Rock Picks: Watson Twins, Les Claypool, Autechre
THURSDAY, APRIL 3
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Hands up: The Watson Twins paint the town red.
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Back in black for the last time: Ministry
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Les Claypool on his own tragical history tour
A Fine Frenzy at the Roxy
Alison Sudol had a broken heart. Instead of climbing back into bed with a gallon of chocolate ice cream like the rest of us, she channeled her loneliness and pain into a series of cathartic breakup songs, such as “Near to You” and “Ashes and Wine,” on her 2007 debut CD, One Cell in the Sea (Virgin). Armed with a major-label deal and a large supporting cast of sympathetically low-key, if slick studio musicians, Sudol reinvented herself as A Fine Frenzy (from William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream), turning her heartbreak into the stuff of grand melodrama. The album’s piano ballads have a rueful, stately presence, and Sudol coos with a breathy delivery that is often languidly pretty. However, Lukas Burton and Hal Cragin’s strings-laden production is wearingly sticky sweet at times, and the occasionally playful but twee lyrics are made soggier by the repetition of lazy banalities like “thick as thieves” and “all I can say/is you blow me away.” Let’s hope that more of the fantastical whimsy of her hero Lewis Carroll finds its way into the future work of this talented singer. (Falling James)
Pitbull, Baby Bash at the Vault 350
One of Pitbull’s stickiest new verses goes, “I’m too Latin for hip-hop and too hip-hop for Latin — y’all figure it out,” which nicely sums up the Miami MC’s dilemma. Like his previous release, El Mariel, the similarly overstuffed Boatlift sees him doling out crunk, reggaeton, syrupy ballads and other styles. But for all its 18 cameo-studded tracks, the record feels thin, probably because he’s never sinking his teeth into any compelling subject matter, such as the Cuban diaspora the CD’s title hints at. To see what this “li’l chico” can really do, pick up Pit’s debut, M.I.A.M.I., the odds-and-sods/remix album Money Is Still a Major Issue or any of the “Unleashed” series of mixtapes with DJ Ideal. Pit’s only 27, and his best work is still ahead of him, so twist off a Red Stripe and drink to his future. Also check for Baby Bash, who rocks it rico-suave smooth over Latin R&B bounce. (Andrew Lentz)
Also playing Thursday:
MYSTIK JOURNEYMEN, AWOL ONE at the Knitting Factory; THE KRIS SPECIAL at Mr. T’s Bowl.
FRIDAY, APRIL 4
The Watson Twins at the Natural History Museum
It’s said that siblings sing with the most beautiful harmonies, and identical twins Chandra and Leigh Watson certainly live up to that cliché. The Louisville, Kentucky, sisters released their debut EP, Southern Manners, in 2006 but came to wider attention by touring with Rilo Kiley’s Jenny Lewis, lending their fabulous vocals to her solo album, Rabbit Fur Coat. While the Watson Twins don’t harmonize with the intensity or eerily haunting melancholy of, say, the Chapin Sisters, their serene vocals usually take their music into enchanting places. On their upcoming CD, Fire Songs (Vanguard), the Watsons ramble through mellow country-pop tunes such as “Sky Open Up,” which has a pastoral dreaminess with soaring guitars that echo the arcing vocals, while the seductive “Map to Where You Are” is brightened by festive horns. A cover of the Cure’s “Just Like Heaven” is slowed down stylishly — just like so many other recent ’80s remakes — but is nonetheless charming. The Watsons’ originals are pleasant in a low-key Jesse Sykes style, although when it comes to lyrics, one wishes that they would follow the advice of their song “Dig a Little Deeper.” (Falling James)
Mad Juana at the Cat Club
You might remember Sami Yaffa from his days in the early-’80s Finnish hard-rock band Hanoi Rocks (although he’s apparently not involved in their reunion). He recently passed through town as the bassist in the reincarnated New York Dolls, and he wrote the hypnotically descending riff to “We’re All in Love,” the catchiest tune on the Dolls’ 2006 comeback CD. But Mad Juana, his ongoing project with his wife, Karmen Guy, is stranger and more exotic than anything else he’s ever done. “Domingo,” from the New York band’s upcoming CD, Bruja on the Corner (Azra), starts with mariachi horns and segues into an Old Word vibe with accordion and violin melodies that evoke Manu Chao, Gogol Bordello and Balkan Beat Box. However, Ms. Guy’s bewitching singing takes things to a feverishly madcap place where dub, reggae, flamenco and punk collide seamlessly. It all comes together on “Revolution Avenue,” which sounds a little like Nina Hagen fronting Tijuana No! Wicked stuff. (Falling James)
Les Claypool, Secret Chiefs 3, Tim Fite at the Wiltern
As any Primus fan knows, when it comes to a live performance by front man Les Claypool (who’s also served time as a member of Sausage, Oysterhead and Colonel Les Claypool’s Fearless Flying Frog Brigade), you never really know what you’re gonna get. So beyond mentioning that the eccentric bass master will appear at the Wiltern as part of a quartet and that the quartet is planning to play material from Claypool’s lengthy songbook (as well as some new stuff), I’ll leave the prognosticating to folks with better psychic powers than I. Secret Chiefs 3 are led by former Mr. Bungle guitarist Trey Spruance, who uses the band as a vehicle for forays into his varied musical curiosities; expect surf-rock riffs, Middle Eastern melodies, spaghetti Western strings and more. Opener Tim Fite, from Brooklyn, makes bizarre folk-rap records that sound either like relics from the ancient past or like objects beamed back to us from the distant future — maybe both. (Mikael Wood)
Ministry, Meshuggah at House of Blues
Just when you thought Al Jourgensen was rotting away in a prison or busted in a drug sting, Ministry whips out The Last Sucker, the final installment in a Bush-bashing trilogy that began with 2004’s Houses of the Molé. The industro vets’ latest is plenty crushing, all right, and yet Sucker’s frequent guitar solos and analog aftertaste continue the move away from the rivet-head sound that started with 1996’s slow and doomy Filth Pig. Sadly, this will be their final outing before Jourgensen retires the band and sequesters himself in his El Paso compound to work on non-Ministry stuff. As consolation, you can pick up the April Fool’s Day release of Cover Up, featuring Mr. Al and friends’ de(con)struction of tracks by the Rolling Stones, Dylan and other sacred cows. Do phrases like “odd time signatures” make you cringe? Swedish virtuosos Meshuggah churn out twisted, druggy grooves that will have you declaring, “I can’t believe it’s math-metal.” With Hemlock. Also Sat.-Sun. (Andrew Lentz)
Autechre at the Echoplex
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Dont sample the tomatoes: Le Loup.
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Fire spirits: Birds of Avalon
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The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, after being evicted from their rehearsal studio
The two guys who compose the rather legendary English electronic/whatsit proposition Autechre are named Rob Brown and Sean Booth. They are people who are apparently not inclined to concern themselves with whether what they do with their machines, computers and software produces anything remotely identifiable as a genre type or even if the sounds they construct can be pinpointed in origin — whether they “sound like” anything ever heard before, etc. That’s a very basic image of what Autechre does, but it’s also sort of the point of their existence and the sort of point/non-point of their musical art. Their fascinating and vaguely beautiful new release, Quaristice (Warp), offers a colorful ambiguity of “instrumental” washes/events/places/times/new hybrid emotions-memories that might be best suited for those moments when a listener needs something decidedly new but somehow oddly familiar, as a prod toward new possibilities or a way of putting together the puzzle of the past. So, possible musics, yes; answers, possibly. (John Payne)
Also playing Friday:
THE CRIBS, JEFFREY LEWIS & THE JITTERS at El Rey Theatre; LOUIS XIV, WHAT MADE MILWAUKEE FAMOUS at Avalon; DECRY at Anarchy Library; PIGEON JOHN at the Knitting Factory; THE MONOLATORS, RADEMACHER at Mr. T’s Bowl; THE BILLYBONES at Relax Bar; JOE BAIZA at Taix.
SATURDAY, APRIL 5
Le Loup at the Echo
The odds are pretty stacked against bands at South by Southwest. Most of them suck, and attendees are constantly reminded of this. Percentage wise, few register. But it’s worth it for that singular moment when the sun breaks through the clouds and shines on an otherwise underappreciated band. It happened with me and Le Loup, a young D.C. band whose debut, The Throne of the Third Heaven., sparked my curiosity when it first came out, though I surely didn’t expect what I got. Live, the band had swelled to seven members, and little songs grew big — three electric guitars big, with dance rhythms and organs, French horns, percussion and banjos, and all of them singing along. Le Loup sounded like an American version of Hot Chip, or an Arcade Fire with less yelping and more of a backbeat. If you feel like dancing and being blown away by a band you’ve never heard before, don’t miss this show. With the Ruby Suns and Princeton. (Randall Roberts)
Ninja Academy at Café Mariposa
Don’t fret if the name Ninja Academy doesn’t ring a bell. With so many bands in Los Angeles, groups get lost in the mix. But the drum-and-bass duo are different: They’re ninjas, and ninjas are supposed to be stealthy and inconspicuous. Dressed in full ass-kicking regalia, Ninja Academy come flying out the dojo with some of the most sonically diverse music since the Minutemen. Although the pair sound nothing like the famed San Pedro trio, there’s no denying a musical brotherhood. Like the Minutemen, Ninja Academy say fuck off to unwritten musical rules while bringing a unique blend of overdriven, busy bass playing and a full-on drumming assault. The result is a simultaneous nod to punk, funk, jazz and metal that leaves audiences respectfully bowing to these aural black-belt masters. 1547 W. Sunset Blvd. (213) 481-9917. (Ryan Ritchie)
Build an Ark at the Getty Center
Build an Ark’s inexorably flowing currents of positive vibes will provide a fitting climax to the Getty’s “Sounds of L.A.” concert series. Tapping into a sweetly intense nexus of spiritual soul-jazz, Afrolicious groove and organic improvisation, the multigenerational, rainbow-hued collective takes the chant “no time to despair/brothers stay aware/creative loving energy is all around you” (from the title track of last fall’s Dawn) and transforms the phrase into a funky, life-giving mantra. In describing the special transcendental place where Build an Ark resides, producer Carlos Niño says the album’s sound balance was an attempt “to get us into that space . where the Laurel Canyon scene met Impulse Records.” The group will be 22 strong on the Anderson Auditorium stage, deploying what Niño calls “magical arrangements” that will feature vocalist Dwight Trible, whose ecstatic post-scat wail and moan channel the joy and pain of the Old Ones as well as their progeny seeking peaceful inspiration in the here and now. Also Sun., 3 p.m. (Tom Cheyney)
Also playing Saturday:
GHASTLY ONES at Steve Allen Theater; TALIB KWELI, KRS-ONE, EVIDENCE at Shrine Auditorium; MINISTRY, MESHUGGAH at House of Blues; RZA at the Knitting Factory; THE GEARS, VIRGINIA CITY REVIVAL, MEXIFORNIANS at Mr. T’s Bowl; THE STUDIOFIX at the Smell; CONNIE PRICE & THE KEYSTONES at Temple Bar; FU MANCHU, BURNING BRIDES at the Troubadour.
SUNDAY, APRIL 6
Birds of Avalon at Alex’s Bar
Birds of Avalon are flying high with their new EP, Outer Upper Inner (Volcom), which sounds like a lost classic-rock album from the ’70s with its deftly tangled guitars and melodically spacy vocals. “Shakey Tiger” is mounted on a base of Black Sabbath/Kiss-style riffs and adorned with lavish Brian May–like lead guitar as keyboardist Craig Tilley sings with a tuneful Paul McCartney flair. “Earthbound” is even gnarlier, with intricately gnarled guitars from former Cherry Valence ax-slingers Cheetie Kumar and Paul Siler, while “Keep It Together, Thackery” struts about with a jangly pop jauntiness that digresses into an airy psychedelia. Much has been made of the way producer Mitch Easter (R.E.M.) recorded Outer Upper Inner with ’60s analog equipment, which gives the EP a rare warmth in this slick digital age. However, Easter is a fatally wimpy producer (the Birds sounded tougher on their 2007 debut CD, Bazaar Bazaar, which was recorded by Greg Elkins, Brian Quast and Easter), and it’s a tribute to the band’s power that they transcend his muted, echoey settings. Also at the Key Club, Tues. (Falling James)
Also playing Sunday:
BUILD AN ARK, DWIGHT TRIBLE at the Getty Center, 3 p.m.; DAVE GLEASON, JAIMI SHUEY at the Echo, 5 p.m.; MINISTRY, MESHUGGAH at House of Blues; LA RESISTENCIA, LOS KUNG FU MONKEYS at the Knitting Factory; OLLIN at Mr. T’s Bowl; GROOVY REDNECKS, CHEATIN’ KIND at Safari Sam’s, noon.
MONDAY, APRIL 7
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X: See how they were.
BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN & THE E STREET BAND at the Honda Center; THE MONOLATORS, LES BLANKS at the Scene; JOHNATHAN RICE, PIERRE DE REEDER at Spaceland; CHINA FORBES at the Troubadour; IMAAD WASIF at Viper Room.
TUESDAY, APRIL 8 The Dirty Dozen Brass Band at the Mint
Tradition usually involves unyielding adherence to established practice — unless you’re from New Orleans. Down in the Crescent City, tradition is more like a launching pad, a recognizable basis that thrives as much on the addition of gaudy new layers as it does on the veneration and recognition of a forebear’s precedent. A perfect example of this fertile circumstance is the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, a freewheeling outfit deeply connected to the city’s 19th-century heritage of horn-brandishing street performers. From its low-key start more than 30 years ago, the Dirty Dozen have scaled impressive heights, collaborating with everyone from Dizzy Gillespie to the Blasters’ Phil Alvin to Elvis Costello, but it’s their own well of interpretive skill and zeal for expressive musicality that stand as the group’s most impressive aspect. Whether blowing some hundred-year-old jazz standard or updating a modern soul-funk number, the Dirty Dozen reach for — and attain — musical perfection. (Jonny Whiteside)
Also playing Tuesday:
BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN & THE E STREET BAND at the Honda Center; MARIÉ DIGBY at the Troubadour.
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 9
RJD2 at Henry Fonda Theater; BON JOVI at Staples Center; MIKE STINSON, DAVE GLEASON at the Cat Club; BABY BASH, PIT BULL at Crash Mansion; THE NIGHTWATCHMAN at Hotel Café; JOE BAIZA & STEVE REID at Mr. T’s Bowl; JON ANDERSON at the Roxy; SUPERSUCKERS at Safari Sam’s; SARA LOV, TWILIGHT SLEEP at Tangier; MISS DERRINGER at the Troubadour.
THURSDAY, APRIL 10
X at Henry Fonda Theater
X are celebrating their 31st year in show biz, and while 31 might seem like an odd number to mark an anniversary, it makes some sense when you consider the triskaidekaphiliac band’s longtime fascination and superstition with all things relating to the number 13. X’s most recent album of original material, the uneven Hey Zeus!, came out back in 1993, and it’s tempting to write them off now as an oldies band coasting on their past glories. Ironically, singer Exene Cervenka has been fairly creative in recent years, maintaining her punk credibility with such underrated bands as Auntie Christ and the Original Sinners, while singer-bassist John Doe’s 2007 CD, A Year in the Wilderness, was his best solo album, by far. Clearly, these two former denizens of Beyond Baroque’s poetry workshops in the late ’70s can still write a good song, and the band goes beyond cheap nostalgia, if only because they’re still powered by the relentlessly pummeling drummer D.J. Bonebrake and the serenely above-it-all, terminally grinning guitar machine Billy Zoom. They’ve always been better live than on record, so don’t miss ’em on their lucky 31st birthday. (Falling James)
Also playing Thursday:
LAURIE ANDERSON at Royce Hall, UCLA; EDDIE VEDDER at Arlington Theater, Santa Barbara; JON ANDERSON at the Canyon; MIA DOI TODD, WINTER FLOWERS, KÁRIN TATOYAN at the Echo; ANTI NOWHERE LEAGUE at Safari Sam’s; H.R. at the Viper Room.