER

Like the Jesus & Mary Chain, Danish duo the Raveonettes take simple, retro pop-rock song structures and drape them in ridiculously lavish amounts of reverb and echo to make them sound eerily new. On their 2007 album, Lust Lust Lust (Vice Records), Sune Rose Wagner surrounds partner Sharin Foo’s breathy-dreamy vocals with solemn guitars and shadowy atmospherics to bewitching effect on “Hallucinations.” Similarly, Foo’s childlike vocals sweetly contrast the cottony fuzz-noise of “Dead Sounds” and illuminate the ghostly entrails of fog that shroud “Black Satin.” Of course, when they layer their songs in so many sound effects, there’s a risk of making everything sound hollow and tinny at the core, which is the main drawback of their chief inspirations, the Jesus & Mary Chain. There’s a lot of impressively mysterious cloudiness on the surface, but both bands don’t rock as solidly on the bottom end. Not only do the Raveonettes borrow heavily from the J&MC’s sound, they even nick much of their imagery (the title of “You Want the Candy” sounds like a parody of the Reid brothers’ lyrics). When the Raveonettes toured here last year, Sharrin Foo was pregnant and temporarily replaced by her look-alike sister Louise (“Will work for Foo”), so tonight’s return engagement should be more satisfying all the way around. (Falling James)

Also playing Saturday:

ALL OR NOTHING HC, BRUISE VIOLET at Chucho’s Justice Center, Inglewood, 1 p.m.; COMBICHRIST at Avalon; TAPES ’N TAPES at El Rey Theatre; PITBULL at Club Nokia; THE KRIS SPECIAL, PECULIAR PRETZELMEN at Echo Curio; JOEY ALTRUDA’S CLASSIC RIDDIMS, VIERNES 13 at the Knitting Factory; THE UNTOUCHABLES at the Mint; WEST INDIAN GIRL, JULIETTE COMMAGERE at the Roxy; ANIMAL COLLECTIVE at the Troubadour (see Music feature); CHUPACOBRA at American Legion Post 206, Highland Park; THE BINGES, PSYCHOSTAR, ANGUS KHAN at Silver Factory Studios.

 

 

SUNDAY, JANUARY 25 

RYAN BINGHAM & THE DEAD HORSES AT KING KING

With his dirt-raspy voice, Ryan Bingham sounds much older than his 27 years. In fact, the New Mexico native has lived the life of a much older man. After a peripatetic childhood, Bingham wound up on his own as a teenager, working as a bull rider on the rodeo circuit. Learning guitar at 17, he toiled in the Texas honky-tonks before getting a stamp of approval from Lone Star luminaries like Terry Allen and Joe Ely. Bingham’s 2007 Lost Highway debut, Mescalito, generated much buzz in the Americana circles, and deservedly so. His rough-hewn tunes of desperados and drifters exude a natural authenticity; you don’t doubt him when he sings about hard times and “workin’ for a dollar a day.” Bingham has re-teamed with producer (and ex–Black Crowe) Marc Ford for his spring-bound sophomore effort, so he may share some new raw-knuckled West Texas tales. Also on tonight’s bill is Bingham’s buddy, Doug Moreland, a fiddler and chain-saw artist — although probably not done simultaneously. (Michael Berick)

Also playing Sunday:

FE & MARLENE, LYSA FLORES, LOVE GRENADES at Chucho’s Justice Center, 1 p.m.; SHARON JONES & THE DAP-KINGS at Club Nokia; BARRINGTON LEVY at Blue Cafe; KAKI KING at Brixton South Bay; CATTLE DECAPITATION at the Knitting Factory; AMY FARRIS, DOUG MORELAND at Redwood Bar & Grill, noon; NO AGE, ABE VIGODA, DAVID SCOTT STONE at the Smell, 1 p.m.; NEIL HAMBURGER at Spaceland; PATRIA JACOBS at the Cocaine.

 

MONDAY, JANUARY 26

VOICE ON TAPE, WHITMAN AT PEHRSPACE 

For those about to rock: Weasels loot you. That’s why the avant-garde remains your greatest entertainment value — well, ever since you thought “golden parachute” meant you should turn your assets into an actual parachute made of gold for recreation. Sean Carnage showcases Beaumont label Folktale Records and their Sun, Smog and Hate compilation — five bands from Phoenix, five from Los Angeles, all bitching creatively about the sun, smog and hate. Whitman, on an extended tour of Arizona and California, plies his trade in whispery/shouty/mumbly free-folk, while Ontario’s Voice on Tape creates captivating, echoey no-fi passages of abstract folkish guitar with voices both diaphanous and assured. It’s as though the mistakes and reversals made during the ’60s folk revival are laid bare and revivified because these young captains of the guitar are also in love with noise, the opposite number of melody that, when embraced, makes one surprisingly freer. Also: Clark 8, Foot Ox, John Thill, Bri White. (David Cotner)

Also playing Monday:

SECRET ALPHABET, THE HEALTH CLUB, BASTIDAS, JOHANNA CHASE at the Airliner; JAKE LA BOTZ at the Redwood Bar & Grill; ROCCO DELUCA at Spaceland.

 

TUESDAY, JANUARY 27

N.A.S.A. AT CINESPACE

N.A.S.A. is a new global-groove duo comprising Brazilian DJ Zegon and L.A.-based producer Squeak E. Clean, the latter of whom is known to the IRS as Sam Spiegel and to the celebrity press as the younger brother of director Spike Jonze. (The group’s name stands for North America South America.) Next month Anti- Records is set to release N.A.S.A.’s appealingly daffy debut, The Spirit of Apollo, which features collaborations with an absurdly long list of blog-bait guest stars, including Kool Keith, David Byrne, Tom Waits, the late Ol’ Dirty Bastard, and Yeah Yeah Yeahs front woman Karen O, with whom Spiegel wrote the score for a Jonze-directed Adidas spot a few years ago. When I visited the duo at Spiegel’s Hollywood headquarters in 2007 for a magazine profile, they talked passionately about wanting to break down boundaries between different types of music fans. A year and a half later, I’m not entirely convinced that they didn’t mean different types of hipsters. (Mikael Wood)

Also playing Tuesday:

THE VOYEURS, THE MONOLATORS, LES BLANKS at the Echo; AZALIA SNAIL, FEATHERBEARD, DANIEL OXENBURG at Echo Curio; IO ECHO at the Echoplex; PAULA NELSON at the Mint; MIKE STINSON at Redwood Bar & Grill; SARA LOV at Spaceland.

 

WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 28

JIMMY WEBB AT LARGO

Singer-songwriter Jimmy Webb was to mid-’60s mainstream pop what the 13th Floor Elevators were to Summer of Love rock & roll — nothing less than a revolutionary force. Each operated during their respective idiom’s peak, and, where the Elevators’ sheer historic extremism dwarfed Dylan and the Beatles, Webb’s soaring, irresistible compositions handily overshadowed the glorious likes of Burt Bacharach and Lee Hazlewood. Pop, of course, is a much more restrictive and commercial style, yet Webb’s single most successful number, the much-recorded “MacArthur Park” (hell, Waylon Jennings got a Grammy for his version), still stands as one of the most bizarre and impenetrable tunes of the 20th century. Webb’s loose, evocative lyrics and tremendous melodic sense achieved a paradoxical state of complex simplicity, one ideally suited for the times, and allowed its proponents, notably Glen Campbell, to surf Webb’s golden wave into the Billboard chart’s annals of perpetual notoriety. Getting it direct from the source, naturlich, is the optimal equation, and (who knows?), after the house lights go up tonight, you may finally appreciate the metaphorical significance of that damn cake left out in the rain. (Jonny Whiteside)

 

AMY RAY AT THE TROUBADOUR

As half of the Indigo Girls, Amy Ray has excelled in confessional folk with its heart and mind in the right place. But her solo work, especially last year’s Didn’t It Feel Kinder, has mastered the art of burning rock. The smoky, earnest “Birds of a Feather” took flight as one of 2008’s most criminally underrated songs. The bouncy “Blame Is a Killer” met somewhere in the middle between Sleater-Kinney and Sheryl Crow, and the booming stomp of “Bus Bus” was as darkly comic as “SLC Radio,” which cracked wise on the sexual and religious intolerance of the Mormon nutters who bankrolled Proposition 8, months before it passed. Released on her own label, Daemon Records, and flipping expectation the finger, Didn’t It Feel Kinder proved Ray is no one-trick pony. Her live show should seal the deal. (Scott Thill)

Also playing Wednesday:

BRIAN WILSON at the Wiltern; CITY & COLOUR, WILLIAM ELLIOTT WHITMORE at El Rey Theatre; THE SOFT PACK, AM at the Echo; CAPTAIN SEAN WHEELER & ZANDER SCHLOSS at Redwood Bar & Grill; BOLL WEEVIL at Taix.

 

THURSDAY, JANUARY 29

THE MORNING AFTER GIRLS AT THE VIPER ROOM

In the interim before the spring release of their Alone full-length, please check out the Morning After Girls’ stuff at www.myspace.com/themorningaftergirls, then hie yer way down here to the Viper by 9 p.m. sharp to gorge on it live and live to tell the tale. The album, with production and mixage overseen by Alan Moulder of NIN infamy, will be the first from Australia’s MAG fellas. The songs on the band’s site foretell a genuinely thrilling blast of over-the-top rocksonica mess-strew somewhat in the mold of My Bloody Valentine and maybe Primal Scream in the way it places shiny architecture applied to intuitive, raw, rocky noisemaking. Something that harnesses the blood/guts of a trad rock band facing the monolith of technology with desire and trepidation, taking a wary step in and plunging headlong into a seemingly limitless black hole is, well ... that’s a sound that’s harder to get than might initially appear to be the case, and it’s valuable when found. So don’t miss it tonight. (John Payne)

Also playing Thursday:

LABELLE at Nokia Theatre; PEPPER, SHWAYZE at Club Nokia; DISTURBED, SEVENDUST at Hollywood Palladium; RUPA & THE APRIL FISHES at El Rey Theatre; 2 MEX & EVIDENCE at Blue Cafe; BOOGALOO ASSASSINS at the Bordello; VALERI, ANARAK at the Echoplex; DEAD ROCK WEST at the Hotel Café; FIREBALL MINISTRY at House of Blues; SIMON STOKES at Knitting Factory; BAJA BUGS at Spaceland; NICKEL EYE, LOW VS. DIAMOND at the Troubadour; BEAT KILLERS at Que Sera.


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