Rock Picks: R.E.M., Von Bondies, Ladytron
THURSDAY, MAY 22
Dizzee Rascal, El-P, Busdriver at El Rey Theatre
Talking about English MCs as grime artists is dumb to begin with, but in the case of British rap star Dizzee Rascal, it’s straight-up idiotic. The stuttering U.K. garage beats are still there on the slamming new Maths + English (released a year ago overseas), but somehow the drums are more cracking, while the synth hooks range from Atari cute to dystopian eerie. Hell, the only thing outing him as a European is the drum & bass beat of “Da Feelin’” and, of course, that council-estate slang mixed with a Caribbean lilt. As always, his verses paint vivid pictures even when they aren’t crystallizing ghetto truths. The advice given to aspiring musicians on “Hard Back (Industry)” alone justifies this disc’s purchase — oh, and the female chorus you hear on “Wanna Be” is none other than homegirl Lily Allen. Co-headliner and Def Jux boss El-P will hurl his patented lyrical curveballs atop future-bleak production. With L.A.’s own verbal shredder Busdriver. (Andrew Lentz)
Cluster at Farmlab
A rare local appearance by legendary German Kosmische Musik duo Cluster. Dieter Moebius and Hans-Joachim Roedelius started their electronic improv group in 1970 as part of Berlin’s underground collective the Zodiak Free Arts Lab, which included original Cluster partner Conrad Schnitzler and other members of future Krautrock icons, such as Tangerine Dream, Ash Ra Tempel and Guru Guru. Moebius and Roedelius dedicated themselves to a charmingly eccentric brand of ambient instrumental music emphasizing minimal and hypnotically pastoral sound fields generated on a variety of electronic keyboards and whatever else they found lying around the studio. Later on, the pair employed exclusively canned sounds to entrancing and humorously ironic effect — and not a laptop in sight. Over the course of several albums up through the ’90s, many of them in collaboration with Kraftwerk/Neu’s Michael Rother and infamous producer-engineer Conny Plank, they defined a unique and highly influential course in the musical parallel universe eventually referred to as Krautrock, perhaps especially for their trio collaborations as Harmonia with Rother and their work in the mid-’70s with Brian Eno as Cluster & Eno. With Lucky Dragons, Mi Ami, a bunch of DJs and a fashion show. 1745 N. Spring St., Unit 4, dwntwn. (323) 226-1158 (John Payne)
Also playing Thursday:
LOS MYSTERIOSOS at Alex’s Bar; FRENCH KICKS at the Echo; RADAR BROS. at the Knitting Factory; BAD DUDES at the Smell; LES BLANKS, THE MONOLATORS at Spaceland; HALL & OATES at the Troubadour.
FRIDAY, MAY 23
Die! Die! Die! at Safari Sam’s
Crunching the genes of Wire, Gang of Four and their New Zealand precedents like Bailter Space into a snarling hybrid, the groovy punk of Die! Die! Die! is worthy of its Russ Meyer–like name. The sickeningly tight power trio’s latest effort, Promises, is a bracing throwback to the future, even as its steam-rolling new single “Sideways Here We Come” echoes the Smiths album title Strangeways Here We Come. Like every band in our postmodern era of borrowing and rarely repaying, Die! Die! Die! reminds you of someone else. But its thrashed live show is something else, and so is its talent for mashing the old and new into a muscular third way. Steve Albini knew that, which is why he helmed their self-titled 2005 debut. I found out when I tried to get “Sideways Here We Come” out of my head, which never happened. Watch out, I’m contagious. (Scott Thill)
The Von Bondies at Safari Sam’s
Meanwhile, a little later tonight at Sam’s, following a set by Die! Die! Die! (see previous pick), the bill climaxes with Detroit-area combo the Von Bondies. Unlike so many performers in the current Motor City scene, the Von Bondies don’t sound especially rootsy, bluesy or garage-y on their latest EP, We Are Kamikazes. Tracks like “Pale Bride” and “21st Birthday” have a formal, almost British power-pop sound that couldn’t be any further from the noisy chaos of the Bondies’ early inspiration Guitar Wolf. “Wake Me Up” saunters merrily down the street with a chipper piano melody before the guitars pick things up in the chorus. Singer Jason Stollsteimer might be best known by some for getting punched out a few years ago by the White Stripes’ Jack White (who’d previously produced the Von Bondies’ 2001 debut album, the ironically titled Lack of Communication), but he’s a fine, tuneful songwriter. Expect to hear some songs tonight from their upcoming full-length album, Love, Hate and Then There’s You. (Falling James)
Also playing Friday:
DONITA SPARKS & THE STELLAR MOMENTS, CRYSTAL ANTLERS at Alex’s Bar; UGLY DUCKLING at Blue Cafe; OLIVER FUTURE, RADARS TO THE SKY at the Echoplex; EEK-A-MOUSE at Harvelle’s (on the Redondo Beach Pier); CROOKED COWBOY, DOGWEED, LUNGBUTTER at Mr. T’s Bowl; JESCA HOOP at the Roxy; THE GERMS, BLACK FAG, WHITE FLAG at the Scene; MEDUSA, WYLDE BUNCH at Temple Bar; HALL & OATES at the Troubadour.
SATURDAY, MAY 24
Mindless Self Indulgence at the Wiltern
With song titles that sound like Tourette’s tics — “Faggot,” “Royally Fucked,” “Bitches,” “Hail Satan,” “Pussy All Night” — Mindless Self Indulgence dwarfs your casual debauchers out there (Scissor Sisters, Amy Winehouse) by pointing the moral compass dead south and riding a fat rail of coke straight to the bottom. That the New York–based electro-metal band has been around a decade without somebody dying is miraculous. That MSI has fostered a ridiculously large fan base by performing songs about recreational vaginal spelunking isn’t miraculous at all, but it does open up an interesting phenomenon — they’ll either stoke your whore fires (what’s in your pants?) or bring on existential vertigo (what’s behind infinity?). To be fair, it’s not like the band is penning songs like the etched-in-stone KMFDM-ish classic “Dicks Are for My Friends” anymore; today’s Mindless Self Indulgence is all about the dance floor, baby, as evidenced by the synth-driven yet ribald-as-ever single “Never Wanted to Dance” from the new album If. (Chuck Mindenhall)
Also playing Saturday:
WAR, TIERRA, THEE MIDNITERS, SALAS BROTHERS at the Greek Theatre; JIM LAUDERDALE, JAMES BURTON & AL PERKINS, THE LIVING SISTERS at Topanga Community House; MARGOT & THE NUCLEAR SO & SO’s at the Echo; JAPANTHER, BAD DUDES, BIPOLAR BEAR at the Smell.
SUNDAY, MAY 25
Chris Montez at the Greek Theatre
Chris Montez, one of the key spearheads of the febrile early-’60s Chicano rock movement, has been missing in action for way too long. He, of course, was the tense shouter on the tightly wound classic “Let’s Dance” (which the Ramones frequently performed), a Farfisa-fueled rave-up that reached No. 4 on the pop charts in 1962. Preceded only by hermanos Richie Valens and Chan “Hippy Hippy Shake” Romero, the teenage singer was pulled deep into the big-beat vortex, and, after “Let’s Dance” hit No. 2 in the U.K. charts, he toured Britain — with the Beatles as his opening act (he further distinguished himself by kicking John Lennon’s ass after the boorish Liverpudlian doused Montez with beer). Montez fizzled, then bounced back as a pop crooner with 1966’s “Call Me,” which was covered by Frank Sinatra. It’s a significant development to have this homeboy back in town. With the penetrating E.L.A. vocalist Ersi Arvizu (riding high with her phenomenable new Friend for Life CD) rejoining El Chicano tonight, expect sharp jolts of soul and sizzle. (Jonny Whiteside)
The Marcin Wasilewski Trio at the Jazz Bakery
This Polish trio got their first notices when they formed as a backing group for the legendary avant-jazz trumpeter Tomasz Stanko, who’d brought them on when they were still teenagers to record his crucial 2001 set The Soul of Things (ECM). Pianist Marcin Wasilewski is a hugely gifted young player with an originality of harmonic/melodic conception that recalls Bill Evans, and a favored tone color and simple touch not unlike that of Keith Jarrett. His trio, which includes double bassist Slawomir Kurkiewicz and drummer Michal Miskiewicz, have just released a new disc called January, one of those sort of bracingly peaceful excursions trademarked by the ECM roster. The album is a brilliant showcase for the Wasilewski generation’s well-absorbed intelligence about concision of form and style, and there is also in abundance that very modern — daring, even — sweetness that hits on the nostalgic as it lays down touchstones for a non-clichéd jazz of the near future. (John Payne)
The Brothers Unconnected at the Echoplex
As tripped out as Curt and Cris Kirkwood were in the early ’80s, when the Meat Puppets were still a crazed psychedelic thrash-spazz band, there was another pair of brothers in Phoenix who were even weirder and ultimately more musically multidimensional. Sun City Girls’ Alan Bishop (singer-bassist) and Richard Bishop (guitar) were incredibly prolific, releasing dozens of mostly cassette-only albums, such as God Is My Solar System (1987), Bleach Has Feelings Too! (1987), Exotica on Five Dollars a Day (1987) and Graverobbing in the Future (1989), where their skewed and satirically skewered takes on punk, jazz, folk, surf, world music and space rock were juxtaposed with crass jokes and performance-art goofiness. The trio was anchored by Charles Gocher, who once credited Houdini for inspiring his drumming style, which looked “like I was breaking out of manacles and a straitjacket.” Gocher died of cancer last year, so tonight the Bishop brothers will strum unplugged renditions of Sun City Girls’ anti-hits in tribute, following a screening of The Handsome Stranger, a collection of his video works. The Bishops’ new CD as the Brothers Unconnected traipses across a typically broad landscape, from sea chanteys, raw blues and a loping country song (about smothering noisy infants and blaming it on crib death!) to dreamier interludes where the acoustic guitars and even vocals drone like sitars. (Falling James)
Sudden Oak, Ducktails at Echo Curio
San Francisco’s Sudden Oak and Massachusetts’ Ducktails are creatures from the analog lagoon, that fathomless pool as black as vinyl and magnetic tape. What better format to capture such instant lysergia and primal clamor? On cassettes and 45s, every particle is sound, all the better for these expansive maelstroms of mashed steel and camel’s milk. Sudden Oak slop toxic gunk that hashes tones into a full cranium rinse. A duo, they batter shards of broken guitar through a teargas sax haze. Scrawling maniacally in hot reds that bleed together in a shimmering blend, Sudden Oak are harsh, and they burn. By comparison, Ducktails are a party band. Just Matthew Mondanile with some viscous loops and globs of translucent, FX-foamed guitar — the guy slings together some pretty Martian Malawi jams. A refried magic-mushroom curry smoothie, it’s slightly sweet and gooey where S.O.’s so crackly and spiked. Paw that change jar before coming down; there’ll be no shortage of limited-run recorded matter to take home. 1519 Sunset Blvd., Echo Park. (Bernardo Rondeau)
Also playing Sunday:
RAHEEM DEVAUGHN, CHRISETTE MICHELE at House of Blues; MIHALIS HATZIGIANNIS at the Key Club; RUSSELL BRAND, DJ ?UESTLOVE at the Roxy; BIGBANG at Spaceland.
MONDAY, MAY 26
LE SWITCH, THE MINOR CANON at the Echo; ANAVAN, VOODOO ORGANIST at Pehrspace; MEZZANINE OWLS, THE QUARTER AFTER at Spaceland; JAKE SHIMABUKURO at Temple Bar; LOS OLVIDADOS, MARIA FATAL, BEATMO at the Whisky.
TUESDAY, MAY 27
Lavender Diamond at the Silent Movie Theatre
Depending on whether you’re a glass-half-full or half-empty kind of person, Lavender Diamond’s oeuvre will either be an epiphany that will cause glorious flocks of happy birds to dance in your head or will reinforce every sour notion you’ve ever had about hippy-dippy, shiny happy SoCal rock. Me, I’m a glass half-full kinda guy (most of the time), so the band’s more Hallmarkian lyrics (and they’re there) roll right off. Cynics, however, cite this sunny disposition as evidence of naivete. I counter that L.V.’s music undercuts this rosiness with a dose of tension. Regardless, Lavender Diamond hosts a variety show in celebration of the upcoming Maximilla Lukacs–directed film Imagine Our Love, which takes its name from the band’s 2007 album. The evening will feature a preview of the film, a puppet show, kissing booth, a silent auction, and performances from Eleni Mandell, Mia Doi Todd, the Chapin Sisters and the Lavender Diamond’s Becky Stark. (Randall Roberts)
Also playing Tuesday:
THE POLICE, ELVIS COSTELLO & THE IMPOSTERS at the Hollywood Bowl; JAGUAR LOVE at the Echo; GILLI MOON at Genghis Cohen; DAVID HASSELHOFF at Molly Malone’s; FOXBORO HOT TUBS at the Roxy.
WEDNESDAY, MAY 28
Mates of State at the Henry Fonda Theater
You know those commercials selling minivans and SUVs with reclaimed, supercharged juvenilia (rolling around a field at sunset in a giant plastic ball, building a street-length water slide)? We are to learn from these that grown-up and married life, the kind of life that often necessitates an ugly van, can still be fun and enviable. This is probably a total lie, but the sentiment itself is also apparently advocated by Mates of State. For about 10 years, the attractive, married and fun-seeming duo have been playing mostly organ and drums and yell-singing cutely at each other (their policy is to play when and wherever because they’re really fun) and releasing original, energetic albums. Mates of State purvey good moods by essentializing big musical ideas into sweet and sour pop that really means it, a junior version of what the most popular arena rockers tend to do. (Kate Carraway)
Also playing Wednesday:
THE POLICE, ELVIS COSTELLO & THE IMPOSTERS at the Hollywood Bowl; FOXBORO HOT TUBS at Alex’s Bar; MEIKO, JESSE MALIN at the Hotel Café; LIZZ WRIGHT at the Roxy; ABE VIGODA, PARENTHETICAL GIRLS at the Smell; SUPERDRAG, KAY HANLEY at the Troubadour; ROSE ROSSI at the Viper Room.
THURSDAY, MAY 29
Ladytron at the Henry Fonda Theater
Despite being one of the world’s leading electropop stylists since they started in 1999, Ladytron don’t have the typical cold and robotic sound you might expect. That’s partly because the coed Liverpool quartet go to the trouble of using vintage analog equipment, which gives the music a warmer, dreamier feel on their upcoming fourth full-length CD, Velocifero (Nettwerk). Singer-keyboardist Mira Aroyo claims that Dr. John was among her influences on the new album, and while it’s not readily apparent how the salty old Night Tripper figures into Ladytron’s modern, dance-heavy grooves, it is clear that she and co–lead singer Helen Marnie have a gift for haunting pop-music structures. Underneath swarming, buzzing synthesizers, “Burning Up” has an ethereal, romantically aching loneliness that’s more poignant and affecting than most electropop. The ambiguous apologies of “Ghosts” ride along on a Daniel Hunt’s guitars and programmer Reuben Wu’s shimmering rhythms, while “Season of Illusions” intrigues with such enigmatically poetic imagery as a “night of fading stars and a legacy of clouds.” Aroyo deepens the mystery by singing in her native Bulgarian amid the swirling chimes of “Kletva.” Also Fri., May 30. (Falling James)
Neva Dinova at Spaceland
The name Neva Dinova sounds like an exotic Eastern European chanteuse, but it’s actually a quintet of guys from Omaha who are named after singer-guitarist Jake Bellows’ grandmother. Their occasionally freaky music is very much rooted in Americana on You May Already Be Dreaming, their third full-length CD and first on hometown label Saddle Creek. The deceptively named Bellows croons in a tunefully downbeat way on such pokily morbid country-rock ballads as “Will the Ladies Send You Flowers,” “Funeral Home,” and the lovely “She’s a Ghost,” which floats away with a faintly glowing limestone shimmer. “It’s so hard to love your body from the ground,” he declares on “Love From Below.” “I’m walking through traffic like I’m a prophet.” But Bellows (who has also recorded with Conor Oberst) and bassist Heath Koontz are at their best when they remember they have amps and plug into them to power through Crazy Horse rambles like “Someone’s Trippin’” and “Clouds” and the driving, straight-up power pop of “What You Want” and “It’s Hard to Love You,” as well as weirder stuff like the whimsically muffled underwater section of “Squirrels” and the Flaming Lips/Roger Waters haze of “Apocalypse.” (Falling James)
R.E.M., Modest Mouse, The National at the Hollywood Bowl
While it’s certainly goosed the band’s record sales (or at least its mainstream media coverage), all the R.E.M.-is-back hype surrounding the new Accelerate has in a way done the veteran alt-rock band something of a disservice. If we’re to truly believe that their aimless electro-pop days are behind them, these dudes had better kick out some serious jams at the Bowl; none of the self-satisfied coasting captured on R.E.M.’s recent two-disc live set will be tolerated tonight. Selecting Modest Mouse as an opening act suggests that Peter, Mike and Michael (as they identify themselves in Accelerate’s liners) think themselves up to the challenge: M.M. front man Isaac Brock is a live wire waiting to crackle. I don’t get what the big deal is about the National — depressive indie-rock mumblers from Brooklyn — but people on the Internet can’t seem to get enough of ’em. (Mikael Wood)
Also playing Thursday
OK GO, ZION I, NICO VEGA at Ackerman Grand Ballroom, UCLA, 7 p.m.; THE CURE at Santa Barbara Bowl; THRICE at Avalon; SONNY LANDRETH, JEFFERSON STEELFEX & HIS NEPTUNE SOCIETY at Safari Sam’s; CULVER CITY DUB COLLECTIVE, CAVA at Temple Bar; SUPERDRAG, KAY HANLEY at the Troubadour.
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