It’s Guilty Pop Pleasures Week in our beautiful city. Oh, man. Oh, yes. The Jets, yes, The Jets, perform Saturday, 4/22, at something called the Palmer Room in Culver City…Also on the nostalgia tip, Superdiamond appear Friday, 4/21, at HOB — and, as if that weren’t enough irony for one Friday night in Hollywood, Buckethead plays the same night at the Henry Fonda — a gig that’s certain to draw at least a couple of his celebrity collaborators (who have included Axl Rose, Saul Williams and Serj Tankian). And, holy chickens in a chokehold, superguilty pleasure/’80s arena-rockers The Diamond Nights play the Troubadour Monday, along with our boys The Adored and the suddenly ubiquitous Living Things. (What happens when the world finds out “Bom Bom Bom” sounds nothing like the rest of their album?)…Ever since Kid Rock’s sex-video gaffe, we’re liking him even more than before (especially the confession that he was mainly embarrassed about hanging out with the “idiot” Stapp!). Rock on, Kiddo! He plays the Gibson, Thursday, 4/27…For you pure bubblegum fans with kids of your own, The Wiggles rawk the Gibson, Saturday, 4/22. Prepare to party: The pre-show parking lot scene should be off the hook, yo. (Kate Sullivan)

{mosimage}THURSDAY, APRIL 20

Leela James at El Rey Theater

This young L.A. native for sure buys into neo-soul’s reliance on technique and taste: She titled last year’s A Change Is Gonna Come
after the Sam Cooke gem, and on a recent live EP (recorded in a
pre-Katrina New Orleans) she engages in the sort of vocal pyrotechnics
old-timers often use as a means of differentiating themselves from
callow studio creations. Yet James is a child of hip-hop, too, so in
making A Change she had the
good sense to hire beatmakers including Kanye West, Wyclef Jean and
Raphael Saadiq — guys capable of preventing a layer of dust from
collecting on her sound. James’ performance deserves the spotlight, but
refreshingly in this age of American Idol overdrive, she gets that records are about more than pipes. Tonight, expect pipes. 5515 Wilshire Blvd. (Mikael Wood)

Billy Childish at Spaceland

crackered gene-yuss of one Englishman named Billy Childish has been
available in copious form — records, paintings, poetry, novels — since
1977, when one of his first bands, the Milkshakes, made its romping,
stomping pub-punk debut; Thee Mighty Caesars, the Blackhands and Thee
Headcoats followed, on down the line to his newest full-flowering in
the Buff Medways. Childish has been given “the nod” by your Becks,
Mudhoneys, Nirvanas and White Stripeses (and had a lover’s spat with
Jack White, who adores Childish but dissed him after Childish said the
White Stripes had a crappy sound and that he, Childish, possessed a far
superior sense of humor). Billy describes his new album as “a smoking
chimney stack that falls over and crushes your wife and kids.” Tonight
he’ll do some spoken-word and music-type stuff; please attend, listen,
laugh and learn. (John Payne)


Lesley Gore at the Renberg Theater

These are good days for aging pop stars. Rod Stewart, Barry Manilow, Michael McDonald — each has found widespread success covering moldy oldies for baby boomers eager to hear new music that’s not all that new. Lesley Gore — she of “It’s My Party” and “You Don’t Own Me” fame — isn’t quite cashing in on this trend: On Ever Since, her first new album in 30 years, she does utilize hushed cabaret-pop arrangements that wouldn’t wake a baby in a wine bar. But Gore’s performances are much more about the effects of age (including the unfortunate ones) than the desire to imagine that being older just means being richer. Where “You Don’t Own Me” used to sound young and brash, now it’s melancholy and resigned — which might actually be the braver move. 1125 N. McCadden Pl., Hlywd. (323) 860-7300. (Mikael Wood)

Van Morrison at the Hollywood Bowl

Van Morrison has always gone at it the hard way. Since his mid-’60s start with big-beat thrillers Them, Morrison has been running a self-made obstacle course, marked by booze, bouts of stage fright and bitterness, that has at times stopped him cold, yet the Belfast-born singer-songwriter has always extricated himself and hit the ground running. Milestones like Them’s immortal rave-up “Gloria” and his acclaimed solo albums (most notably Astral Weeks and Moondance) demonstrate that these temporarily crippling free falls into adversity are perhaps the key to his artistic life, which has always been typified by a cryptic refusal to align himself with any single musical constant. Morrison indisputably remains the same unpredictable, mysterioso force whose adventurous musical pursuits won him a spot in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. 2301 N. Highland Ave., Hlywd. (213) 480-3232. (Jonny Whiteside)

Dave Douglas at the Jazz Bakery

After the respect trumpeter Dave Douglas has already gleaned, it’s hard to imagine his jazz will keep getting better, but he’s only 43. Last year, the airy melodies of Mountain Passages and the playful electronics of Keystone (his soundtrack to Fatty Arbuckle films) found him relaxed and sensitive. This year, he’s already debuted a high-concept chamber piece inspired by Captain Cook, and released Meaning and Mystery, an easy-breathing offshoot of ’60s Miles Davis that’s like a brandy-soaked conversation with an experienced old friend. (You can get all this only at Douglas’ The Mystery initiates are pianist Uri Caine, bassist James Genus, drummer Clarence Penn and saxist Donny McCaslin, and they’re all onboard here. Good art is fun. Also Sat.-Sun. Read last October’s feature on Dave Douglas at (Greg Burk)


Matthew Sweet & Susanna Hoffs at the Roxy

You couldn’t pick two musicians better suited to make Under the Covers, Vol. 1, a new collection of covers of classic ’60s-pop tunes, than Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs: Power-pop maestro Sweet has just the right sense of record-nerd detail to figure out all the weird chords in a tune like the Beatles’ “And Your Bird Can Sing,” while Hoffs (of the Bangles) packs enough party-girl vim so the project doesn’t turn into some kind of dull High Fidelity retread. Tonight Sweet and Hoffs — who go by the nom de pop Sid N Susie in the CD’s booklet — will play guitar and sing, flanked by an all-star band including pedal-steel champ Greg Leisz and Velvet Crush members Ric Menck and Paul Chastain. Request their extra-groovy “Alone Again Or.” (Mikael Wood)

Ex-Girl at Spaceland

Some people think that the wacky art-rock combo Ex-Girl are based in Tokyo, but they’re really from the planet Kero Kero, where frogs are kings and everyone lives in a sunny, Technicolor-bright cartoon. And yet, despite their plastic-fantastic costumes, kicky white go-go boots and outlandish headgear, Ex-Girl aren’t just some kitschy novelty band. Singer Kirilo’s lyrics may be silly and surreal, but the band’s music — which fuses shards of punk, disco, new wave and electronica — twists itself into delightfully unexpected avant-garde puzzle boxes that unfold like sentient flowers. No matter how far out Ex-Girl get with their space-junk collisions and uniquely eerie a cappella harmonies, you can always dance to such forward-gazing originals as “Disco 3000” and “Luna Rosé” and the band’s catchy, modernized remake of “Pop Muzik.” The Exes’ wacked-out Day-Glo theatrics may be dazzling, but it’s those inescapably strange melodies that’ll be rocketing around your noggin long after you’ve returned to your own home planet. (Falling James)


Mike Kelley, Los Super Elegantes, Ann Magnuson at Blast!

Cindy Bernard’s Society for the Activation of Social Space Through Art and Sound (SASSAS) is a nonprofit foundation furthering the fortunes (snurk) of experimental music in L.A. To that infinitely honorable end, this benefit sees doyenne and/or diva Ann Magnuson accompanied by Klaus Nomi’s guitarist Kristian Hoffman on songs from her forthcoming CD, Pretty Songs & Ugly Stories, modern artist/cultural coroner Mike Kelley, and the debauched punk-mariachi stylings of Los Super Elegantes. Also: customized iPods, an auction of artwork by John Cage and Joseph Beuys, brown-sound pioneer Martin Kersels, sloganeer Barbara Kruger, and a poster signed by the late microtonal composer Lou Harrison on his 70th birthday — which you’ll want to put up next to your Misfits poster for the full Saved by the Bell experience. At a private residence in Beverly Hills, address provided with ticket purchase; 4 p.m.; $50. (323) 960-5723, (David Cotner)


Quasi at Spaceland

As Alie Ward recently argued in these very pages, two-piece bands are nothing new. Take this team-up between Janet Weiss and Sam Coomes, for starters. They’re on their seventh album, a political fireball called When the Going Gets Dark, and they have been married, divorced and outsourced (Weiss moonlights as the goddess of thunder behind the drum kit for the best band in the world, Sleater-Kinney). In other words, the only thing that is new is you, unless you’re already a fan of Quasi’s piano-guitar-drums triangulations, in which case you don’t need me to tell you to catch their show. You already know they can bring the sloppy passion as well as the precise songcraft, as their tortured previous release, Hot Shit, showed on “White Devil’s Dream.” It’s (still) a family affair. (Scott Thill)

Ravi & Anoushka Shankar at Disney Concert Hall

Ravi Shankar’s Festival of India III (not to be confused with Steve Wozniak’s US Festival) sees the venerable 86-year-old multi-instrumentalist on sitar accompanied by daughter Anoushka on sitar and a tentet playing folk drums, violin, wind instruments, and traditional Indian vocals and Hindustani music. He’s Norah Jones’ dad, he got massive applause at Woodstock just for tuning up, and he scored Satyajit Ray’s filmic Apu trilogy. Possibly he may thrill you with his score to the 1969 documentary Sex and the Animals! Likely you may go gaga for his raga and his work with George “Within You Without You” Harrison and Philip Glass! “Nada brahma” — “sound is God” — is his motto, much as “knowing and being” might be cited as true reasons for Shankar’s graceful agelessness. 111 S. Grand Ave., dwntwn. (323) 850-2000. (David Cotner)


Mecca Normal at the Silverlake Lounge

Thought I’d pass along Jean Smith of Mecca Normal’s recent posting: “ME: Not here for random sex or one-night stands. I’m 5’3,” 105 lbs. Non-drinker. I have a sense of humour and a positive outlook. I don’t have kids, pets or a car. Intending to establish an ongoing connection based on a mutual agreement, communication and respect. YOU: 100% SINGLE non-smoker, non-drinker (preferably), with a car. No drugs. 38-49. You live alone — no children or teens that you are responsible for. Fit, slim, muscular — not overweight. Employed. Out of previous relationship long enough to be feeling fine and not hooked on the hunt for the next conquest. If you happen to enjoy experimental qualities of literature, art and music — so much the better.”

Mecca Normal, based in Vancouver, is the 20-year-or-so veteran experimental/indie duo of poet/novelist/singer Jean Smith and guitarist/writer David Lester. Over the years, the pair have issued numerous recordings of extraordinarily stark, bleak, bleakly humorous, bleakly beautiful and politically pointed ’n’ progressive music and lyrical imagery; both are gifted painters as well. They’ve got a new album just out, called The Observer (Kill Rock Stars), which details in part Smith’s experiences in the shaky and strange new digital world of online dating. She’s not being ironic, not entirely; in fact Smith sees great possibilities in this brave new love/sex prototype and uses her more romantically life-affirming new songs to interpret brutally straightforward accounts of the varied creeps, losers, liars but also pretty good dudes who happen to like pizza, literature, art and sex just as much as Jean does. Smith is a writer of supremely fresh poetic skills and has a keen, keen eye for the basic incredibilities of our most mundane daily rituals and heartbreaks. One of her new songs is called “I’m Not Into Being the Woman You’re With While You’re Looking for the Woman You Want.” She says, “I am a woman who speaks out loudly, aggressively — weirdly.” Jean Smith’s not alone, as other worthy representatives from that camp are also on the bill tonight: Anna Oxygen and the Sharp-Ease. (John Payne)

Taj Mahal, Mavis Staples at Royce Hall

Taj Mahal is a performer with a prodigious command of both traditional country blues and a wildly disparate slew of additional vernacular music. Enhanced by a kaleidoscopic range of influences — from Hank Williams to Horace Silver — Mahal’s crafty arrangements and light-hearted yet emphatic manner invariably make for an impressive presentation. The presence of incomparable gospel singer Mavis Staples adds irresistible appeal; with revered family act the Staple Singers, Mavis took the innate power of their deep gospel background and plied it with significant, exciting affect to a freewheeling series of pop recordings. Collaborating with some of the heppest and heaviest in the business (Booker T, Curtis Mayfield), Staples has consistently distinguished herself with a soulful mastery of both fields; expect a profound mixture of abiding faith and pure frolic. At UCLA. (310) 825-2101. (Jonny Whiteside)

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