Rock Picks: The Kooks, Neil Young, Jerry Cole Memorial
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 23
Sunburned Hand of the Man at the Smell
Los Angeles doesn’t always get the attention of the Eastern Seaboard’s weirdoes and schizoids. Thankfully, tonight we’ll be visited by indefatigable New England mesmerists Sunburned Hand of the Man. Not so much a planet but an entire constellation intersecting Sonic Youth’s Ecstatic Peace galaxy, Sunburned spew out as many CD-Rs and vinyl sides a year as most so-called “normal” bands do their entire careers. Seems they’ve taken S.Y.’s decree from the late ’90s to release a thousand records literally. Touring this time as a sextet, this amorphous assembly of instrumentalists — crumbled drums, lithe bass, wild woodwinds, bubbling oscillators, hives of distortion and astral trails emitted from a battery of guitars — mold impromptu monoliths doused in phosphorescent liquids and gelatinous smoke. Hardly sticking to a single mode, style or even tonal palette, the Sunburned collective’s holistic experimentelia applies skill and savagery into its pursuit of all-in psych montages. This August, the group lost bass/synth man Adam Nodelman to a sudden and still-unresolved death. But if there’s one thing Sunburned is capable of, it’s always moving on. They’re absolutely regenerative. (Bernardo Rondeau)
The “intelligent niceness” substrata in contemporary music offers bands like Stereolab, Monade and High Llamas, groups that have decided to take back the sweet & sentimental we all secretly crave to consciously exploit it for hypermodern dividends of emotional complexity and brain-tickling potential, even. Stereolab have — rejoice — come back really, really strong with their new Chemical Chords album (4AD), wherein founder Tim Gane and revolving crew zero in again on the very best space-age sounds of the ’50s and ’60s. Bossa nova, nouvelle chansons, classic Britpop, Motown and Philly soul are favorite stew parts, and the group find incredibly resonant ways to chop them all up and serve them heartbreakingly anew. While the favored constituent parts won’t seem surprising to longtime fans, the renewed invention and vigor will. Monade, meanwhile, is Stereolab singer-guitarist Laeticia Sadier’s own side project, roughly within the same brainy-romantic grounds as Stereolab, and heard to devastating effect on the newish album Monstre Cosmic (Too Pure). Singer/multi-instrumentalist Richard Swift mines a sweetly harmonized mixed bag of ’70s pop, early blues, ragtime, Bacharach and DeBarge. (John Payne)
For a songwriter who’s supported liberal causes and explored themes of gender identity and religious freedom, Dar Williams tends to make some fairly conservative music. The songs on her latest CD, Promised Land (Razor & Tie), are certainly tuneful in a pleasant, mainstream way, but the often-bland musical settings belie the ambition of much of her lyrics. “Buzzer” is a fascinating tale involving a researcher’s ambivalence about administering electroshock treatments to a hapless patient; while the semi-circusy keyboards are meant to be an ironic contrast to the lyrics’ heavy subject matter, the music ultimately comes across as slick and shallow. Williams takes the trouble in her liner notes to thank her old college pal Stephen Trask for introducing to her such wildly arty musicians as Nina Hagen and Yoko Ono, but her version of “Midnight Radio” (from Trask’s Hedwig & the Angry Inch) is a very hollow facsimile of such adventurous risk-takers, despite her solemnly worshipful shout-outs to “Patti and Tina and . . . Aretha and Nona.” Guest star Suzanne Vega’s true-blue vocals help to elevate the breezy “Go to the Woods,” but the rest of Williams’ words here deserve richer, darker accompaniment than the all-too-easy easy-listening backing producer Brad Wood has given her. (Falling James)
Also playing Thursday:
CHIODOS, SILVERSTEIN, ESCAPE THE FATE at the Wiltern; THE POLYAMOROUS AFFAIR at the Bordello; THE SKATALITES at Brixton South Bay; SONNY LANDRETH at the Canyon; HELEN STELLAR at the Echo; TINA DICO at the Hotel Café; TAJ MAHAL & THE PHANTOM BLUES BAND at House of Blues; JILL SOBULE, JULIA SWEENEY at Largo at the Coronet; THE STARLITE DESPERATION at Silverlake Lounge; THE BLACK WIDOWS at Taix; PILAR DIAZ at SiteLA; UGLY DUCKLING at Little Temple.
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 24
Even with past and current members of such stellar bands as Earthless, Gogogo Airheart and Jejune, Lady Dottie & the Diamonds don’t sound like anyone else in San Diego. These Slow Death scenesters may have been in some ultrahip groups in the past, but this time around they’ve really been taken to school by Lady Dottie. The 60-something diva has gotten her players to forget everything they already know and taught them how to reach deep down inside their souls and come back out with some . . . soul. Lady Dottie & the Diamonds’ new self-titled CD (on the appropriately named Hi-Speed Soul Records) bursts with raw, nonstop electric blues that’s pumped up with enough explosive punk energy to appeal to fans of the BellRays and Sharon Jones. The album’s about evenly divided between authentically fiery originals like “Come Along Together” and “I Ain’t Mad at Ya” and highly charged remakes of such classics as “Walking the Dog” and “Have Love, Will Travel.” Dottie and keyboardist-singer Joey Guevara even duet on a jumpin’, gospel-soaked rendition of “Movin’ on Up” (a.k.a. the theme to The Jeffersons) that’ll have you knocking over bar stools in your hurry to shake it on the dance floor. Also at Alex’s Bar, Sat. (Falling James)
Also playing Friday:
TIGER ARMY, CIVET at Grove of Anaheim; THE BLASTERS, LEE ROCKER at the Fairplex, Pomona, 3 p.m.; DEADBOLT, CALAVERA at Alex’s Bar; 13th HOLE at the Whisky, 9:30 p.m., and at Fais Do-Do, 11 p.m.; UGLY DUCKLING at Knitting Factory; MOLINO, SUKI EWERS at Pehrspace; THE SHAKES, THE MOON UPSTAIRS at Redwood Bar & Grill; 45 GRAVE, FRANKENSTEIN at Sam’s at the Regent; LOS TRENDY at the Scene; ANAVAN, CAPTAIN AHAB at the Smell.
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 25
Kaki King has come a long way in five years, but musically she started at the top. Back then, she was a wee thing, alone onstage, her left hand draped over her acoustic guitar, tapping out complex methedrine licks on the neck. She was (and remains) a thrilling guitarist. Still diminutive, she’s since gone electric, got herself a band, sings in a sweet plaintive voice, composes for film and has earned a dedicated fan base. One of them turned out be John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats, he of stark voice and angular smart-rock, whose songs she likewise had developed a deep liking for — though initially neither knew until he left a message for her with a sharpie on the wall of a Portland club’s dressing room. They’ve since collaborated on the EP Black Pear Tree, from which, for instance, “Thank You Mario but Our Princess Is In Another Castle,” features him on piano, her on drums and glockenspiel, and both supplying vocals and as much charming musicality as you’ll hear these days. Also Sun. (Michael Simmons)
As if the recent loss of Earl Palmer wasn’t bad enough, now we must bid farewell to the crucial guitar innovator Jerry Cole. He was a high-powered upstart who quickly found a place in Los Angeles’ fabled studio ensemble Wrecking Crew, and his artfully aggressive fretwork enhanced a slew of classic records (by everyone from Sinatra to B.B. King to Gene Vincent to the Byrds). Cole’s own wild output — characterized by such wild late-’60s platters as Astro Sounds From Beyond the Year 2000 and The Inner Sounds of the Id — ranked as some of the most brutally beguiling exercises in six-string excess ever. This stellar memorial matinee should deliver an appropriately disparate — and dizzying — spectrum of pop styles, with a rare appearance by New Mexico’s pounding proto-surf instro architects the Fireballs; Cole’s Wrecking Crew compadres Hal Blaine and Don Randi; the ultimate teen idol, Tommy Sands; bongo kingpin Preston Epps; and rockabilly beast Glenn Glen (to name but a very few). From noon to 4:30 p.m. (Jonny Whiteside)
Long Beach hellions Civet have already come a long way since their early releases on the Disaster label a few years ago. Now signed to Hellcat Records, they sound even harder and heavier on their latest CD, Hell Hath No Fury. Tracks like “All I Want” and “Pay Up” approach hardcore tempos, but they’re balanced by catchy hooks. That’s not to say that lead singer Liza Graves is some meek pop kitten; instead, she snarls and growls her way through such stomping songs as “Son of a Bitch” with a terminally caustic delivery. The band’s rhythm section — drummer Danni Harrowyn and bassist Jacqui Valentine — are much tighter now, with additional pummeling and brainwashing white noise supplied by Suzi Homewrecker’s fiercely churning guitars. Simple-minded lyrics (which are generally about romantic revenge) are still Civet’s major drawback; perhaps it’s just as well that Graves’ and Homewrecker’s galloping guitars drown out the rampant clichés in songs like “Alibis” and the title track. Civet hit the main stage tonight around 7 p.m., buried implausibly near the bottom of a mostly rockabilly lineup that kicks off at 5:30 p.m. Also at Grove of Anaheim, Fri.; and Sam’s at the Regent, Thurs. (Falling James)
Also playing Saturday:
FLOGGING MOLLY, ANTI-FLAG at Hollywood Palladium; LADY DOTTIE & THE DIAMONDS at Alex’s Bar; UGLY DUCKLING at Blue Cafe; GITANE DEMONE at Boardner’s; STAN RIDGWAY at Brixton South Bay; HORNY TOAD, VIERNES 13 at the Good Hurt; POWDER at the Key Club; JANIVA MAGNESS at McCabe’s; THE GEARS, PRIMA DONNA at Mr. T’s Bowl; DEADBOLT, SPEEDBUGGY, DEEP EYNDE, NAKED TWISTER at Redwood Bar & Grill; BILLY VERA at Rusty’s Surf Ranch; MONOLATORS at Spaceland; JOE BAIZA at Taix; SKY SAXON & THE SEEDS, LOVE ME NOTS, GUILTY HEARTS at Self Help Graphics, 6 p.m.; CECI BASTIDA at La Mano Press, 7 p.m.
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 26
ZZ TOP, FOO FIGHTERS, THE TUBES at Fairplex, Pomona, 11 a.m.; STAN RIDGWAY, ROB ZABRECKY at House of Blues; MICHAEL OCHS at McCabe’s, 7 p.m.; NEIL HAMBURGER at Spaceland; KAKI KING, THE MOUNTAIN GOATS at the Troubadour; BILL MILLER at Freakbeat Records, 2 p.m.; GEORGE TOMSCO & THE FIREBALLS, PAUL JOHNSON at Suzy’s Bar & Grill; CARLOS GUITARLOS at Liquid Kitty.
MONDAY, OCTOBER 27
RADEMACHER, WESTERN STATES MOTEL at the Echo; 13th HOLE at the Good Hurt; MIKE STINSON at Redwood Bar & Grill; DEVON WILLIAMS’ SOMETHING at the Smell; KENAN BELL, THE MORNING BENDERS, WHITE ARROWS at Spaceland.
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 28
The Kooks have become really popular, really fast, by being really good. They’re sickeningly gifted (even their throwaway “hidden” tracks could be hits); obscenely prolific (choosing from “80 or 90” songs for this year’s sophomore opus Konk); and tour with both youthful gusto and genuine joy (often augmenting formal concerts with acoustic busking appearances). Though dropped from the same XTC/Libertines tree as fellow Brits Arctic Monkeys, the Kooks skip A.M.’s angular, smarty-pants charms and dying-for-a-piss urgency for a more contemplative, sometimes downright-breezy approach. Main-mouth Luke Pritchard summons instant nostalgia and youthful yearning in his Yorkshire-accented yelp, atop organic sheens of acoustic guitar and almost-caustic electric counter melodies that compliment the vocals like some odd sonic feng shui. Yet the band’s far from nad-less — the rhythm section blusters and bubbles away, but always with intelligent intent. The Kooks are cute little indie lads and all, but they know they’re damn great — and that swagger, combined with a frightening fountain of songcraft, will always fill theaters. (Paul Rogers)
And so it happened, just like a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup commercial, only with Jeffrey Lewis and his skinhead roommate it was “Hey! You got anarcho-punk on my hippy-dippy!” The lo-fi anti-folk musician Lewis is also an album cover/comic-book artist, and he tells the story of 12 Crass Songs (Rough Trade) through a Zap Comix–style strip. That freshman-year encounter was the beginning of his relationship with Crass, a British band whose sloganeering and sense of justice jibed with his Lower East Side (home of the Fugs) upbringing and appreciation for Kurt Cobain. Stripping the punk band of their loud guitars (except for a very loud “Big A, Little A”) doesn’t sound as corny as a Green Day lullaby album; in fact, the bare-bones effect only accentuates the power and relevance of the songs. “Punk Is Dead” (with lines like “Punk became a fashion/just like hippy used to be”), for example, gives us insight into how protest music from the dirty underground ends up an overpriced BeDazzled CBGB T-shirt. (Daniel Siwek)
When more than 100,000 people — a good-sized city’s worth of the curious — want to listen to a new song of yours, you know something interesting is percolating. When you have almost twice that many looking at the follow-up song, you have faithful fans hungry for any blossom of new creation amid gardens of bitter nothingness. Hence Spinnerette. Made of up Distillers singer Brody Dalle, voice still as spiky and coarse as a really spiky and coarse thing, and Distillers guitarist Tony Bevilacqua, this supergroup also includes Alain Johannes, late of Eleven (and the late Natasha Shneider) and ex–Pearl Jam/Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Jack Irons. Based on the strength of one song, “Valium Knights,” I can only wonder what the evening holds — but if the rest of the tunes have the same kind of consistently catchy and insistent pop tinged with whiffs of apocalypse, Dalle’s relative absence from the spotlight will seem less like class ditched and more like a smoke snatched in the bathroom. Also at Spaceland, Wed. (David Cotner)
Also playing Tuesday:
AGAINST ME, TED LEO & THE PHARMACISTS, FUTURE OF THE LEFT at the Wiltern; APOCALYPTICA at Avalon; KARABAL NIGHTLIFE, I MAKE THIS SOUND, EMMA & THE GHOSTS, THE SHIVERS at the Echo; UMPHREY’S McGEE, TEA LEAF GREEN at House of Blues; HONEYHONEY at Largo at the Coronet.
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 29
Germany’s appropriately inscrutable post-indie ensemble the Notwist return with The Devil, You + Me (Domino), the long-anticipated follow-up to 2002’s Neon Golden. These microscopically fine-etched and vaguely troubling productions seem a logical extension from the increasingly murky intimations of Neon Golden. The Notwist’s is a world where post-hip-hop electronics lace a dangerously drippy alterna-rock mopiness that creates — via superdetailed aural emotion fields mined with uncertain lyrical imagery that largely concerns God and his rumored existence — calm acceptance of death and even a kind of reveling in one’s chronic alienation. None of this is as big a bummer as it sounds; rather, the Notwist’s subdued menace creates a satisfyingly memorable gloom, and a curiously poignant one at that. The new songs, many of which are augmented by the avant-classical Andromeda Mega Express Orchestra, profit deeply by their willingness to jump off from common musical forms into thrillingly uncharted expressive realms. (John Payne)
Also playing Wednesday:
NEW YORK DOLLS at Ventura Theatre; ROB DICKINSON, THE BITTERSWEETS at the Hotel Café; MATT NATHANSON, JESSIE BAYLIN at House of Blues; AKWID, LA SINFONIA, CROOKED STILO at Knitting Factory; MYSTIC, MEDUSA at Sam’s at the Regent; POLAR GOLDIE CATS at the Smell; SPINNERETTE at Spaceland; DANNY B. HARVEY at Taix.
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 30
“I was lying in a burned-out basement with the full moon in my eyes,” Neil Young sang in this same arena, almost exactly 30 years ago to the day, as his old Malibu home was burning to the ground just a few miles up the coast. Like rust, ashes never sleep, and it will be interesting to see what memories Young stirs up from our collective wreckage at this once-fabulous Forum. Of course, the prolific and unpredictable singer-guitarist might not even bother looking backward, especially since he’s still riding on the high of Chrome Dreams II, the 2007 sequel to his semi-mythical unreleased ’70s album that, with its quintessential blend of mellow ballads and rambling rockers, already stands as one of his most satisfying works (so far). The last time Young came through town, at Nokia Theatre in November 2007, he dug deeply into the new album’s disparate moods (which reflect the breadth and restless journeying of his overall musical career), ranging from non-ironic, pure-pop idealism (“The Believer”) to ironic, heavy-trudging blue-collar anthems (“Dirty Old Man”). And while he didn’t break into the 18-minute-long “Ordinary People” (the latest in a long line of ambivalent songs about the common man), Young did stretch out on the instant classic “Spirit Road,” sending out sizzling, streaking flares of green light with his crackling guitar. Even better, he built to a stunning climax with “No Hidden Path,” wringing out ectoplasmically glowing shivers with his tremelo wand and clawing piercingly heartbreaking note combinations that summed up everything with a lighthouse-beckoning loveliness. With the recent death of Love’s Arthur Lee, young Neil — along with Bob Dylan and Dead Moon’s Fred Cole — remains one of the last of the ’60s Sunset Strip survivors who’s still making vital new music. With Death Cab for Cutie and Everest. (Falling James)
Ane Brun may hail from Norway, but her gentle, introspective music holds a pan-Atlantic feel, connecting the dots between Joni Mitchell, Dolly Parton, Kate Bush, Nick Drake and even Björk (with whom she shares engineer/producer Valgeir Sigurdsson). Her lilting, fluttery vocals lend a haunting quality to her spare, soul-baring songs on her new disc, Changing of the Seasons. Early on, she sings, “I walked into love/I walked into a minefield I never heard of,” and she walks this emotional minefield throughout this disc. The near-sprightly “The Treehouse Song” details a relationship that has fallen apart, while “Armour” (which sports a Jeannette McDonald–like warble) examines a fight’s aftermath. Even her shout-out to Gillian Welch (“Gillian”) deals with Brun taking emotional solace in Welch’s songs. For all of her romantic melancholia, Brun’s alluring voice draws in listeners as she delicately balances the ethereal and the organic. Joining her for this Hotel Café set is fellow Scandinavian singer-songwriter Tobias Fröberg, whose pop craftsmanship make him something of the Swedish Ron Sexsmith. (Michael Berick)
With her second solo album, Acid Tongue (Warner Bros.), Jenny Lewis expands her private musical universe just a little bit further past the boundaries of her band Rilo Kiley. Oh, there are still some lovely indie-rock songs and the occasional country-laced ballad (“Pretty Bird”) that evoke Rilo Kiley, but the former child actor stretches out even more adventurously (to paraphrase the title of R.K.’s 2004 album) than she did on her first solo CD, 2006’s Rabbit Fur Coat. The strange eight-minute epic “The Next Messiah” is initially anchored to a firm blues groove with woozy slide guitar, then segues into a primal hard-rock stomp, where she lowers her voice solemnly to blend with the murmuring of the Black Crowes’ Chris Robinson. About five minutes in, the track flicks its tail and switches rhythms again, with rings of reverb guitar coiling around the blended bedroom-voice exchanges of Lewis, Robinson and guest singers Benji Hughes, Zooey Deschanel, Johnathan Wilson, Vanesa Corbala, Farmer Dave Scher and Morgan Nagler. Lewis searches for her inner Dusty Springfield on “Jack Killed Mom,” whose matricidal lyrics culminate in an unexpected gospel rave-up. Always intriguing, she drops acid on the title track, tries to lasso the sun on “See Fernando” and sweetens Elvis Costello’s typically clotted, nasal moaning with sunny harmonies on their power-pop duet “Carpetbaggers.” (Falling James)
Also playing Thursday:
RAY LAMONTAGNE, LEONA NAESS at the Wiltern; CARLOS GUITARLOS at Eastside Luv; THE HEAVY, POP LEVI, GRAY KID at the Echo; COBRA STARSHIP at House of Blues; SECRET MACHINES, THE DEARS at the Key Club; THE MIGHTY UNDERDOGS, ZION-I at Knitting Factory; HOLLYWOOD UNDEAD, CIVET at Sam’s at the Regent; LISTING SHIP, UKEFINK at Hyperion Tavern; ANNY CELSI at Cinema Bar.
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