Rock Picks: The Strange Boys, Memory Tapes, Scout Niblett, Four Tet
The Strange Boys at the Echo
In the snake pit of a song, "Laughing at Sex, Not Her," from the Strange Boys' new album, Be Brave (In the Red), singer Ryan Sambol begins the narrative while lying on a couch, where he's drifting off to sleep. In the other room, though, two of his friends are having sex, and unsuccessfully trying to be quiet. As the music below, a whispering guitar-and-drum moan that suggests a spooky Cramps or Link Wray track, supports him, the singer wonders on the pair's relationship: "I don't know if they love each other for sure/It sure sounds like they do." We learn all this in the first minute of the song, and you start to wonder, could Sambol, with his penchant for economy and wry humor, be the rocking reincarnation of Raymond Carver? Back on the couch, he smiles and compares sex to laughter: "You do it differently with different people/And sometimes you feel sick after." Sambol is only 20 years old, has a cocky, Dylanesque creak in his voice, and already is one of my favorite songwriters. By the end of the story, we've learned, in an internal dialogue to the guy, that "I used to be you/And I've slept with her too" — and the sex sounded very different. There's a dissertation in these three minutes, so rich is the material, and it's a mere one of a dozen nearly perfect songs on Be Brave, a loose, raw, classically designed garage-rock album with the swagger of the Rolling Stones circa 1966 and the fuck-you confidence of a band whose members, just two albums into their "career," look like kids but act like superstars. Strange Boys recently added a girl to their lineup, former Mika Miko and Silver Daggers saxophonist Jenna Thornhill, who blows wildly and adds a different kind of cockiness. Don't miss this show, because next year they'll be at a bigger venue, and the year after that you'll start lying and saying you saw them at the Echo even if you didn't. (Randall Roberts)
The Haters, Sissy Spacek, Gerritt Wittmer and Paul Knowles, AMK at the Smell
Fine buncha screech and related-type experimental stuff from some real stalwarts: Revered veteran sound artistes the Haters started in the early '90s as a punk band but, under the fearless vision of founder-leader (and professional-wrestling fan) GX Jupitter-Larsen, lost interest in all that and segued into making noise, performance art and conceptual actions where the noise/sound/not-music and visuals and process are all squished together to create a sort of Gesamtkunstwerk. Several overamplified machines get paired with lots of grinding and smashing of things, and the group wishes to emphasize that this is not noise-rock or noise-music or noise-anything — it's noise. Very, very loud Sissy Spacek features local noise hero John Wiese, and he and his chums often make a hellish grindcore spiked with a billion artfully spliced samples, several screams and, well, more noise. Also Oakland's sometimes-subtler noise/process duo Gerritt Wittmer and Paul Knowles, and multi-turntable/flexi-disc madness courtesy AMK. (John Payne)
Clorox Girls at the Redwood Bar & Grill
Like Barenaked Ladies and the Violent Femmes, the Portland band Clorox Girls isn't really composed of women. The punk-pop trio also don't bleach their hair blond, but they are named after an old Redd Kross song. Clorox Girls claims to be influenced largely by such early L.A. punks as the Urinals, the Controllers, Angry Samoans and the Dickies, and the group has a fast, flippantly frenetic yet poppy sound that's untouched by the rage of 1980s hardcore and the careerist slickness of modern corporate-punk outfits. (I also detect a bit of the rampant cheekiness of late-'70s British punks like the Adverts and Eater.) Of course, these Girls don't possess the Urinals' innate gift for arty experimentation or the Dickies' ruthlessly extreme satire, but their most recent CD, J'aime les Filles (BYO Records), is still a catchy collection of exuberant tunes, like "Dreaming of St. Kiley" and a cover of Lio's French hit "Le Banana Split." Also at Alex's Bar, Sat. (Falling James)
Memory Tapes at Spaceland
Sure, for dogged followers of up-and-coming music, it seems like the dam's broken on Lake Chillwave — a mysterious, haze-covered recreation destination where kids in plastic sunglasses gather to trade synthesizer secrets and sun-damaged cassettes from the '80s. But so far, from Neon Indian to Nite Jewel, not one of the burgeoning genre's scrappy newcomers has struck a bum note. Memory Tapes is the most up-to-date alias of Dayve Hawk, a 20-something stay-at-home dad who calls rural southern New Jersey home. His debut album, Seek Magic, subdues its New Order–like synth-pop leanings with a Fever Ray–like haze, and punches up the results with drums that sound cribbed from Paula Abdul's early oeuvre. Having a hard time believing that's actually a good thing? Hawk's remix résumé should allay any fears; the dude's been hired to rework everyone from Yeasayer and Yeah Yeah Yeahs to Gucci Mane and Britney Spears. Memory Tapes doesn't tour often, so don't miss this prime opportunity to, ahem, ride the wave. (Chris Martins)
Also playing Friday:
KID INFINITY, SIGNALS, VERBS, BATWINGS CATWINGS at the Downtown Independent; VERY BE CAREFUL, CUCHATA, SUNNY WAR at the Mint; THE SOUNDTRACK OF OUR LIVES, NICO VEGA at El Rey Theatre; EMILY WELLS & MONEY MARK at the Getty Center; BON JOVI, DASHBOARD CONFESSIONAL at the Honda Center; BONEBRAKE SYNCOPATORS, VOODOO DAHLIA'S BURLEY-Q at Alex's Bar; AL DI MEOLA at House of Blues; MECOLODIACS, CHARMKIN REBELLION at Taix; WE WERE PROMISED JETPACKS, THE LONELY FOREST, BEAR HANDS at the Troubadour; THE TOASTERS, LOS KUNG FU MONKEYS, THE SHEDS at Cobalt Café; THE DOWNTOWN TRAIN, TRICKY SIZZLER, RALSPHEENE, SPRING QUEEN at Echo Curio.
Four Tet at the Echoplex
Its first full-length in over four years, Four Tet's There Is Love In You (Domino) finds the London multigenre-ist Kieran Hebden devising a sort of career runthrough of the varied, gently experimental fields he's surveyed down the years. Hebden is well known for rad shifts in character from project to project, having graced us with everything from pastoral acoustic ambience to funky blends of DJ/house raveups and backpack–hip-hop grooves. Most interesting were his teamings with jazz drummer Steve Reid on a series of electronic/percussion improvs probing the reaches way outside the rave/DJ/hip-hop bags that casual listeners might've tossed him in previously. Emphasizing a trademarked organic/acoustic textural bent, arcanely pretty electronic grain and truly sophisticated polyrhythms, There Is Love In You isn't his best, in fact feels a tad too precision-oriented, but it does give good ear to the guy's sheer sonic wizardry. And the single, "Love Cry," is stupefyingly gorgeous. (John Payne)
Scout Niblett, Dirt Dress at Spaceland
In addition to having one of the cutest names in rock & roll, Portland-based grungette Scout Niblett has one of the most haunting, spine-tingling howls in the business. Her emotive warble suggests she's kindred spirits with Magnolia Electric main brain Jason Molina, but rather than rock you into a narco-depressive coma, Niblett drags ya through the dirt, dusts you off then busts your lip with a spirited right hook. The London-born singer and multi-instrumentalist is the perfect amalgam of two historically vital Northwestern scenes: Nirvana (they count as a scene, right?) and the do-it-yourself, etherea-loving world of the K Records crew. On her just-released Drag City full-length, The Calcination of Scout Niblett, the soloist often limits herself to just two sounds per song — guitar and voice, or drum and voice — but those that bring in all three tend toward dark blues and black metal. Yeah, that's how the Scout rolls: with enough heaviness to blow away any assumptions you might have had about adorableness. (Chris Martins)
Phranc at McCabe’s
Like every genre, folk music has been rehashed to death in recent years. But there was a long period of time when this seemingly timeless sound was virtually impossible to find on the airwaves and in nightclubs. After peaking with the early-'60s Greenwich Village boom, folk music had largely disappeared from popular culture in the homogenous classic-rock '70s. Ironically, its revival in the late '70s came from an unexpected source — adventurous-minded punk rockers who were supposedly interested only in destroying music's past. First and foremost among these new punk troubadours was the former Susan Gottlieb, who was soon better known as Phranc, the self-proclaimed "all-American Jewish lesbian folksinger." She'd been a part of the influential synth-punk saboteurs Nervous Gender and Slashmagazine scribe Claude Bessy's messily poetic Catholic Discipline, but Phranc didn't develop her own style until she went solo as an unplugged singer-guitarist. Her songs ranged from the whimsical ("Ballad of the Dumb Hairdresser") and the earnestly ardent ("I Love Charlotte," an ode to Go-Go's guitarist Charlotte Caffey) to heavier fare, such as her heartbreaking version of Bob Dylan's "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll." Not only did Phranc directly inspire the queercore and riot-grrl scenes, she eventually worked with members of Team Dresch and Bikini Kill. In recent years, she's been more focused on selling Tupperware (!) and making visual art, two activities that occasionally align with her infrequent musical performances. (Falling James)
Also playing Saturday:
GOODIE MOB, B.O.B. at Club Nokia; BON JOVI, DASHBOARD CONFESSIONAL at the Honda Center; NICK OLIVERI, JESSE DELUXE, HDR at the Relax Bar; CAROLINA CERISOLA & THE WALTER DAVIS BAND at Eastside Luv; SPLOTCH, THE WIDOWS, EVIL TWINS at the Good Hurt; EVAN DANDO at the Hotel Café; LAS 15 LETRAS, BLUE JUNGLE, MANHATTAN MURDER MYSTERY at Pehrspace; MIKE WATT & THE MISSINGMEN, SPOT at the Redwood Bar; BIPOLAR BEAR, RESIDUAL ECHOES, NEVEREVER, TWISTED STARS at the Smell.
Angelique Kidjo at Walt Disney Concert Hall
Entrancing Beninoise singer Angelique Kidjo brings her awe-inspiring rhythmic stew to Disney Hall. Discovered by Island Records' Chris Blackwell, the singer arrives in support of her new album, Õÿö. (Randall Roberts)
Also playing Sunday:
SCREAM, THE HOLLOYS at the Echo; ANARCHIST CAFE DAY PARTY at the Smell; LOUIS PRIMA JR. & THE WITNESSES, SARAH SPIEGEL at Dragonfly; TRIO ELLAS at Eastside Luv.
Moonrats, Adanowsky, Aska, SoKo at Spaceland
Local three-piece Moonrats is long overdue for an Eastside residency. The band formed in 2005 after singer Nathan Thelen left Pretty Girls Make Graves and relocated to Los Angeles, and it's since more than proved its songwriting mettle. Moonrats makes rock music that's easy to love, but always teetering on the edge of wildness. Splashy textures and aqueous guitar tones make for a dreamy and dissonant pop, with vocals that are instilled with Jeff Tweedy twang. Earlier in the night, the band's keyboardist (and then some) Aska performs songs from her Manimal-signed solo project. She's a classically trained pianist with husky vocals and a knack for hauntingly beautiful songs played out on a range of instruments and sprinkled with electronic effects. Equally notable and wholly unexpected is the presence of Adanowsky, aka Adan Jodorowsky, who just so happens to be the son of legendary Chilean film surrealist Alejandro Jodorowsky. The 30-year-old received his first guitar lesson from George Harrison and now specializes in a strange, jazz-tinged folk music. (Chris Martins)
Also playing Monday:
THE DELTA MIRROR at the Echo; ZAIMPH, STELLAR OM SOURCE, THE PACIFIC CITY, NIGHTLIFE VISION BAND at Echo Curio; JUICEBOXXX, BABY BIRDS, DON'T DRINK MILK, CUP O' NOODLES at Pehrspace; LAARKS, COSTA NOVA, THEORY OF FAITH at the Viper Room.
The Magnetic Fields, Mark Eitzel at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre
Touring in support of 2008's Distortion, New York's Magnetic Fields dispensed with that album's Jesus and Mary Chain–inspired noise-pop arrangements, recasting fuzz bombs like "California Girls" and "The Nun's Litany" as hushed quirk-folk tunes. The choice wasn't entirely aesthetic; front man (and part-time Angeleno) Stephin Merritt suffers from a sensitivity to sound known as hyperacusis, so dude can't hang with the crunch of live electric guitars. This time through town they won't have to adjust: On Distortion's follow-up, the just-released Realism, the Fields make use of a bunch of small acoustic instruments Merritt discovered in various L.A. music shops. Of course, one shouldn't take the gentler sonics as indication that Merritt's signature wit has mellowed. "I want you crawling back to me," he sings in "You Must Be Out of Your Mind," "Like an appendectomy sans anesthesia." Expect more such sweetness tonight. With another fantastic songwriter, Mark Eitzel of American Music Club, as opener. (Mikael Wood)
Also playing Tuesday:
GEORGE THOROGOOD at House of Blues; SIGNALS, I.E., JUICEBOXXX at the Smell; THE HOUNDS BELOW, MIRANDA LEE RICHARDS, RACHEL DEAN & WAR CHILDREN at Spaceland; NICE NICE, WE BREAK CAMERAS, BULLIED BY STRINGS at the Echo; BACKYARD TIRE FIRE, OLD CALIFORNIO, WHEELHOUSE at the Mint; PEACE LOVING, HORAFLORA, HEADLIGHT, LOLA LOSHKEY at Echo Curio; GABY MORENO, LUCY WOODWARD, JESSE MACHT at the Hotel Cafe; THE NOSES, INSTANT PUSSY at La Cita; SHIROCK at the Roxy.
El Perro Del Mar, Taken by Trees at the Troubadour
Have you ever been mellow? The Swedish singer Sarah Assbring, aka El Perro Del Mar, has, and presumably always will be, on the basis of her work so far. Her recent album, Love Is Not Pop, is a song cycle that's supposedly inspired by the music of Lou Reed, although there's precious little white light or white heat in Assbring's gently lulling pop songs. Still, airy melodies like "Gotta Get Smart" and "Change of Heart" have a mesmerizing quality that makes up for the sometimes-anonymous backing. Taken by Trees is the latest band from former Concretes singer Victoria Bergsman, who went to Pakistan to record her 2009 album, East of Eden. She sings in a haunted/haunting whisper, with newfound exotic touches from the Sufi musician Sain Muhammad Ali. A few years ago with the Concretes, Bergsman crafted a cleverly slowed-down, austerely lonely remake of the Stones' "Miss You" that was more somberly affecting and sincerely moving than the original version. She tries the same trick with Taken by Trees' ultramellow remake of Guns N' Roses' "Sweet Child o' Mine," which isn't nearly as successful, especially when compared with her own glassily pretty originals. (Falling James)
Also playing Wednesday:
MIDLAKE, MATTHEW & THE ARROGANT SEA at El Rey Theatre; SHOOTER JENNINGS & HIEROPHANT at the Viper Room; THE HOLLOYS at Amoeba Music; SHRINEBUILDER, STORM OF LIGHT at the Echo.
Galactic at El Rey Theatre
In obvious homage to the city that birthed them, these experienced New Orleans groove merchants have never shied from enriching their stylistic gumbo with new ingredients: For 2003's Ruckus they hired Dan the Automator to lend his future-funk expertise, while their 2007 Anti- debut, From the Corner to the Block, featured guest appearances by a slew of underground MCs, including Mr. Lif, the Gift of Gab and Boots Riley of the Coup. Still, Galactic's latest is undoubtedly their most bumptious and boldly flavored yet. Named after a local soup of the kitchen-sink persuasion, Ya-Ka-Mayfinds the group in collaboration with old-school Crescent City royals such as Irma Thomas and Allen Toussaint, as well as with bounce-music new jacks like Cheeky Blakk and Big Freedia. The latter will join Galactic at El Rey (and perform a solo show the night before at El Cid), as will Cyril Neville of the Meters and the Neville Brothers. (Mikael Wood)
Also playing Thursday:
TOMMIE SUNSHINE at Spaceland; K-OS, U.N.I., AUDIBLE MAINFRAME at the Roxy; MIKE DOUGHTY at the Troubadour; LESLIE & THE LYS at the Echoplex; BON JOVI, DASHBOARD CONFESSIONAL at Staples Center; CHASING KINGS, HONEYHONEY, JIM BIANCO at the Hotel Café; SHRINEBUILDER, STORM OF LIGHT at the Echo; DOUBLE NAUGHT SPYCAR, THE 1921A at Taix.
Get the Music Newsletter