Rock Picks: Thurston Moore, James Blackshaw, Lisa Hannigan, Modest Mouse
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 20
Thurston Moore, the Haters, Dead Machines, Hive Mind
and others at the Smell
Still cherubic at 50, Thurston Moore has never been one to show his age — neither on his face nor in his music. Certain things have changed: Last year the counterculture icon recorded a song for Gossip Girl, and Sonic Youth released a Starbucks-exclusive compilation — but these are hardly the symptoms of a man out of touch (to wit, the ’Bucks comp was curated by the likes of Gus Van Sant and David Cross). Sonic Youth’s most recent album, 2006’s Rather Ripped, reasserted that band’s relevance with a chiseled set of tuneful art-pop, and Moore’s 2007 solo offering, Trees Outside the Academy, explored a folky minimalism entirely new to this man’s repertoire. Here, Moore makes his second trip to the Smell in three months, presumably to take another draught from the fountain of youth. (Chris Martins)
Broken Spindles at the Echo
Broken Spindles is one Joel Petersen of the Faint, a prodigiously talented fella who of late has gotten major backslaps for his sterling remixes of Of Montreal and AFI tracks. Petersen has this thing out called Kiss/Kick, the most cohesively impactful of his four Broken Spindles albums, loaded with short, smart, shocky-punky art that keeps the toes a-tapping as you gaze off across yonder meadow, fleecy clouds rolling by. In the artfully musical way he’s programmed his bass sequences alongside live drums, then slathered the lot with tastefully terse drops of keyboard texture and twittering synths, Petersen makes Kiss/Kick’s new-wavey ambitions come off as a seamless stitching of the best of the pointy-headed Euro punk that graced the waves circa 1979-’81, say, where the melodious Stranglers hump Plastique Bertrand and no-nonsense Gang of Four guitars slash the crackling air. Tuff pop! (John Payne)
Also playing Friday:
SPLIT LIP RAYFIELD at Spaceland; FISCHERSPOONER at Avalon Hollywood; THE GAME at Club Nokia; BLUE RODEO at McCabe’s; DONOVAN FRANKENHEITER at the Roxy; MURDER BY DEATH at the Troubadour; JON BRION AND FRIENDS at Largo at the Coronet.
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 21
James Blackshaw, Grails at Spaceland
That more people don’t know about 12-string guitarist James Blackshaw is one of the great failures of the Information Age. Hyperbole, sure, considering he’s only 28. Still, over the course of six albums of solo instrumental recordings, the British-born Blackshaw has crafted some of the deepest, most durable acoustic music since John Fahey and Sandy Bull. Like those twin giants of late-20th-century instrumental guitar, Blackshaw’s fingers contain multitudes. Melody lines swirl as the 12 strings create chiming overtones that Blackshaw seems to bend and twist as they float through the air; it’s hard to believe it’s all happening simultaneously, this gilded palace of notes. But the best thing about Blackshaw’s work — besides its simple beauty, of course — is that the artist isn’t stuck in some sort of traditionalist muck. He brings in synthetic tones from time to time, is cool with creepy drones weaving through his finger runs, and somehow manages to recall in all of this not only Fahey and the Tacoma Records school but also Kraftwerk and the Cologne school, Stereolab and the Too Pure school, and Reich and the minimalist school. Blackshaw got his start stateside on the estimable Tompkins Square imprint, but his forthcoming album, The Glass Bead Game, will arrive on Michael Gira’s Young God Records. Opening will be Portland, Oregon, psychedelic instrumental band Grails, also from the Fahey wellspring, but with more sitar and overall Indian vibe. This should be a mystical night overall, in fact. (Randall Roberts)
Lisa Hannigan at the Troubadour
This Dublin-based singer-songwriter is best known for her work in the studio and onstage with Damien Rice, the very earnest Irish folkie who began turning American heads when his tune “The Blower’s Daughter” was featured prominently in the 2004 Julia Roberts/Jude Law flick Closer. (It’s the one where Rice goes on about how he can’t take his eyes off you.) Dave Matthews’ label, ATO, just released an American edition of Hannigan’s lovely solo debut, Sea Sew, on which she demonstrates all she’s learned by backing Rice up — namely, that singing softly (and occasionally loudly) over delicate arrangements dominated by moaning strings and strummed acoustic guitar is a great way of making yourself look like you experience emotions extremely deeply. Now that I think about it, this is a lesson Hannigan probably could’ve learned just as easily by staying home and watching Once. Oh, well! (Mikael Wood)
Los Angeles Free Music Society (LAFMS) Reunion at Otis College of Art and Design
The secret life of a dead tactic: The telethon, that tradition so endlessly emblematic of the ’70s, gets inverted and ass-kicked by way of “Telethon Revisited,” a restaging of the 1977 performance “Telethon Returns,” masterminded by LAFMS co-founder Joe Potts. The weekend marathon does, however, have one thing in common with a normal telethon: action-packed entertainment value, even if no money rolls in. More stars than there are in Heaven: Airway, in their first performance in more than a decade; Los Angeles expatriates Smegma, Solid Eye, Le Forte Four and Extended Organ. Throughout the weekend, itinerant noisy maniacs will perform alongside the marquee-value names affiliated with the influential experimental-music collective LAFMS. They’ll be improvising with friends, students and whoever happens to drop in, including stalwarts of the Los Angeles art and experimental-music scenes, such as Liz Young, Mike Kelley, Mitchell Brown and Albert Ortega. It’s streamed live online and broadcast on a giant television set in the Lounge, a phenomenal collection of minds and sounds that have been the secret soundtrack to new ways of expression for 40 years. The program goes from noon on Saturday, February 21 to noon on Sunday, February 22. Wait, no tote bag? (David Cotner)
Also playing Saturday:
JOSHUA RADIN, JESSE HARRIS, MEIKO at the Henry Fonda Theater; LUDACRIS, KERI HILSON at the L.A. Memorial Sports Arena; FIGHT FAIR, SCHOOL BOY HUMOR, SEE YOU SOON at the Knitting Factory; REVEREND HORTON HEAT at House of Blues; POP LEVI at the Echoplex; ANDRE WILLIAMS, WOOLLY BANDITS at Dragonfly.
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 22
Spirit Vine, My Pet Saddle at Echo Curio
Laurel Canyon meets Bakersfield when Spirit Vine and My Pet Saddle bring their re-appropriated versions of Southern California’s rock past to Silver Lake’s favorite co-op gallery of crafts and ephemera — Echo Curio. Spirit Vine’s people-of-the-canyon stoner rock revels in that musical moment when L.A.’s jingle-jangle hippie pop turned into a much heavier, overdrugged Charlie Manson creep-out. Like Nebula and even Wolfmother before them, Spirit Vine are right at home in that familiar haze of bong-load smoke, heavy fuzz, sinewy guitar solos, sideburns and swaggering attitude that owes its best riffs to Blue Cheer and Pink Floyd. My Pet Saddle, on the other hand, hearkens back to dance-hall nights in the Central Valley with Buck Owens and Kuzzin Herb. Homegrown in the O.C., the MPS quintet unravel Gram Parsons’ musky desert twang and make it smile with a snappy skiffle beat. Catch them here before they barnstorm into Austin for the South by Southwest music festival next month. (Wendy Gilmartin)
Also playing Sunday:
ARTHUR RUSSELL TRIBUTE WITH HECUBA, JULIA HOLTER at the Echoplex; DEICIDE at the Key Club; THE BROKEN WEST at the Echo; THE DERAILERS at the Redwood Bar & Grill; BIG SANDY AND HIS FLY RITE BOYS at the Derby; YACHT, DJ PUBES at the Roxy; NEIL HAMBURGER at Spaceland.
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 23
SHELLEY SHORT, ALEXIS GIDEON at Pehrspace; LE SWITCH, RADAR BROS., ANDY CLOCKWISE, THE FARAWAY PLACES at Spaceland; HOLLOYS, AVI BUFFALO, UNDERGROUND RAILROAD TO CANDYLAND, HIS ORCHESTRA at the Echo.
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 24
Modest Mouse at the Palladium
Old Modest Mouse fans like to pit themselves against the Johnny-come-latelies (specifically, those who joined the bandwagon circa Johnny Marr’s arrival), but the old rules about selling out don’t apply here. While there is a certain disparity between the band’s humble K Records roots and contracting the guitarist from a legendary group like the Smiths, Modest Mouse’s deliciously bitter core has remained intact through the group’s 15 years. Isaac Brock’s sarcastic bark and trademark bent guitars perfectly offset that new upbeat sound that crept in with 2004’s “Float On.” All Smiles’ Jim Fairchild will take Marr’s place for this tour, which bodes well: The happier Modest Mouse’s music sounds, the more deranged it actually feels. (Chris Martins)
Kinky at the Henry Fonda Theater
On the scale of kinkiness, the Monterrey, Mexico, band Kinky are the equivalent of softcore porn rather than anything hardcore or too extreme. There are occasional subversive musical twists on their latest CD, Barracuda (Kin Kon/Nettwerk), but the quintet are ultimately more playful than confrontational: They just want to make you dance. Such songs as “Avión” and “Papel Volando” are closer to the new-wave glitz of Duran Duran than, say, the harrowing darkness of Nine Inch Nails. There may be tracks with titles like “Masacre Sónica,” but they tend to burble along with bouncy rhythms and perky keyboards instead of slamming you with volume and distortion. The Beastie Boys’ Money Mark surrounds Gil Cerezo’s breezy vocals with inventive production touches, but it’s up to Cesar Pliego to counteract the robotic mood with warm, sinuous bass lines. As he did on Kinky’s previous CD, 2006’s Reina, Cerezo occasionally sings in English, but he’s not motivated by some cheap desire for crossover success: The chorus punch lines to slinky dance experiments like “Those Girls” and “The Day I Lost the Beat” just happen to fit into those grooves better in English. (Falling James)
Whispertown 2000 at the Hotel Cafe
The Whispertown 2000 are a local quartet whose second album, Swim, was released last year on Gillian Welch and David Rawlings’ Acony Records, so it’s perhaps not surprising that there’s an air of old-timey folksiness to the proceedings. Morgan Nagler coos low-key countrified ballads and bluesy folk laments, which are sweetened by Vanessa Corbala’s sad-&-lonesome harmonies and backed stolidly by the rhythm section of Tod Adrian Wisenbaker and Casey Wisenbaker. There’s a “gather ’round the campfire” jauntiness to acoustic-guitar rambles like “From the Start/Jamboree” and “103,” although the singers’ highly mannered delivery sometimes comes across as corny and cutesy rather than authentically rural. What works better are more serious songs like “Atlantis,” a spare, gently moving piano ballad where Nagler’s and Corbala’s vocals are blended bewitchingly with guest harmonies by Rawlings and Jenny Lewis (an early supporter of the band, along with her Rilo Kiley partner, Blake Sennett, who produced Whispertown’s 2006 debut CD, Livin’ in a Dream). The doomy electric-blues passage “Ebb & Flow,” where Tod Adrian Wisenbaker’s lowing guitar groans like a cello, is another nice break from the down-home formula. (Falling James)
Also playing Tuesday:
DEAR AND THE HEADLIGHTS, MINIATURE TIGERS, REUBEN’S ACCOMPLICE at the Knitting Factory; SHEMEKIA COPELAND at the Mint; MIRANDA LEE RICHARDS at Spaceland; FRENCH KICKS at the Troubadour.
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 25
Scott Walker Night at the Bordello
For Scott Walker — the stentorian tunesmith of Walker Brothers, a band whose hit “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore” was one of the reasons they once boasted a larger fan club than the Beatles’ — success became a doorway to freelance statistical abnormality, to gliding through life on gently doomed wings as though obscurity itself were the new stardom. In anticipation of the Los Angeles premiere of 30 Century Man, director Stephen Kijak’s David Bowie–produced documentary on Walker, the Don’t Knock the Rock film festival gathers like-minded iconoclasts to interpret Walker’s pop jewels. There’s David J from Bauhaus alongside Michael Burg, ’60s chanteuse Evie Sands, Ann Magnuson and Kristian Hoffman, songbird Jenny O, and X’s John Doe. As with all music makers choosing exodus and experimentation — Joe Meek and Arthur Russell come to mind — Walker’s art presents melancholy as something energizing, a complexity often absent from pop’s constant demands for a milder climate. (David Cotner)
Dead Confederate at Spaceland
Born of both alt-country and alt-rock, Georgia’s Dead Confederate are a more crinkly, club-level Kings of Leon. They croak the latter’s desperate deep-woods wail and earthy melodrama but add a ragged sense of the unknown, and some shabby, passenger-seat romance. Dead Con are the quiet bearded boy at the dive bar who can only express himself through song; they’re the beer-lovin’ goof who’s one of the (indie) guys but so much more besides. Their debut full-length, last year’s Wrecking Ball, covers great swaths of emotional ground without sounding like a compilation: “The Rat” speckles a gently fractured of-the-ages vocal with fairy-light guitars, then rides muscular tides into a warmly forlorn chorus; “As Able As Well” floats in reverbed introversion like a Southern-pride Radiohead before they found the machines. These boys mean it and mean business. Get there early. (Paul Rogers)
Benjamin Taylor, Schuyler Fisk at the Troubadour
In the music world, genes are no guarantee of success, or even talent. For every Jeff Buckley or Rosanne Cash, there’s the cast of MTV’s Rock the Cradle. This Troubadour bill offers a double dip into the gene pool. Benjamin Taylor, the son of James Taylor and Carly Simon, has definitely absorbed his dad’s smooth, soulful folk-pop sound. On his stylish The Legend of Kung Folk Part 1 (his first as Benjamin following several as just Ben), Taylor reveals an affinity for funkiness (his cover of rapper John Forte’s “Wilderness”), as well as a sly wit (his terrific low-key lothario anthem “Wicked Way”) that suggests he’s poised to escape his parents’ shadow. Show opener Schuyler Fisk also seems capable of beating down “She’s whose kid?” expectations. Like her mother, Sissy Spacek, Fisk has been an actress and a musician. She displays her mom’s artistic confidence on her newly issued debut The Good Stuff, an endearing folk-rock set that recalls Sheryl Crow’s rootsy feminism and the Weepies’ bright melodicism. (Michael Berick)
Also playing Wednesday:
JESSI COLLINS at the Mint; ANAVAN, BABYLAND at the Viper Room.
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 26
A.C. Newman at the Troubadour
Of all the stellar folks — including alterna-country chanteuse Neko Case and Destroyer’s Dan Bejar — who are part of the Vancouver power-pop supergroup the New Pornographers, it’s Carl Newman who writes most of their songs and is considered the leader of the sprawling collective. For some reason, he calls himself A.C. Newman when putting out his solo albums, such as the just-released Get Guilty (Matador). There’s an orchestrated grandeur to songs like “There Are Maybe Ten or Twelve,” where flurries of strings and booming percussion punctuate his lyrics with dramatic emphasis. Newman could be talking about a lot of things — love, displacement, the state of the music industry — when he sings, “Once there was a haunted loop of your deep-fallen tears/full head resting on a record shelf/Amid moving boxes stacked/I’m still waiting for the right ones.” What does it all mean? “Make of that what you will,” he concludes firmly. “Submarines of Stockholm” rattles along with a clacking train-track guitar riff before jumping the rails and landing in a spacy David Bowie/Syd Barrett break. Again, what does it all mean? Only A.C. (or perhaps Carl) really knows, but it does make for some wonderfully brainy, catchy and multilayered pop-rock. (Falling James)
Also playing Thursday:
ANIMAL COLLECTIVE, ARIEL PINK at the Henry Fonda Theater; CLUES, GLASS BEEF at Spaceland TENACIOUS D, CRAIG ROBINSON, NICK SWARDSON at Club Nokia; COLIN HAY at Largo at the Coronet; HEALTH, ABE VIGODA, CAPTAIN AHAB at the Echo.
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