Rock Picks: The Dirtbombs, Robyn, Dizzee Rascal

THURSDAY, MAY 15 Blowfly, Antiseen at the Knitting Factory

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The Dirtbombs missed their show in Cleveland after getting lost backstage.

B. Margolin

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Mojo repairman Pinetop Perkins

Fredrik Skogkvist/Family

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Robyn shows her love.

Pop music succeeds best when taken to the extreme, and this mad coupling reaches two very bizarre points on the musical spectrum. With a deliciously vile brand of spew that’s made him a kingpin in the underworld, the redoubtable Blowfly stands at Olympian heights in the realm of yech. Touted as the original dirty rapper (a handle that scarcely skims the top layer of scum off his deep well of outrageous oratory), he never fails to implode the brain with his spontaneous ejaculations of satirical venery. Antiseen, the self-proclaimed bad-will ambassadors of destructo rock have been wreaking havoc since their filth-infused days with GG Allin, and their frantic mixture of aural agony, Southern-gothic fury and sheer FTW disregard for all laws of god and man is a reliable recipe for disaster. Gloriously devolved contrarians all, almost noble in their perversity, and certain to elevate squirming to a preferred recreational activity. (Jonny Whiteside)

Mystery Hangup at Safari Sam’s

Like their namesake, Mystery Hangup are creepy and unsettling, inspiring a certain amount of ominous foreboding and jealousy. The Orange County trio of sisters twine Cat’s feverishly overwrought wraithlike keening with Bisou’s angular guitar and keyboard parts and drummer Lux’s shifting post-punk rhythms. Even as Cat scratches out heavy-metal guitar solos, Bisou counters with artier, inventively exhilarating chord progressions, such as the Sonic Youth–influenced wall of noise towering over “Sun.” Perhaps as the result of too many anonymous late-night phone calls, Cat wails her restlessly insomniac lyrics with a heavy dose of doom-ridden goth romanticism on such tracks as “Morning Glare” and “My Heart Sleeps Awaken,” from Mystery Hangup’s 2007 debut CD, Three Moons and the Crashing Sun. The group’s production with the estimable Paul Roessler and Geza X captures both of Mystery Hangup’s extremes, from the gracefully melodic intro of “Je Ne Fume Pas” to Cat’s anguished cries and Bisou’s sideways-slanting sheets of raining guitar on “Vista de un Ladron.” (Falling James)

Also playing Thursday:

MASON JENNINGS, BRETT DENNEN, MISSY HIGGINS at Barnum Hall, Santa Monica High School; MISS DERRINGER at the Bordello; TINA DICO, AM, WAZ at the Hotel Café; THE SIXTH CHAMBER at House of Blues’ Foundation Room; LES NUBIANS at the Key Club; LITTLE ONES, RA RA RIOT at the Troubadour; BRANT BJORK & THE BROS at the Viper Room.




 Kathleen Edwards at the Troubadour

While Kathleen Edwards’ first two albums, Failer and Back to Me, attracted critical accolades and Lucinda Williams comparisons, she really blooms on her enchanting third disc, Asking for Flowers. On the sharp-tongued rocker “The Cheapest Key,” she lights into a disappointing friend/lover with vitriol, tossing off barbed bon mots like “Don’t get me wrong/Here comes my softer side/and there it goes!” Her humor is less cutting but equally as clever on “I Make the Dough, You Get the Glory,” which will certainly draw a big reaction among local hockey fans when she sings, “You’re the Great One/I’m Marty McSorley.” Edwards also impresses on such issue-oriented tracks as the draft-dodging tale “Oil Man’s War” and “Oh Canada,” a searing rant against her homeland, while “Alicia Ross” offers a poignant portrait of a murdered girl. Tough and tender, humorous and heartfelt, Edwards seems poised to escape the alt-country backwoods for the more popular rock territory, where her idol Tom Petty resides. With the Last Town Chorus. (Michael Berick)

Also playing Friday:




 The Dirtbombs, Dan Sartain at the Troubadour

If they ever get around to electing a king of Detroit or even a president of the world, Mick Collins would be the perfect candidate. “I don’t wanna be a hero,” he humbly cries out on the Dirtbombs’ rollicking new CD, We Have You Surrounded (In the Red). “I just wanna do the best I can to keep you happy and be your ever-lovin’ man.” This ever-lovin’ Renaissance man/eclectically knowledgeable and intuitive DJ/brain-twisting science-fiction writer/founding member of the Gories should keep you ridiculously happy tonight as he declaims garage-rock, soul, punk, R&B and glam-pop psychedelia, buttressed by the dual-bass, dual-drums attack of the Dirtbombs. Here’s a man who’s cool enough to cover the disparate likes of Dead Moon (with a militaristic, rat-a-tat take on their classic “Fire in the Western World”) and Sparks (where he thrashes the Mael brothers’ “Sherlock Homes” with unexpectedly sinister and skuzzy garage-rock guitars) while penning such fabulously strange original tunes as “I Hear the Sirens” and “Leopardman at C&A” (which he’s described as “a take on urban paranoia” inspired by Alan Moore, and powered by momentous rolling-tom-tom thunder). With the wild Alabama roots-rock revisionist Dan Sartain. (Falling James)


Doheny Blues Festival at Dana Point Festival Grounds

When you get an earful of genuine blues, what really strikes home is the sheer, almost mystical power that the form can convey. The blues, after all, are born from primordial elements: the bedrock of gospel and spirituals, the centuries of injustice and oppression ceaselessly visited upon African-American, and the soul-deep need to articulate that particular human experience. Now, God love Bonnie Raitt and Jonny Lang, but such are scarcely equipped to even begin to draw upon those elemental forces. However, when you’re dealing with venerable artists like pioneering piano wizard Pinetop Perkins, the extravagantly primitivo guitarist Hubert Sumlin (whose fretwork drove all those untouchable Howlin’ Wolf classics) and the lowdown, uptown sound of Chi-town’s Willie “Big Eyes” Smith, well, baby, you’re guaranteed an uncut snootful of The Shit. And with the blues-showman extraordinaire Bobby Rush and his live-wire, butt-shaking revue, it’s really just about more than anyone can handle — but what a way to go. Starts at 11 a.m. Also Sun. 25300 Dana Point Harbor Dr., Dana Point. (Jonny Whiteside)

Robyn at the Wiltern

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El Perro del Mar sets sail for her inner island.

Kenneth Capello

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The Kills: Looking for a heart of moss

Much is made of pop wunderkinds, the teenage multinationals who are de rigueur in the music business, but the long-term effects of the industry on these so-called mini moguls isn’t encouraging. Especially when they’re compared to Robyn, a cute Swede who was groomed for stardom alongside Britney Spears, had two major hits in 1997 (“Show Me Love” and “Do You Know [What it Takes]”) and then turned down a variety of big-time fame-makers that just didn’t appeal to her, re-emerging in the U.S. 10 years later with a totally righteous electro-pop album, Robyn, featuring “Cobrastyle” (a Teddybears cover), “Konichiwa Bitches” and “Be Mine.” While Robyn was working on her own music (she remained a star in Europe, especially due to her single “Electric”) and establishing her own label, another fate befell Ms. Spears. If anything supports the case for a slowed-down career arc in the pop world, this is it. (Kate Carraway)

Also playing Saturday:

CROWDED HOUSE at the Orpheum Theatre; OLLIN at the Skirball Center, noon; BRANT BJORK & THE BROS at Alex’s Bar; JOEY ALTRUDA’S CRUCIAL RIDDIMS at the Bordello; THE SMITHEREENS at Crash Mansion; EARLIMART at the Echo; MAC CURTIS, GLEN GLENN at Safari Sam’s; WHAT MADE MILWAUKEE FAMOUS at Spaceland; SIMON STOKES, KINGSIZEMAYBE at Taix.


SUNDAY, MAY 18Playing Sunday:

TALLY HO, LOW VS. DIAMOND at El Rey Theatre; WILD WEEKEND at Alex’s Bar; LESLIE & THE BADGERS at the Echo, 5 p.m.; RUSSELL BRAND at the Roxy.


MONDAY, MAY 19El Perro del Mar, Lykke Li, Anna Ternheim at El Rey Theatre

El Perro del Mar is really just a fancy name for the solo Swedish singer Sarah Assbring, although the gentle piano-pop melodies on her new CD, From the Valley to the Stars, are fleshed out nicely with low-key contributions from guitarist Jesper Jarold, drummer Nils Tornqvist and members of the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra. “It’s easy, babe, to make it hard,” she says in a fragile, barely there whisper on “How Did We Forget?,” while traces of a lightly tapping piano and subdued horns fall softly and soothingly around her like snow. Songs like “Inner Island,” which is delivered with a Kate Bush delicacy, are simple and sweet, “following a certain train of thought,” she says, “of love, grief and loss ... deepest despair and wildest childish euphoria.” Some of that euphoria crops up on the relatively jaunty “Somebody’s Baby,” before slipping back into the glassy stillness of “The Sun Is an Old Friend.” Swedish compatriot Anna Ternheim’s range is a little broader, with the orchestral cabaret pomp of the gauzy “Girl Laying Down,” from her American debut, Halfway to Fivepoints (Decca), although she’s more inviting on the spare intimacy of “No Subtle Men.” Stockholm’s Lykke Li has a contrastingly electronic but compatibly arty dance-pop appeal. (Falling James)


The Kooks at the Wiltern

Of all the laddish Brit guitar-pop imports of late, the Kooks are perhaps the most jauntily charming. Neither as smarty-pants savvy and rhythmically angular as Arctic Monkeys nor as wistfully wobbly as the lo-fi Jamie T, these drainpipe-jean boys swagger, snigger, rock, roll and drink deep from nostalgia’s bottomless cup. Last month’s hook-heavy sophomore full-length, Konk, refreshes Ziggy Stardust’s ragged, prancing riffs and just-for-you fireside strumming with a first-band-ever, irreverent post-punk zeal. Bruised with the loss and longing of their once-elegant seaside hometown of Brighton, the Kooks find comfort in a uniquely English pub sing-along camaraderie and the happy-go-lucky stomp of glitter-spattered glam. Super-prolific (two albums in 18 months and claiming to have written “80 or 90” songs for Konk), they headline the Wiltern tonight entirely on merit. (Paul Rogers)

Also playing Monday:

MEZZANINE OWLS, ELI “PAPERBOY” REED & THE TRUE LOVES at Spaceland; LE SWITCH at the Echo; CUT COPY at the Echoplex; LOUISE GOFFIN at the Hotel Café; THE ADICTS, THE DICKIES at House of Blues; HAZELDEN at the Key Club; BANG SUGAR BANG, PORTERVILLE, SILVER NEEDLE at Silverlake Lounge; DESTROYER, DEVON WILLIAMS at the Troubadour.



 M83 at the Echoplex

You’ll find the most intense identification with adolescent girls outside of a Viacom boardroom or the pages of a young-adult paperback in France’s M83. Brimming with teenage Sturm und Drang and suburbia-fermented yearning, Anthony Gonzales went insufferably overwrought on 2005’s Before the Dawn Heals Us. Trying to find the intersection of Twin Peaks and Dark Side of the Moon, he wound up at the prom. After sprouting out of nowhere or, more specifically, squeaking through the glut of Parisian filter house to drop 2003’s Loveless-on-a-Commodore fantasia, Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts, Gonzalez inches back from the brink on this year’s Saturdays = Youth. He’s still after Wembley-filling anthems, sure. But at least he was smart to call on producer Ewan Pearson. The Berlin-based Englishman consistently delivers techno’s most absorbing remixes, swoon-worthy epics of surging ecstasies. Here he marshals Gonzales’ pursuit of the “big sound” into shivering, distortion-blurred sunrises and cotton-candy tangles of vaporous melody. The twosome should totally go steady. (Bernardo Rondeau)

Also playing Tuesday:

THE PRESETS at El Rey Theatre; ELI “PAPERBOY” REED & THE TRUE LOVES at Amoeba Music, 7 p.m.; CLINIC, SHEARWATER at the Troubadour.


WEDNESDAY, MAY 21The Kills at El Rey Theatre

The Kills’ Alison “VV” Mosshart and Jamie “Hotel” Hince come crawling out of a thick cloud of their own cigarette smoke armed with just a drum machine and the jaggedly cool tunes of their third full-length album, Midnight Boom. The new songs have a heavily rhythmic drive and an occasional hip-hop delivery that’s inspired by schoolyard hand claps and chanting, then pumped up with the pair’s surreally poetic cut-&-paste calls and responses. Just when you want to slap them around for being so terminally mannered, they smack you upside your expectations with the sinuously persuasive way they trade off wiry barbs on such tracks as “Last Day of Magic,” “Sour Cherry” and “Cheap and Cheerful.” Mr. Hotel has received more attention in recent months for his relationship with model Kate Moss, so it’s refreshing to finally have the focus back on the Kills’ music. Hince throws down sly lines about mismatched, tragic loners amid the fuzzy guitar punches of “U.R.A. Fever,” while Mosshart rises above romantic disappointment on the ethereally pretty “Black Balloon.” She decries “What New York Used to Be,” transforming an anti-gentrification rant into something subtler and more cryptically catchy. (Falling James)

The Dresden Dolls at the Wiltern

The Boston duo the Dresden Dolls can always be counted on for some dramatic thrills and chills, along with their carnivalesque attire and performance-art surprises. Drummer Brian Viglione and singer-pianist Amanda Palmer’s closely calibrated dynamic swells and flourishes should sound suitably impressive inside the grand old Wiltern, a high-ceilinged Art Deco theater whose echoing acoustics often turn louder and bigger rock bands into an indistinct mush (not that the Dolls are some quietly solemn act like the Swell Season — when Palmer’s not trotting out such dainty early tunes as “Coin-Operated Boy,” she hammers her poor piano with a stormy fury). They’re promoting their third full-length studio CD, No, Virginia, a collection of b-sides and outtakes that’s a companion to their second album, 2006’s Yes, Virginia. Unlike most such odds-&-sods assortments, No, Virginia works as a fully satisfying album, encompassing the formal pop elegance of “The Mouse and the Model,” the emotionally ravaged austerity of “Gardner” and the frantically creepy “Lonesome Organist Rapes Page Turner,” along with a fanciful accordion-pumped ramble through the Psychedelic Furs’ “Pretty in Pink.” (Falling James)


Also playing Wednesday:

MEGADETH, IN FLAMES, CHILDREN OF BODOM, HIGH ON FIRE at Long Beach Arena; ADAM GREEN at Amoeba Music, 6 p.m.; CAVE SINGERS, MOONRATS at the Echo; SARA LOV at the Hotel Café; ADELE at the Roxy; MISS DERRINGER at Silverlake Lounge; THE BLACK WIDOWS, SWORDS OF FATIMA at Taix; ADAM GREEN, TIM FITE at the Troubadour.



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.


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