Rock Picks: The Kills, Lady Sovereign, Fischerspooner, the Dears
FRIDAY, MAY 22
THE KILLS, THE HORRORS AT HENRY FONDA THEATER
The Kills' 2008 album, Midnight Boom, was another fascinating collision of art-punk riffs, juiced trash-blues scraps, percussive schoolyard chants and forebodingly sentimental anti-gentrification electro-funk, but one song in particular really stood out, in part because it was so disarmingly sweet and purely pop amid all of that genre-crunching chaos. “Let the weather have its way with you,” Alison Mosshart cooed ruefully as she said her enigmatic goodbye to a “Black Balloon,” a bewitchingly haunting ballad that we described in this space as “the sad-beautiful song of the year.” Apparently, someone else agrees, since it was just re-released as the title track of the Kills’ new EP, Black Balloon (Domino), which also includes a murkily rusty romp through Howlin’ Wolf’s “44” and a previously unreleased original, “Weedkiller,” where Mosshart seethes over her and Jaime Hince’s torturous twists of garage-noise guitars. The British-born Hince and Florida native Mosshart are well versed in the art of torturous twists and fascinating collisions, much like the Horrors, who’ve moved beyond their punky Damned beginnings into spacier Damned territory on their new CD, Primary Colours. The London band maintain just enough punk-rock drive to bolt down a wispy eight-minute psychedelic ramble like “Sea Within a Sea” into a fairly mesmerizing groove. (Falling James)
MODERAT AT THE HOLLYWOOD PALLADIUM
Newer isn’t always better, I’m sure you’ve heard, but even in the case of cutting-edge music, it doesn’t always translate to “shiny and new.” Sometimes brand new, as is the case with Moderat’s eponymous release for BPitch Control, means even more beat up, prematurely decayed and instantly classic. The trio, despite the freshness of their self-titled debut album, isn’t a new act, as it was over before it even started, when they called it quits after the Auf Kosten der Gesundheit (that’s At the Cost of Health for you non-Krauts) EP. After a random reunion at a public swimming pool, the loner Sascha Ring (a.k.a. Apparat) and the duo Gernot Bronsert and Sebastian Szary (a.k.a. Modeselektor) agreed to give it another go, and bass heads and electro freaks the world over will be thankful they did. Striving to create something timeless, they checked into the all-analog-tape Hansa “By the Wall” Studios, where David Bowie saw those overhead guns while recording “Heroes.” Pfadfinderei, a VJ outfit that can turn watching paint dry into cinema, will provide the visuals for the evening. (Daniel Siwek)
CHAIN & THE GANG AT THE SMELL
Ian F. Svenonius (Nation of Ulysses, the Make-Up) recently returned to pal Calvin Johnson’s basement in Olympia, Washington, to produce a set of pared-down, essential grooves that would accompany his wanderings into pop theory (he’s promoting his new book, The Psychic Soviet, on this tour). The writings are murky and scattered, exploring vampirism’s racial dimensions and the exploitative cultural significance of drinking coffee. Fortunately, Svenonius’ Chain & the Gang soundtrack Down With Liberty . . . Up With Chains! is center-stage on this tour, to kill the burn of the wanna-be-droll-but-mostly-sardonic book. The barest of dance punk’s bones can be found stomping and strutting in Chain & the Gang’s two-minute triumphs. Stones-esque structures and rudimentary backbeats drive in a straightforward fashion, making lots of room for Svenonius’ Beat-poetry framework. Meanwhile, his “choir of the disenfranchised” — made up of K-Records kids Fred Thomas (Saturday Looks Good to Me), Aaron Hartman (Old Time Relijun), Veronica Ortuño (Finally Punk) and others — forms the jailbird chorus. (Wendy Gilmartin)
Also playing Friday:
LEON RUSSELL at Galaxy Theatre; VERY BE CAREFUL at Bootleg Theatre; PAUL ROBERTS at the Knitting Factory; JON BRION at Largo; THE MEATMEN at Relax Bar; KILLOLA, KRISTEEN YOUNG, THE 1921a at the Roxy; VAN HUNT at Zanzibar; KENNY LATTIMORE & CHANTE MOORE at the Conga Room; TAYLOR SWIFT at Staples Center.
SATURDAY, MAY 23
NOMO AT SPACELAND
When Nomo’s pan-dimensional party transport arrives, take your freshly baked funk muffins out of the oven before you board. Enjoy them in all their bootiliciousness while you visit imaginary “Invisible Cities” and marvel at percussives made of discarded lumber and scrap metal. Groove to the languid righteousness of “Book of Right On.” Fall in lust during the Congotronic kalimba pluck & buzz of “Rings.” Seek the imminent epiphany of “New Song.” Hail the fallen-comrade noize-jazz lament of “Elijah.” Honor the late Joe Zawinul when you visit “Fourth Ward.” Smile at Tom Zé when his “Ma” struts in. Name-check spirit peers Budos Band, Toubab Krewe, Antibalas and Either/Orchestra. Soak in the sax-y vanguard skronk of “My Dear” while you give the drummer some, but don’t wait for the singer to show. Leave your Afrobeat purity-index calculations at the door. You won’t need them. And, whatever you do, never say no mas to NOMO. (Tom Cheyney)
FISCHERSPOONER AT AVALON
Fischerspooner’s new record, Entertainment, may be a mediocre slice of electropop lite filled with weak beats and uninspired lyrics, but heed not these typical signs of a band worth ignoring. Album be damned, these boys know how to put on a show. Their deep roots and many contacts within the New York dance/theater/art scene guarantee a truly spectacular event packed to the brim with elaborate costumes and props, experimental choreography and loads of overt lip synch. The group’s current show, billed as “Between Worlds,” began initially as a collaboration with SoHo’s famed theater dissidents the Wooster Group and reportedly incorporates elements of kabuki, flamenco and vaudeville into a tale about space travel and the American Dream. Front man Casey Spooner had his unique headgear — the metal contraption featured on Entertainment’s cover — custom-designed to include a fully operable neon light. Ambitious? Absolutely, but this is one area of entertainment in which Fischerspooner unerringly succeeds. (Chris Martins)
THE DEARS, GREAT NORTHERN AT THE ECHOPLEX
“It’s all the same, with different words,” Rachel Stolte confesses on Great Northern’s new CD, Remind Me Where the Light Is (Eenie Meenie). And while it’s true that the local indie-pop group’s latest album draws upon much of the shimmering, majestic sound of their 2007 full-length debut, Trading Twilight for Daylight, there is also a newfound assurance and sleekness to their songwriting. That smoothness gives Remind Me much of its hypnotic allure, even as it occasionally threatens to make the musical backing feel anonymous and bombastic. String parts by the Ru Quartet layer such tracks as “Snakes” with a billowing expansiveness, but Stolte’s and partner Solon Bixler’s vocals are usually more intimate and emotionally affecting without such grandiose accompaniment. At times, Bixler’s weary, somnolent singing on “Stop” and “Driveway” is a nice contrast to Stolte’s dreamier, more melodically beguiling style. When all of the ideal elements combine, relatively simple lyrics like “Our minds have slept for days” and “Stuck with a moment/tied to my waist” take on a romantically dramatic intensity. Great Northern open for the latest lineup of the Montreal indie-rock band the Dears, whose intelligently sarcastic (albeit wimpy) tunes are subverted by singer Murray Lightburn’s predilection for imitating Morrissey’s most cloying vocal tics. (Falling James)
Also playing Saturday:
FLEETWOOD MAC at Honda Center; LEON RUSSELL at the Brixton South Bay; AMY KUNEY at the Hotel Cafe; IAN TYSON at McCabe’s; CULVER CITY DUB COLLECTIVE at the Mint; THE BLACK WIDOWS at Mr. T’s Bowl; REBEL REBEL at Relax Bar; GROOVY REDNECKS, CHEATIN’ KIND at Cinema Bar; I SEE HAWKS IN L.A. at Coffee Gallery Backstage.
SUNDAY, MAY 24
JUSTIN TOWNES EARLE AT McCABE’S
According to many — me being one of ’em — Steve Earle is the greatest folk musician of his generation. On first listen to his son Justin Townes Earle’s debut, The Good Life, in 2008, I was selfishly rooting for the kid: I wanted more Earle magic. And knowing he would not only be compared to Dad but to his namesake Townes Van Zandt, I felt protective. I heard a deep understanding of masters like Lightnin’ Hopkins, Jimmie Rodgers, Hank Williams and Ray Price. (How many Americana cats dig a Texas shuffle?) I heard a fingerpicker who sounded like he practiced often. But his singing was tentative and insecure and his songs pastiche. 2009 is the year Justin delivered on disc. On Midnight at the Movies, the singer is confident, even swaggering. The songs capture that essence of American music — impermanence. In young Earle’s finer new stories, something or somebody is always coming and something or somebody is always leaving, too. With a name like his, comparison was inevitable. With his new album, comparison misses the point. (Michael Simmons)
Also playing Sunday:
THE VAQUETONES, MIKE STINSON, DAVE GLEASON, MEMPHIS KINGS at Redwood Bar & Grill, noon; ERYKAH BADU, DE LA SOUL, PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS at UCLA’s intramural field, noon.
MONDAY, MAY 25
ALEXANDRA HOPE AT SPACELAND
There are a lot of singer-songwriters with beautiful voices, and some of them even write memorable songs, but what makes Alexandra Hope different is how her singing blends with her unusual guitar playing. She doesn’t solo much like traditional lead guitarists on her new CD, Invisible Sunday (Manimal Vinyl), but her climbing riffs and febrile strumming echo such early post-punk trios as the Urinals, Mission of Burma and the Clean, whose exotically droning chords were later transmuted by groups like Yo La Tengo, the Breeders and Sonic Youth. Aside from the promising opening lines of “Your Universe” (“Tiny little objects you construct from/bits of rubble, lightning flash & comic books”), Hope’s lyrics are remarkably unremarkable. But the New York singer’s real eloquence comes from the way she winds the clear and lovely beacon of her voice around the serpentine guitar angles of “Liar” and the shadowy stomp of “The Mirror.” Her fairy-tale-heroine keening juxtaposed against a heavy, sullenly compelling rhythmic throb makes “Dangerous” almost sound like a lost Dagons song. This tricky act of juggling softness and power is reflected on Hope’s MySpace page, where the waiflike singer is shown awkwardly brandishing a gun, as well as a poor speared fish, in an apparent attempt to get in touch with her inner Ted Nugent. (Falling James)
Also playing Monday:
LEO NOCENTELLI at Topanga Community Club, 3 p.m.; JULIETTE COMMAGERE, THE CHAPIN SISTERS at the Echo; STEEL PANTHER at the Key Club; JAKE LA BOTZ at Redwood Bar & Grill; GOLDEN ANIMALS, LOWER HEAVEN at Silverlake Lounge.
TUESDAY, MAY 26
LADY SOVEREIGN AT EL REY THEATRE
Lady Sovereign’s that husky-voiced English half-pint from the projects who came out of London’s grime scene to blow people’s minds with the true grit of a poor white girl. She hit big with her 2006 CD, Public Warning (with “Love Me or Hate Me”), on Def Jam/Island, then ran into problems with the label, which messed up her life for a spell. Now she’s got a follow-up out called Jigsaw, and she went through all kinda BS to get it released, ultimately getting a deal to put it out on her own Midget Records, through EMI. Like her debut record, Jigsaw features a lot of those big-bomb mixes by producer Medasyn, and throws some severely eclectic surprises into the Lady’s funky stew pot of plucky raps, weird-ass beats and electro-shocked dance fodder — like solidly written songs very saucily blending wicked-witty lyrical chest-thumpin’ on her trials and tribulations of the past couple of years. Not “merely” a rapper, Lady Sovereign makes a go of singing on these tracks, too, and, considering her fiery resilience in the face of a lotta corporate bullshit and failed romances, the effect is even kinda touching. ... [sniff!] She’ll have Chicago-based DJ Annalyze and a live drummer along for the ride. (John Payne)
Also playing Tuesday:
THE PRODIGY at Grove of Anaheim; MANDY MOORE at Amoeba Music, 6 p.m.; ROBIN TROWER at the Canyon; AVI BUFFALO at the Echo; MIKE STINSON at Redwood Bar & Grill; VOICES VOICES at the Smell; THE SADIES at Spaceland; PHANTOM BLUE, LIZZY BORDEN, MELDRUM, LEMMY KILMISTER at the Whisky.
WEDNESDAY, MAY 27
SUN KIL MOON AT EL REY THEATRE
A Mark Kozelek song remains the same — loosely plotted, suffused with an eerie sense of resignation and swathed in narcoleptic melody. Across his two decades of recorded output, he may have gone from the reverb-drenched cathedrals of remorse of early Red House Painters to the tousled chords and sepia-tinted rusticity of solo projects and, more recently, Sun Kil Moon, a group that by admission is Red House Painters with another name. The tones have warmed. What once felt remote and removed is close. But there remains, amid the even now languorous rhythms, that surfeit of longing lingering between rest and exhaustion. The third Sun Kil Moon record, April, lacks the tuneful surge and alert arrangements of the group’s 2003 debut, Ghosts of the Great Highway, an album sharp enough to suggest Kozelek had snapped awake from a decade-long slumber (which he nearly had, given the nearly five years it took for the final Painters record and another two before Sun Kil Moon surfaced). But in its mussed delicacy and drowsy gloom, April remains unmistakably Kozelek. And a chance to catch this doyen of the improbable cover — from “The Star-Spangled Banner” to the Cars — is certainly recommended. (Bernardo Rondeau)
Also playing Wednesday:
THE PRODIGY, GLITCH MOB at Hollywood Palladium; WAR TAPES at Boardner’s; CARINA ROUND at the Hotel Cafe; LOVE GRENADES, ROY G. & THE BIV at Spaceland; MARK MILLER, SWORDS OF FATIMA at Taix.
THURSDAY, MAY 28
ST. VINCENT AT EL REY THEATRE
Annie Clark, also known by her stage name St. Vincent, is all about dreaming up perfect little pop fantasies, dressed up in inventive yet also sumptuously sugary arrangements. Her music isn’t far removed from the otherworldly whimsy of Kate Bush, and the clever production and arrangements also remind us a little of Jesca Hoop’s wonderful Kismet CD. But the Brooklyn singer (and former member of the Polyphonic Spree and Sufjan Stevens’ band) really is off in her own world — a world of her own careful choosing and creation — on her just-released second album, Actor (4AD). The songs are loosely inspired by, and work as alternate mini-soundtracks to, some of Clark’s favorite movies. While we’d love to know which tunes were actually influenced by one of our own faves, Pierrot le Fou (could it be “The Party” or perhaps “The Strangers”?), it really doesn’t matter in the end, as the songs on Actor cumulatively create their own cinematic momentum and storyline. “Marrow” and “Actor Out of Work” rock uptempo, but most of the songs are more candied and ethereal, such as “Black Rainbow” and “The Strangers,” whose celestial string arrangements tumble across the sky like heat lightning. (Falling James)
PASSION PIT, HARLEM SHAKES, CALE PARKS AT THE TROUBADOUR
Boston’s Passion Pit released its dance-y debut EP less than a year ago, and already, mastermind Michael Angelakos has seen his former bedroom project grow into a five-piece band with a major record deal and an ever-expanding pool of indie cred. The group’s first album, Manners, is out now on Frenchkiss/Columbia Records, and its lead single, “The Reeling,” is rightly earning the band a lot of Justice comparisons. The similarity lies mostly in the song’s driving pulse and playful call-and-response (recalling the Parisian duo’s “D.A.N.C.E.”), but where Justice’s expertise lies in thick blurts of bass-y synth and micro-edited effects, Passion Pit’s music is flavored by a warmth and looseness that complements Angelakos’ hankering for the epic. Think of the band as a less expendable and grittier answer to MGMT. Brooklyn’s Harlem Shakes carve out an intimate space where folksy strumming, pop piano, ghostly croons and electronic embellishments mix freely, while opener Cale Parks has taken a break from drumming in his better-known bands Aloha and White Williams to play melancholic art-pop with an ’80s flair. (Chris Martins)
Also playing Thursday:
FLEETWOOD MAC at Staples Center; BEN HARPER & THE RELENTLESS 7, THE HENRY CLAY PEOPLE at the Wiltern; ROBIN TROWER at House of Blues; MY LIFE WITH THE THRILL KILL CULT at the Key Club; VOLUMEN CERO at the Knitting Factory; HUMAN HANDS at the Scene.
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