Rock Picks: The Ting Tings, The Fratellis, Rilo Kiley
THURSDAY, JUNE 12
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The Ting Tings: You should have seen the one that got away.
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Faun Fables' Dawn McCarthy channels Wonder Woman.
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The Fratellis: Here we sit.
The Detroit Cobras at the Troubadour
More than anything, the Detroit Cobras’ Rachel Nagy and Mary Ramirez are passionate fans of crucial R&B, soul, pop and garage music, and over the course of four albums they’ve covered great songwriters like Jackie DeShannon, Irma Thomas, the Staple Singers, Willie Dixon, Solomon Burke and the Shangri-Las. Unlike a zillion other cover bands in the world, the Detroit Cobras get away with such musical poaching because Nagy is an unrivaled vocal powerhouse whose interpretations are sometimes even more memorable than her classic inspirations. This is a rather mighty achievement when you consider that she’s holding her own with such giants as Otis Redding and Koko Taylor, but Nagy’s voice is simultaneously serene and fiery, lit up with a saucily boozy and wise-cracking, rude confidence that makes a soul-revising latecomer like Amy Winehouse seem like a shrinking violet. Ramirez prevents the group from coming off as some slickly reverential museum piece by riffing with dirty, punky garage chords, a major reason that the Detroit Cobras are the ultimate rock & soul party band. (Falling James)
The Roots, Erykah Badu at the Greek Theatre
The next time someone tells you that all hip-hop is the same, with narcissistic MCs rapping about their jewelry to pre-programmed backing tracks, make sure to sling the new Roots CD, Rising Down, in their direction. The Philly band — and they are a real band — would be remarkable if only because they use live instrumentation that moves and breathes with all the dynamics of any tight rock or funk outfit. Ahmir “?uestlove” Thompson hammers down the beat with a ferocious attentiveness, buttressed by Owen Biddle’s nimbly slinky yet sludgy-thick bass. But what really makes the Roots stand out is that Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter and a stellar cast of guests (Mos Def, DJ Jazzy Jeff, Saigon, Common, Chrisette Michelle and Talib Kweli) have something relevant to say. Themes range from the unjust justice system (“Criminal”), modern paranoia (the title track), child soldiers (“Singing Man”) and addictions, both chemical and cultural (“I Will Not Apologize”). The co-billed Erykah Badu adds to the excitement with her intelligently dreamy soul, which is grounded with hip-hop grooves and elevated with a farsighted social perspective that gives equal weight to personal politics. (Falling James)
Also playing Thursday:
JAMES INTVELD at the Autry Museum; GO BETTY GO, THE FRESAS at the Bordello; ?UESTLOVE at Crash Mansion; NELLIE McKAY at Largo at the Coronet; REBIRTH BRASS BAND at the Mint; THE SUPERBEES at Safari Sam’s; THE BANGKOK FIVE at the Viper Room; STEVE PRIEST & THE SWEET at the Whisky.
FRIDAY, JUNE 13
The Ting Tings at the Troubadour
The Ting Tings, from England, are like a happy-and-healthy version of the Kills, whose strung-out two-person blues-punk demonstrates that a rhythm section manned by actual men is no longer the necessity it once was. On We Started Nothing, their just-released debut, Jules De Martino and Katie White (Ting 1 and Ting 2, presumably) make an intentionally raw dance-rock racket full of fuzzy guitars, boombox beats and cheerleader chants. (Whether or not you recognize the Ting Tings’ name, you’ve heard their single “Shut Up and Let Me Go” in Apple’s latest iPod spot.) But where the Kills use the scrappiness of their sound to say something deep(ish) about desperation and neediness, White and De Martino just come off like a couple of overexcited party people who couldn’t be bothered to assemble a “real” band. Classified ads are slow, yo! (Mikael Wood)
The Submarines at the Echo
The Submarines have a great backstory. Blake Hazard and Jack Dragonetti (a.k.a. Jack Drag) were a couple, then they broke up and wrote songs about it. And the music brought them back together. Their first album, Declare a New State!, was basically a demo of these bitter breakup songs that a friend mastered as their wedding present. But a great story is one thing, and great music is another. Fortunately, Hazard and Dragonetti demonstrate a magical way with their pop tunes on both their debut and their freshly released follow-up, Honeysuckle Weeks. Where the first disc mixed heartbreak with hooky melodies, the new one succeeds in the trickier task of making terrific “happy tunes.” The duo deftly match Hazard’s sweet, airy vocals with Dragonetti’s infectiously bippy, boppy electro-pop arrangements. The disc is hypnotically enchanting throughout, with the shimmery love ode “Swimming Pool” and “Xavia” (with the tag line “I don’t want to be your favorite enemy”) surfacing as two particularly memorable tunes. (Michael Berick)
Faun Fables at the Knitting Factory
Dawn McCarthy’s Faun Fables is an odd, uncategorizable, morphing entity that sits on your kitchen table, emanating an orange-ish glow and a low humming sound. In tandem with Sleepytime Gorilla Museum singer/multi-instrumentalist Nils Frykdahl, McCarthy chills the spine with beautifully forthright singing and conjuring of “dreams within dreams” in a heavily contrapuntal, mostly acoustic sound circus that seems rooted in English plainsong and such folk-art offspring as the Incredible String Band. Centering on the theme of tending a home and its immediate impact upon our daily lives, McCarthy’s new A Table Forgotten EP on Drag City is evocatively colored by Frykdahl’s guitar, percussion and wind instruments. They're joined by violinist Meredith Yayanos and Kirana Peyton on harmonium, vocals and Irish Bodhran drum; Matt Waldron of Nurse With Wound co-produced the album. Together they create an arcane musical world that is a simply fascinating place to be. (John Payne)
Haunted Garage at Safari Sam’s
Despite their name, Haunted Garage are not some tinny, lo-fi garage-rock combo. Instead, they’re a powerful and heavy shock-rock metal band with a penchant for gory theatrics. Lead singer Michael Sonye, a.k.a Dukey Flyswatter, has appeared in a slew of campy horror flicks including Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers and the immortal Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama, and he brings a grimly fiendish madman persona to such songs as “Brain in a Jar” and “976-KILL,” where he sounds like an unholy cross between Frank N. Furter and T.S.O.L.’s Jack Grisham. “You’re all so normal, perfect for slaying,” he crows. Before things get too kitschy, kabuki warrior-princess Gaby Godhead carves everything up with non-ironically dazzling metallic lead-guitar virtuosity. These longtime Hollywood denizens haven’t played in 15 years, and Flyswatter and Godhead are the only members of the original lineup appearing at this reunion tonight, but they’ll be backed by Godhead’s current group, the appropriately blasphemous hell-raisers Virginia City Revival and such ghastly and ghostly guest stars as the Duchess DeSade and 45 Grave’s Dinah Cancer. (Falling James)
Also playing Friday:
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Times New Viking: They're font-astic.
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Rilo Kiley wait for the Greek Theatre's parking lot to clear.
Autumn De Wilde
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Nature girl: Jesse Sykes
SMOKEY ROBINSON at the Greek Theatre; PHRANC at California Plaza; THE SWEET at the Canyon; AFRIKA BAMBAATAA at Crash Mansion; BOBB BRUNO at Echo Curio; JAIL WEDDINGS at the Redwood Bar & Grill; BLACK WIDOWS, SWORDS OF FATIMA at Taix; CONJUNTO JARDIN, QUETZAL at Temple Bar; OLLIN at the Barn Burner.
SATURDAY, JUNE 14
GZA, LIVING LEGENDS, RJD2 at the Orpheum Theatre; CROSBY, STILLS & NASH at the Greek Theatre; THE GEARS at Alex’s Bar; JOHN C. REILLY, RUSSELL BRAND at Largo; BOX ELDERS, ALIENS, WOUNDED LION at Mr. T’s Bowl; SLACKTONE, THE THINGZ at Safari Sam’s, noon; DIRTY SWEET, THE BINGES at Spaceland; BLACK WATCH, FURIOUS SEASONS at Taix.
SUNDAY, JUNE 15
The Fratellis at the Key Club
“Look out, Sunshine, here’s the punch line/No one gets you anymore,” Jon Fratelli announces on the new Fratellis album, Here We Stand (Interscope). Perhaps he’s commenting on the changes surrounding his Scottish band’s sudden rise to fame in the wake of 2006’s insanely catchy and witty debut full-length, Costello Music: “They only play for money . it’s the sell-out show that no one wants to go to . And what do you mean you were born to love this scene/And they would string you up gladly/If they knew just how lazy you’d been.” For all of the Fratellis’ pseudo-fraternal, shambling slacker goofiness, the trio are a disciplined, tight band with a talent for catchy pop-punk hooks. The new CD veers a little more toward the power-pop side of the equation on exuberant tunes like “Mistress Mabel,” “Milk and Money” and the rootsy Hoodoo Gurus jangle of “Stragglers Moon.” Here We Stand may not be quite as punky and lyrically silly as Costello Music, but both albums are well-crafted, impressively rocking affairs. (Falling James)
Also playing Sunday:
TIMES NEW VIKING, PSYCHEDELIC HORSESHIT, FABULOUS DIAMONDS at the Echo; VAUD & THE VILLAINS at Fais Do-Do; TED NUGENT at House of Blues; THE MIGHTY DIAMONDS at Malibu Inn; RUSSELL BRAND at the Roxy; MIKE STINSON, LESLIE & THE BADGERS at Safari Sam’s, noon; DOSH, KÁRIN TATOYAN at Spaceland; THE SIXTH CHAMBER at Viper Room.
MONDAY, JUNE 16
Times New Viking, Psychedelic Horseshit, Fabulous Diamonds at the Smell
Putting the voltage into “power” trio, Times New Viking tear out the insulation and transmit short, bristling spurts of distorted jangle and fuzz-melted harmonies. Their Matador debut, Rip It Off, comes slathered in sheets of no-fi hiss, its teenage kicks slicing through a sulfuric mist. Like the label’s past 4-track fantasias Alien Lanes and Slanted & Enchanted, the album’s snares crack like punched cardboard as guitars teeter out of tune in a drench of pawnshop pedals. Spunkier and less complicated than either Guided by Voices or Pavement, though, Times New Viking reel off miniature anthems in bass-free gushes. Psychedelic Horseshit and Fabulous Diamonds not only hail from Siltbreeze Records, Times New Viking’s previous label, they also pursue a similar caustic minimalism. Psychedelic Horseshit's barbed-wire splotch-pop has a slightly off-putting smirk. Fabulous Diamonds, on the other hand, powwow with shimmering Farfisas and swirling drums. Also at the Echo, Sun. (Bernardo Rondeau)
Xu Xu Fang at the Viper Room
With slow waves of hushed sounds and swirling psychedelia, Xu Xu Fang’s new CD, The Mourning Son, rolls in like a fog and wraps your head in clouds. “Things are just okay,” a disembodied, world-weary voice intones amid the squalling guitars, spectral synths and formally decisive piano chords of “These Days.” It’s grand and dreamy stuff, followed by the similarly otherworldly title track, which chimes with a Velvety gloom. Band leader and producer Bobby Tamkin used to drum in the Warlocks, but Xu Xu Fang is a much more intriguing project. Unlike the Bore-locks, Xu Xu Fang are able to transform their funereal tempos into something truly mysterious and uniquely memorable. The pace picks up just a little on “Good Times,” whose shadowy groove and breathy singing belie its sunny title. It’s been a while since the local group have put out anything new, and tonight they celebrate — if that’s the appropriate word for something so downbeat — the release of the new CD. (Falling James)
Also playing Monday:
LIL WAYNE at House of Blues; WADDY WACHTEL at the Joint; AFTERNOONS, EVEREST at Spaceland.
TUESDAY, JUNE 17
ISLANDS at the Henry Fonda Theater; CITIZEN FISH at the Echo; AIRBORNE TOXIC EVENT, DEADLY SYNDROME, HENRY CLAY PEOPLE at Spaceland; DEVON WILLIAMS at Amoeba Music, 7 p.m.
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 18
Rilo Kiley at the Greek Theatre
There was a hilarious post last year on the Idolator blog (http://idolator.com/tunes/rilo-kiley/) in which longtime Rilo Kiley fan Kate Richardson linked a decline in the quality of the band’s music with the rise of singer Jenny Lewis’ hemlines. While I don’t agree that Rilo Kiley’s music has really gotten worse on their most recent CD, Under the Blacklight, it is true that Lewis has been wearing more hot pants and glittery outfits in recent years, a contrast with the frumpier pants and longer skirts she used to wear. The implication is that it was easier to identify with Lewis when she was dressed down and singing self-deprecating country-laced indie-rock songs. But her change into glossier duds and the band’s concurrent expansion into new musical territory, such as the Staxy soul of “15,” the rock en español of “Dejalo” and the soothing disco-pop shine of Blake Sennett’s “Dreamworld,” are not necessarily bad things. They’re just extra disguises and outfits to hang in the closet until the proper occasion arrives. Even with all of Rilo Kiley’s stylistic mutations, there’s always a warm glow at the center of their music. (Falling James)
Also playing Wednesday:
DAVID RODIGAN, RANKING JOE, LITTLE JOHN, EXTRA GOLDEN, EL TAMBOR at the Echo; ROSE ROSSI at the Hotel Café; MORGAN HERITAGE at the Key Club; LIAM FINN at Largo; MIDNIGHT MOVIES at Spaceland; ELENI MANDELL at Tangier.
THURSDAY, JUNE 19
Jesse Sykes & the Sweet Hereafter at the Echo
Jesse Sykes is a good witch. The Seattle singer is one of this country’s leading practitioners of hypnotic balladry, and she casts dreamy spells that are gently and subtly entrancing. Whereas Cat Power has a touch more soul and R&B in her similarly lulling music, Jesse Sykes & the Sweet Hereafter infuse their songs with more of countrified lilt while evoking the pastoral sweep and distinctively shadowy sylvan loneliness of the Pacific Northwest. Her solemn vocals and a coyote-howl harmonica light up the stark landscape of “Eisenhower Moon,” from her 2006 CD, Like, Love, Lust & the Open Halls of the Soul (Barsuk), while “Spectral Beings” lives up to its title with shivery harmonies and former Whiskeytown guitarist Phil Wandscher’s austere plucking. Not everything is so mellow, and bassist Bill Herzog and drummer Eric Eagle give the occasional uptempo tune like “You Might Walk Away” a bit of a Crazy Horse push. Still, we’ll be at the Echo just so we can close our eyes and drift away to billowing melodies like “How Will We Know?” (Falling James)
Hayes Carll, Old 97’s at Crash Mansion
It seems like Texas has more singer-songwriters than the other 49 states combined — but it also produces some damn talented ones. Houston-born Hayes Carll is a rising star following in the tradition of such sharp-tongued storytellers as Townes Van Zandt, Steve Earle, Robert Earl Keen and Guy Clark. Carll populates his Lost Highway debut, Trouble in Mind (which follows several critically praised, little-heard indie releases), with a colorful cast of characters. There’s Kate, “who’s as pretty as a plate,” and the guy whose girl dumped him for Jesus (“And that’s not fair/She says that’s he’s perfect/How can I compare?”), as well as the “barefoot shrimper with a pistol up his sleeve” and “an old lion tamer parked behind the bar.” Following his impressive Stagecoach set, Carll brings his rascally roadhouse music back to the Southland as he opens for the Texas-bred Old 97’s, whose new disc, Blame It on Gravity, soars with the band’s distinctive toe-tapping twang pop. (Michael Berick)
Nico Vega at the Viper Room
With just vocals, guitar and drums, Nico Vega transmit an orchestra’s worth of sultry, sometimes surly sentiment. The trio marry tenuously related sonic elements — adventurous, occasionally frantic garage grooves; alternately arpeggiated and dissonantly ominous guitar; Aja Volkman’s smoky-Siouxsie-vs.- sweet-&-sour-Björk vocals — with thinking-hipster’s rock (imagine the Like, only with actual problems). Onstage, it’s all about the wide-eyed, wackily fashionable Volkman stomping, strutting and sweating in defiance of her svelte, catwalk-ready aura. This perpetual buzz band (who are yet to even release an album — their debut’s due in October) flirt with melody rather than beat us over the head with hooks, seemingly tiring of each idea before the listener’s even fully grasped it. Admirable, but Nico Vega’s structural perversity is both their best mate and worst enemy: It keeps us coming back for more and earns muso cred points, but ultimately stems the seemingly inevitable mass-adulation tide. (Paul Rogers)
Martha Wainwright at the Troubadour
Although both of them have inspired a recent flood of media commentary and popular opinion, Emily Gould (the ex-Gawker blogger who recently shit all over The New York Times Magazine about her challenges as an expositress) and Carrie Bradshaw (with her emotion binge-and-purge buddies in the Sex and the City movie) aren’t really all that provocative, intellectually or otherwise. Sex and relationship tales à la Gould and Bradshaw tend toward the banal. Refreshingly distinct from this paradigm is the smoky, sexy mythology of badass singer-songwriters working without the smug Upper East Side–ness. Martha Wainwright (the sister of Rufus, and the daughter of Loudon III and Kate McGarrigle) has recently released a cool, dirty record called I Know You’re Married but I Have Feelings Too. Wainwright plays it seedy and tragic (or, maybe, just plays it for real) and works the salty, half-zipped femme-fatale angle like any sidelined sister would. (Kate Carraway)
Also playing Thursday:
DUFFY at El Rey Theatre; MARC COHN, SAM PHILLIPS at the Canyon; SEA WOLF, PATRICK PARK at the Echoplex; MEIKO at the Hotel Café; CECI BASTIDA at the Knitting Factory; WATKINS FAMILY HOUR, GLEN PHILLIPS at Largo; ADAM MARSLAND’S CHAOS BAND at Mr. T’s Bowl; THE ALMOST, EMERY, ENVY ON THE COAST at the Roxy; LETICIA CASTANEDA, G.E. STINSON & HANS FJELLESTAD, NOT IN THE HOUSE at Steve Allen Theater; VERY BE CAREFUL, SACCHARINE TRUST at Cafe Mariposa.
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