THE UNDERTONES, THE EPOXIES at the Key Club, April 22 “We’re the Undertones. We’re from Derry. We mean you no harm.” Back touring the United States after two decades, guitarist John O’Neill and company have opted for inspiration rather than perspiration over lost opportunities. The pit swirls in earnest as they begin with “Jimmy Jimmy,” lead singer Paul McLoone subbing for the endlessly absent Feargal Sharkey, digging into all the unpretentious ease of the sex swagger. Then the yearning adherents plaster themselves to the lip of the stage to lock in solid boogie for “Here Comes the Summer” — this revelatory/celebratory Irish pop-punk, rebirthed from a world of everlasting adolescence, inspires the sweat of camaraderie and energy. Riding lovely two-part harmonies, the Undertones rocket through most of their singles, including “My Perfect Cousin,” “Get Over You” and “Wednesday Week.” McLoone easily slides into a neat mirror of Sharkey with “Teenage Kicks,” and its joyful fuel-air bomb explosion sucks all the doubt out of the room, as many of The Kids are rocked and rocked well by men young enough to be their grandfathers — or at least old enough to date them over the Internet. Tearing through the new wave (as evidenced by their shredded clothes and riffs), the preceding Epoxies wrap themselves in electrical tape the breadth of the censored eyes in roughie cinema. They’re tighter than a swan’s asshole, and that metaphor is to serious reportage what the Epoxies are to popular music. Behind a hyperactive lead singer, buzzing synth lines are played with the nose; one expects the band to throw out handfuls of Wacky Wallwalkers just bought at TG&Y, so scandalously nostalgic are they.

—David Cotner

SYSTEM OF A DOWN at the Gibson Amphitheater, April 24

System of a Down performed their third annual Souls concert tonight,
benefiting ANCA (the Armenian National Committee), as well as other human rights
organizations, while commemorating the 90th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.
Unfortunately, this was lost on the drunken slut in the striped shirt who flashed
her boobs. (Could have used an Armenian mother to beat her into shame with a
slipper.) Politics and profoundly inappropriate behavior aside, System kept
the sermonizing short and let pretty much the best of their discography do the
talking, from “P.L.U.C.K.,” off their self-titled debut to Toxicity’s
“Needles” to Steel This Album’s “Mr. Jack.” Cuts from the
forthcoming Mezmerize were also previewed, including the current single “B.Y.O.B,”
a party song that really smart-bombs its targets (“Why don’t presidents
fight the war?/Why do they always send the poor?”) accompanied by the most
violent, urgent music the band’s ever made.

Serj Tankian shouldn’t sing on a rock & roll stage but in
a church choir that accepts men with long hair; all that monkish moaning on
“Aerials” made even the Gibson feel like a monastery. Still, unlike
that of a certain one-named Irishman, Tankian’s Mother Teresa complex hasn’t
rendered him totally annoying. By contrast, guitarist Daron Malakian is more
the court jester of the bunch, jumping around on his imaginary hop-scotch grid,
tossing his hair as if mugging for a L’Oreal commercial. (Yes, he’s worth it.)

The folk song “Sardarabad,” a sentimental Souls finale,
sounded even more poignant this year in front of a backdrop of Ara Oshagan’s
black-and-white photographs of genocide survivors. Also worth noting, though,
was the odd use of Wham’s “Everything She Wants” as an intro to “Sugar,”
perhaps the only song ever written about “the kombucha mushroom people.”
“We didn’t start this band to change the world,” said guitarist Daron
Malakian. “We didn’t start this band to change your mind. We started this
band to make you ask questions.” Well, Daron, when you come up with such
wonderfully wacky content on drugs, war, prison, groupies, pogo-ing, your ancestors’
injustices, their ancestors’ injustices, George Michael, etc., we don’t need
to ask why.

—Siran Babayan

LA Weekly