SONIC REDUCER Wanna know the surest way to mortify me or send me skulking into the shadows? Bludgeon me with praise. Single me out with love. It just makes the misanthrope in me squirm like a worm at the end of hook. That was the sweet but unintentionally sinister sensation at the “Girls Just Wanna Have Chun” show at the Stork Club on Aug. 5 with Pillows, Liz Albee, and other all-girl bands, inspired by, I’m told, my recent cover story [“Where Did All the Girl Bands Go,” 7/19/06]. I feared some sort of roasting and de-ribbing until one of the organizers, Suki O’Kane, reassured me her intentions were honorable. “I hear you cluckin’, big chicken,” she helpfully e-mailed. Yup, fightin’ words got me to the club on time, but that didn’t stop an acute sense of self-consciousness from washing over my sorry PBR-swilling self.
You realize then that on some off-days you were just never psychologically prepared to leave home. Even indie rock pros like Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie and Postal Service know what I’m blathering on about. I spoke to the DCC guitarist-vocalist while he lounged in a bus outside the big ole barn he was scheduled to play at Penn State that night, and he fessed up to the struggle to deliver when he wasn’t feeling it. “I’ll be perfectly honest — there have been times when I can be a little bitch on stage,” he said. “I’m trying to always harness my inner Wayne Coyne. Y’know, WWWCD — what would Wayne Coyne do?”
The spunky Death Cabbies I first caught at the Bottom of Hill have truly made the leap from “shows” to “concerts,” as Gibbard put it, something he jokes about with his bandmates. “We started touring in ’98, playing to nobody and eating mustard sandwiches,” he explained. “You go out a year later, and there’s maybe 50 people there, and then the next time there’s 150 people there…. It’s been such a gradual kind of build that it doesn’t feel outlandish to me. I can’t imagine what a band like the Arctic Monkeys must feel like, and I’m glad this is happening to us five records in rather than one or two records in. I think we were one of the last generation of bands to develop pre-Pitchfork, pre–blog culture, and that’s fortunate.”
Chatty, thoughtful, and up for analyzing this crazy little thing called the music biz, Gibbard has obviously given quality thought time to blogatistas’ impact on his musical genre. “It’ll be interesting to see what happens, because I have this horrible premonition that blog culture will turn the United States into the UK,” he added. “You know how the NME is this awful, horrific publication that before a band even has a single out lauds them as the greatest thing since sliced bread and then as soon as their full-length comes out says they’re past their prime?
“I’m just so kind of over fashion rock and all its different forms. Coming out of the last three or four years of dance punk and bands that want to be Wire, it’s kind of exciting to see a band that’s just really rocking out in earnest ways.”
But what about Postal Service (which Gibbard said he plans to revisit sometime next year, before DCC begin work on their next album) — aren’t they dance punk? “I don’t think if I’m involved in it in any way that it can be in any way … punk, at all,” he said with a laugh.
FASHION LASHIN’ CSS (of Sao Paulo, Brazil), a.k.a. Cansei de Ser Sexy or Tired of Being Sexy, would know a wee bit about fashion, blog jams, ad nauseated. Gibbard’s Postal Service labelmates on Sub Pop have managed something nigh impossible to our Electroclash-crashed consciousnesses: they manage to reference Paris Hilton on their new self-titled album and not sound like shopping-damaged sluts whom you want to slap.
It helps that the mostly femme ensemble kicks off its new album with the self-explanatory chant “CSS Suxxx” and goes on to charm with überdanceable joints like “Artbitch” (“Lick lick lick my art-tit … suck suck suck my art-hole”). Vocalist Lovefoxxx is one earthy, superenthused, helpful mama to boot. CSS met through common friends and photo logs. “We had daily jobs, so we’d spend all day in front of the computer,” the 22-year-old ex–graphic designer rasped from Houston. She’s since moved on. “Silly teenagers started to join it.”
The lady has an endearingly visual way of describing the band: “It’s like if you have a dog and you get your golden retriever to go with a Labrador and then you get weird puppy sex.” So help me with this picture: what is an “art tit”? “Art tit was like artist, and art hole sounds like asshole,” she explained patiently. “It doesn’t get deeper than that, Kimberly.” SFBG
DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE
With Spoon and Mates of State
Fri/11, 7 p.m.
Gayley Road, UC Berkeley, Berk.
With Diplo and Bonde do Role
Thurs/10, 11 p.m.
444 Jessie, SF
BLEEDING EDGE FESTIVAL
The Valley is alive with the sound of … art. In conjunction with the ZeroOne San Jose/ISEA gathering, the Bleeding Edge Fest presents Yo La Tengo, Black Dice, Brightblack Morning Light, the Avett Brothers, Skoltz Kogen, Sunroof!, the Chemistry Set, and others in tony Saratoga. Matmos and Zeena Parkins collaborate on an original work, as do Isis and Tim Hecker. Sun/13, noon–10 p.m., Montalvo Arts Center, 15400 Montalvo Rd., Saratoga. $50. (408) 961-5858, www.bleedingedgefestival.org.
FINAL FANTASY AND CURTAINS
Arcade Fire player Owen Pallett puts his love of D&D to song as Final Fantasy, while ex-Deerhoofer Chris Cohen collaborates with Nedelle Torrisi in Curtains. Fri/11, 10 p.m., Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., SF. $8–$10. (415) 621-4455.
QUIET, QUIET OCEAN SPELL
Brightblack Morning Light dream up an un-air-conditioned dreamscape starring Lavender Diamond, Daniel Higgs, and a special Ramblin’ surprise. Fri/11, 4:20 p.m.–12:45 a.m., Henry Miller Library, Hwy 1, Big Sur. $25. www.henrymiller.org.
HOTEL UTAH SHOWCASE
Open-mic regs toast Playing Full Out! 2006 Hotel Utah Compilation Album. Thurs/10, 8 p.m., $3–$5. Amnesia, 853 Valencia, SF. (415) 970-0012.
- No categories
By Kimberly Chun
SONIC REDUCER I fell in love with the recent Ray Davies solo album, Other People’s Lives (V2). Face it, I fall in love all the time — with records, of course — but I think I truly did love about three-fourths of the Kinks leader’s solo debut for the first four listens. Then I stopped listening and just coasted on the afterglow.
But you fall out of love. The fifth or sixth listen comes around and little things start to break down for you. The way those coveted hot pants always give you gnarly cameltoe.
In the case of Other People’s Lives, it was the song’s overblown arrangements — for which Davies completely takes the blame — complete with unintentionally cornball sax and a production sensibility that sounds like modern music really did stop with the last humongoid Kinks album, 1983’s State of Confusion (Velvel). When even the quirks annoy, like the half “yar,” half yawn that ushers in the record’s otherwise fine opener, “Things Are Gonna Change (The Morning After),” and the throwaway Ricky Martin–style Latin pop treatment given to the media-lashing title track, you know love’s a goner.
An American album, conceived mainly during Davies’ stay in New Orleans, Other People’s Lives resembles Morrissey’s You Are the Quarry (Attack), another disappointingly produced and arranged album of even better songs by a great wordsmith and sometime US transplant. Perhaps you’re so happy to hear those familiar voices again, at your doorstep, that you overlook the details — the tacky suit, wilting flowers, wrongheaded arrangements — the first five times around.
Still you have to hand it to Davies — whose recent travails, like being shot in January 2004 after chasing the thief who snatched his girlfriend’s purse, have been well documented — when he decides to make a bold gesture. That’s what inspired some to call the Kinks the first indie band. “I prefer that to being called the originators of heavy metal,” says a sincere and thoughtful Davies from London. “Yes, I like that. We have a very independent spirit…. We took chances, and we failed a lot. Really, other acts’ careers would’ve been ended by some of the bold and stupid things we did on record. I’ve got a 9-year-old daughter now, and she wants to hear my music when she visits me. I find it really hard to explain some of the weird diversions I’ve taken in my music over the years.”
Bold and stupid?
“The Bold and the Stupid. It sounds like…”
A soap opera?
“Yes, stuff like Preservation, Soap Opera,” he free-associates. “You know, at the time, when Rod Stewart and Elton John were doing conventional tours and, you know, big stage-entry things… and there we are. We go indoors with a musical farce onstage. You know, it was a rock Punch and Judy show. It was a totally wrong career move, but it worked brilliantly. I mean, sometimes those things pay off really well.”
Davies obviously still can write a song — that was why Other People initially seduced me. And he knows he’s really got me — and everyone else. “I think I’ve got a fairly good fix. I can hone in on detail with people all right. You know, it’s like little things people do, habits that people have, the way they walk. I have that sort of observation with my writing, which leads it to be sometimes a bit quirky. I think I know how far to take something when I’m writing a song, and I think that’s probably one of the sort of skills I’ve developed, although I wouldn’t say you ever learn how to write songs. I think that’s one of my skills — knowing that it’s always a new inner palette, a new landscape, every time I write a song, and I think experience has taught me to be aware of that fact, that I can’t just phone them in.”
Sounds like the archly self-aware narrator of “The Tourist,” which appears to center on New Orleans slumming, is a lot like the songwriter within Davies — and that songwriting and stepping into other people’s lives is a kind of imaginative tourism.
“It is,” replies Davies. “I’m somewhat of a tourist. I also write on different levels. Obviously with ‘The Tourist’ it’s not just somebody going for a holiday somewhere. It’s someone who’s in a sense a tourist, an emotional tourist… and is probably not such a good person because of it.”
“It’s a different kind of writing when you write a pop single,” he confesses. “Writing on this record — there’s a long span to it and it’s a slow burn…. So it’s going to have a certain amount of depth to it to hold my interest because maybe as a writer I need to be fired up by the subject matter…. Maybe I write for listeners who probably want to dig and delve into it and realize there’s a bigger picture there, bigger story there.”
And perhaps, being a creature of little faith, as the Other People song goes, I should keep listening for the bigger story and fall back in love.
NO TEARS Speaking of Nawlins’s musical dwellers, Quintron and Miss Pussycat have been firing on all pistons and Drum Buddies since Katrina flooded their Spellcaster Lodge. Phoning from Los Angeles, Quintron says the rebuilding is almost complete on the lodge but they’re going to wait for the hurricane season before finishing work because the city’s infrastructure isn’t quite together yet. “I don’t wanna do this shit twice,” he offers.
Since the pair lacked insurance, the rebuilding was funded by benefits around the country organized by other musicians. “All our fucking friends are rebuilding our house. It just blew my mind,” says Quintron. Their first show at the Lodge is scheduled for Sept. 15 with a promise from bounce king DJ Jubilee to perform — and don’t expect Quintron to get bogged down in blustery sentimentality. “I’ve already written a song called ‘Hurricane,’” he says. “At this point I can’t do a maudlin blues record, like ‘O Katrina.’ It would be so cliché and stupid. . . . That’s not what’s coming out — I’m making more and more happy songs now, musically.” SFBG
Thurs/13, 8 p.m.
928 Market, SF
QUINTRON AND MISS PUSSYCAT
Fri/14, 9 p.m.
2565 Mission, SF
SONIC REDUCER Wassup Lauryn Hill? Well apparently she’s been busy morphing into Sun Ra.
A staight-skankin’, massive fro–sportin’, partyin’-with-Method-Man-at-the-Clift-Hotel, “la, la, la, la”-ing Sun Ra.
The lady had about 13 people onstage at Great American Music Hall on June 29 for two last-minute “rehearsal” sets: two drummers, two keyboardists, at least three guitarists, the works. Because the lady clearly wanted to play a bandleader from a galaxy far, far away — and frankly, I haven’t been so interested in Lauryn Hill in years.
She was an artist in her own little world, all right — miming Bitches Brew, turning her unrehearsed Arkestra into an engorged rock-steady big band, and at around 2 a.m., at the end of the second show, launching passionately, stubbornly, into her most popular tunes.
The lights went up. The stage lights flicked off. The power to the mics finally ebbed. And Hill had found her own power trip of a groove — in the dark, where it’s safe — and the audience was in deep doo-doo in love, shouting, “One more! One more! Lau-Ren! Lau-Ren!” At about 2:15 a.m., after much shushing, she began singing “Killing Me Softly” a cappella. Softly. Then she descended into the crowd like an empress to meet her biggest fans.
FISHIN’ MUSICIAN But enough Arkestra-ted diva tripping, we gotta work together, so follow the lead of Aesop Rock and longtime Bay Area artist Jeremy Fish, who have done an ace job in collaborating on a new book playing off those golden children’s record-and-storybook combos. The release of their The Next Best Thing book–7-inch comes with a mini-multimedia promo juggernaut July 6: Fish (who has a load of product in the works, including a new vinyl toy and a board series and short film for Element Skateboards titled Fishtales with a soundtrack by Rock) will show his paintings at Fifty24SF Gallery. And then later that night Aesop Rock will bump up against Rob Sonic, DJ Big Wiz, Murs with Magi, and producer Blockhead at a benefit concert at the Independent for 826 Valencia.
The pair met through a mutual friend and discovered that they’re mutual fans: Rock owned a Fish piece, and the artist had been an avid Rock listener for years. “I saw a lot of his work had cute stuff mixed with evil stuff, which is a lot like what I write about,” says the jovial Rock.
Aesop Rock, of late, has found his work skewing toward the more narrative side of hip-hop: He already has about five “really linear stories” for his next album, expected in 2007. That recording is likely to include more instrumentation by musicians like Parchman Farm, which includes Rock’s wife, Allison “the Jewge” Baker.
Rock moved from New York City to San Francisco to be with her. Romantic — not many superstar underground rap bros will drop everything and uproot for their, um, ho, no? As a result, the music has definitely become “reflective in the sense that I moved out of New York City, turned 30, and got married all in the same year,” he explains. “Those three things all have me doing stories about random childhood stuff, super-folktaley story songs that are almost like the stories you’d read to a child.”
CORE CREW Director Dick Rude was enlisted to make Let’s Rock Again, a documentary of his friend Joe Strummer’s time with the Mescaleros around the time of 2001’s Global a Go-Go. And he captured Strummer in deep working-musician mode. “Having done the Clash and having reached that height of stardom, he was really just consumed with getting his music heard and not reaching that level again, so there was a real humility and passion to his approach on the tour,” says the LA videomaker. “It became about breaking the record so he could have a chance to record another record.”
Rude, who met Strummer while he was working as an assistant to director Alex Cox on Sid and Nancy, calls the film — which will be screened one time in San Francisco and is now out on DVD — more of a “memoir of that time” than a biopic of Strummer. As for Strummer’s posthumously released music on Streetcore, Rude believes, “There are tracks on that record that rival any Clash tune. There is no pretension, nothing to prove, just straight-out passion.” SFBG
Opening Thurs/6, 7 p.m.
248 Fillmore, SF
Thurs/6, 9 p.m.
626 Divisadero, SF
LET’S ROCK AGAIN
Wed/5, 7 p.m.
3125 16th St., SF
OH, MY STARS
Sweetness from the Cape Verdean–Portuguese vocalist. Wed/5, 8 p.m., Independent, 628 Divisadero, SF. $25. (415) 771-1421.
Bookish by day at last year’s ArthurFest. Howling and riding seated audience members in performance. Thurs/6, 9:30 p.m., Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk, SF. $8. (415) 923-0923.
THEE MORE SHALLOWS
Don’t turn your back on these indie experimentalists. Thurs/6, 9 p.m., Café du Nord, 2170 Market, SF. $8. (415) 861-5016.
LEGENDARY PINK DOTS
Did you eat the Dots — and their glowering psychedelia? Sat/8, 9 p.m., Slim’s, 333 11th St., SF. $16–$18. (415) 522-0333.
GOD OF SHAMISEN
Members of Secret Chiefs 3 and Estradasphere create likely the first metal unit bearing down on the Japanese instrument. Mon/10, 9 p.m., Café du Nord, 2170 Market, SF. $8. (415) 861-5016.
Let’s talk about (((GRRRLS))) — with exploding viz-art mover–rad dude BARR. Mon/10, 6 p.m., Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk, SF. $6. (415) 923-0923.
SONIC REDUCER Ah, spring — it seems like a distant memory in June as we get socked an SF summer’s weaving, one-two punch of Westside fog and SoMa heat. But spring is the thing when we think about love. Love that picks us up, brings us down, lifts us back up to where we belong, then bitch-slaps us about the face and neck until we’re ready to trade in our valentines for matching straitjackets and a tray of stiff drinks. Pull up a chair and tell it to Jolie Holland, who dredged up her own love–gone–sour mash life lessons for her latest lovely, lithely limned album, Springtime Can Kill You (Anti). “Yeah, it was just one pretty horrible set of emotional circumstances,” she drawls from Salt Lake City while on perpetual tour. “Just a terrible accident of communication–slash–long distance relationship–slash–my life totally changing due to the music taking off.”
Holland knows of what she speaks: She tried to settle down in San Francisco with her Stanford-jobbing scientist, dubbed the “Moonshiner” in song on Springtime, until he went off on a scholarship to Russia for 10 months. “I was tryin’ to basically be married to a nice, normal guy who had a job and all that, which I’d never really sincerely tried before,” she says. “I thought, this is normal — I’ll try this. But the relationship had a vitamin deficiency. Anyway, that’s what “Springtime Can Kill You” is about — trying to make something work that’s not functional.”
Now she’s back to what a friend calls “the buckshot version of romance. I’m dating people who have fucked-up lifestyles like me — I’m dating other traveling musicians.”
Dub it the bitter, beauteous fruit of Springtime and its absinthe-hued wedding of new grit, olde art, and lightly borrowed blues. The full-length’s ballads of sexual codependency and earthy comradeship sound creamy and sensually nostalgic, yet never self-consciously musty, in the lily hands of coproducers Holland and Lemon DeGeorge. Springtime is haunted — by faraway lovers (“Moonshiner”), outright specters (“Ghostly Girl”), smashed hopes (Riley Puckett’s “You’re Not Satisfied”), old jazz records (“Springtime Can Kill You”), and a certain intoxicating insanity (Holland’s old hip-hop collaborator CR Avery’s “Crazy Dreams”) — though it’s far from a relic.
Likewise, Holland is far from antique. In contrast to the sometime Be Good Tanya’s recent femme fatale photo stylings — complete with Bellocq–Belle Epoque cleavage and Veronica Lake peekaboo locks — she’s still a girl’s girl. She worries over the aforementioned image making, laughs like a hungry bird of prey, dishes band politics, sprinkles her speech with “fucked-up”s, shops vintage like a hipster magpie, drops references to a friend’s “psychic power,” and — true to form for the lusty lady who dedicated a song (“Moonshiner”) to Memphis Minnie and Freakwater — gets creeped out by Mormontown. “Oh, thank God, we’re leaving!” the redheaded vocalist says with a relieved, panicked laugh of her current stop, Salt Lake City. “I just walk down the street and people stare and yell stuff at me. And, like, weird shit was happening. Yeah, I don’t like this town, and people are definitely treating me like a freak here. My hair is a particularly unnatural color, right now.”
Still, life — even one far from her ex’s arms — appears to be swinging much smoother these days for Holland, who now considers New York City, Vancouver, and Portland home. “I’m actually being pretty productive. The other day I wrote two songs in a hotel room.” Even quickie genre classifiers don’t matter. The New York Times may have plopped her into a recent splashy “freak folk” feature — amid Vetiver and Espers, a crowd she’s seldom associated with — but that’s OK. “Yeah, it said nothing about me, but it did say my name, like, three times,” she says with her ah-ah-ah laugh. “It’s interesting because we’re Bay Area people, so we can see the fine details of who’s actually associated with who. But from the East Coast, it probably looks different, y’know. My picture looks really funny in there, right?! It looks totally stuck on.
“The thing is … it actually sounds really fun to have a scene!”
Hey, it may be summer, but we can keep those fresh, dewy buds springing eternally, within. Holland is on her way to Cheyenne, where she says her band has heard rumor of a pond they can dip their wings in, and after that there are collaborations lined up with Michael Hurley and Sage Francis, among others. “It’s so great to be not pretending to be a housewife anymore!” says the singer. “I don’t have to stay home and clean the floor.” SFBG
Sat/1, 9 p.m.
Bimbo’s 365 Club
1025 Columbus, SF
NO, YOU CAN’T BE EVERYWHERE AT ONCE
MARIN COUNTY FAIR
Come for the corn — stay for the cool-ocity. Shee-it, Eddie Money and Nelson play Sat/1, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts and Ricky Skaggs perform Mon/3, and Beausoleil and Preservation Hall Jazz Band bring New Orleans to the North Bay Tues/4. Civic Center Drive, San Rafael. $11–$13. (415) 499-6800, www.marinfair.org.
The “acoustic trio” incarnation of the English folk-rock maestros — including founder Simon Nichol — soldiers on. Wed/28–Thurs/29, 8 p.m., Freight and Salvage, 1111 Addison, Berk. $19.50–$20.50. (510) 548-1761.
ZEMOG EL GALLO BUENO
Abraham Gomez-Delgado cuts his zany out-jazz with Cuban-world fusion. Wed/28, 8 and 10 p.m. Yoshi’s, 510 Embarcadero West, Oakl. $10–$14. (510) 238-9200.
An Extraordinary Machine rolls onward with a headlining tour. Thurs/29, Sleep Train Pavilion, Concord. Fri/30, Mountain Winery, Saratoga. For times and prices, visit www.ticketmaster.com.
CORINNE BAILEY RAE
The new Billie — or Sade? The gorg Brit plays it smooth like Karo, but does she have the songs? Thurs/29, 9 p.m., Café du Nord, 2170 Market, SF. $12. (415) 861-5016.
BLOW AND YACHT
DIY performance art plus your roommate at Evergreen College equals Blow. Blowster Joan Bechtolt also breaks away for a heaping helping of positivity as Yacht. Fri/30, 6 p.m., Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk, SF. $6. (415) 923-0923.
A Pushcart Prize nominee folks up. Sun/2, 9 p.m., Hotel Utah, 500 Fourth St., SF. $6. (415) 546-6300.
The Congolese supergroup dusts off the effervescent ’60s sound of Cuban rumba melded with African rhythms. Mon/3, 8 and 10 p.m. Yoshi’s, 510 Embarcadero West, Oakl. $20. (510) 238-9200.
SONIC REDUCER You can keep your majestic soundscapes, your rewrites of “Rocky Raccoon,
SONIC REDUCER Something wicked this way came, right in the middle of last week’s spate of strangely beautiful, beastly hot days, as I sipped a pint on El Rio’s back patio with Comets on Fire vocalist-guitarist Ethan Miller. You can bet — with 6/6/06 plastered all over town, prophesizing an ominously large marketing onslaught for The Omen — that wickedness probably involved horror movies. And you’ll be right. Because Miller is happy to talk about the fruits of Howlin’ Rain, a solo project aided and abetted by Sunburned Hand of the Man’s John Moloney and childhood Humboldt County pal Ian Gradek. But Miller gets really "fanned out" when the subject of mind-gouging, low-budg cinematic howlers like his all-time faves — Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Beyond, Maniac, Suspiria — come up. I can dig it, but do all rockers really bond over the joy of having their eyeballs violated?
"My wife doesn’t want to watch it with me," he says jovially. "I’m, like, ‘Babe, I just got my copy of Cannibal Holocaust in the mail! And she’s just, like, ‘No! Fuck that! No! No! You have to watch that after I go to bed.’
"I had this one friend, I thought he and I had the same taste, and he just wasn’t really speaking up, and I kept giving him films to watch, and he was, like, ‘Dude, I told you. I hate that. That was fucking traumatizing.’”
For all his movie-collector madness, Miller can be reasoned with — and likewise is perfectly reasonable. The Comets’ de facto leader and cofounder tells me their fourth full-length, Avatar (Sub Pop), is ready to go after what sounds like a grueling but fully democratic process recording with Tim Green at Prairie Sun in Cotati. "It’s hard to know if you’re in control of the macro-organism or if it’s in control of you," Miller muses. "Like a minidemocracy, you can’t steer it more than your one-fifth influence. These are real social people wed to each other through their art and music and now through a band."
The Howlin’ Rain project, meanwhile, was quick and dirty, spat out in about eight days, and driven solely by Miller, relying on two trustworthy friends from far-flung parts of the country, with Moloney in Massachusetts and Gradek in Kauai.
Dust demons of fuzz and growling guitar tone still crop up, but here Miller has conjured his own ’06 version of early-’70s "mellow gold" rock ’n’ roll, pulling from the Allman Brothers, Cream, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and Neil Young without resorting to outright … cannibalism.
"I tried to pack it full of the psych you could have from this vantage point right now," he says. "Not make a record that’s, like, ‘Fuck, that sounds just like Sabbath. I mean, just like Sabbath.’”
Keep your bloody Sabbath — instead a laid-back, sun-swept blues-rock vibe, edged with moments of darkness, comes in as clear as a rushing river. You can hear Miller’s relatively effects-free voice, for once not screaming over the maelstrom as if flesh were being ripped from his bones, cushioned by the occasional harmony, which he describes as "Simon and Garfunkel on a bad trip or something."
Nonetheless, Miller isn’t ready to forsake the power jams of yore. He sees Howlin’ Rain and Comets as populist entertainments, much like those beloved horror films. "The best ones succeed in an absolute emotional manipulation that’s kind of a ride, like listening to Queen or Mahavishnu Orchestra, music that’s made for an absolute thrill ride. It’s just so dense and thrilling, and they don’t make you sit around waiting for something to happen. Though maybe Mahavishnu wouldn’t appreciate that because their shit is supposed to be more spiritual …"
Stinky no more What’s it like growing up rock? Ask XBXRX, or Gaviotas’s Simon Timony, who had his share of alterna-cool attention at a very young age: The 22-year-old San Franciscan led the Stinkypuffs — which included his onetime stepfather Jad Fair of Half Japanese, his mother Sheenah Fair, Gumball’s Don Fleming, and Lee Ranaldo’s son Cody Linn Ranaldo. Fronting and writing for the most notable child-centered supergroup of the early-’90s alt-rock scene, Timony learned guitar from family friend Snakefinger, was home-schooled by his parents, who ran Ralph Records (his father Tom was in the Residents), and eventually befriended Nirvana when Half Japanese opened for them during the In Utero tour. "I was actually trusted to go wake up Kurt before a show," Timony says wonderingly today.
After notably performing with Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl, together for the first time after Cobain’s suicide, at the 1994 Yo Yo a Go Go fest in Olympia, Wash., Timony grew disillusioned with music at around age 13. But he picked up his moldy guitar again after discovering Korn and now he’s making Gaviotas his full-time job. He performs at a suicide-prevention benefit May 31. "My dad and my mom were, like, ‘If this is what you want to do …,’” Timony explains. “‘As long as you don’t suck!’ My dad is a very honest person — too honest sometimes." SFBG
Thurs/1, 6 p.m.
1855 Haight, SF
Also with Citay and Sic Alps
Sat/3, 9:30 p.m.
1131 Polk, SF
Gaviotas with Crowing and Habitforming
Wed/31, 9 p.m.
Annie’s Social Club
917 Folsom, SF
Play nice with Chloe and Asya, those übertalented but otherwise normal preteens in Seattle’s Smoosh. Their new album, Free to Stay, is here to stay June 6. Eels headline. Wed/31, 8 p.m., Fillmore, 1805 Geary, SF. $25. (415) 346-6000.
Frontperson John lays down his Foucault — and likely won’t set himself on fire — for a few choice shows celebrating the release of Scrape the Walls (Alternative Tentacles). Fri/2, 10 p.m., Annie’s Social Club, 917 Folsom, SF. $7. (415) 974-1585; June 9, 8 p.m., 924 Gilman, Berk. $5. (510) 525-9926, www.924gilman.org.
Three guitars plus Yaphet Kotto vets equals a rock-out record release party. Fri/19, 9:30 p.m., Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk, SF. $7. (415) 923-0923.
Charming pop straight from Sweden. Sat/20, 9 p.m., Great American Music Hall, 859 O’Farrell, SF. Call for time and price. (415) 885-0750.
Fucking Ocean and Fuckwolf
A good fucking time for all? Sat/20, 9 p.m., El Rio, 3158 Mission, SF. $8. (415) 282-3325.
Luaka Bop’s Peruvian diva draws from memories of her father playing serranitas. Sun/21, 8 p.m., Independent, 628 Divisadero, SF. $25. (415) 771-1421.
No wave meets new wave nostalgia? NYC art-rockers settle down with the best band name in Austin, Texas: I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness. Mon/22, 8 p.m., Independent, 628 Divisadero, SF. $12. (415) 771-1421.
Clue to Kalo
The Australian Mush indies team with their down-underish pals Architecture in Helsinki. Tues/23, 8 p.m., Great American Music Hall, 859 O’Farrell, SF. $14. (415) 885-0750.
Hippie drum circle with faux-hawks and mad West African guitar and percussion skills. Tues/23, 9 p.m., Café du Nord, 2170 Market, SF. $8. (415) 861-5016.
SONIC REDUCER Mother’s Day: the primo time to think about reasons why mom rules. So why did I spend it listening to Grandaddy’s new, possibly last album, Just Like the Fambly Cat (V2)? I also lost about four solid hours watching Amon Duul, MC5, and Scott Walker videos on YouTube and thinking back to my adolescent years, when my household chores fell by the wayside and dear ole mum would threaten to spirit away a sackful of our 20 or so semiferal "fambly" cats and kittens and abandon them by some desolate roadside pineapple cannery. Thanks, ma!
Really, Hallmark and the assorted commercial pressures that guilt you into shuffling to the post office with an annual tribute to motherhood bring out the absolute worst — namely, inappropriate memories — in me. Though that certain special someone never carried out those acts of probable feline-cide, it’s clear not all of us come psychologically, emotionally, and financially equipped to be parents — just as many of us were not well kitted out to be pet owners. We try: Glance through the approximately 17,000 cat videos on YouTube — John Lennon’s scant 415 refs are no match against the cuddly-wuddly, flea-bitten hordes. The majority are amateurish, dull, full of "aw-isn’t-she/he/it-cute — quick get it on the cameraphone" tumescent adoration.
Still, between the anticlimactic "Puppy vs. Cat" snippets, music fans can kill an entire Mother’s Day watching Magma serenade Catholic padres in some strange French B-movie or study a drowsy Velvet Underground supposedly writing "Sunday Morning" ("They all look so fucked up. Heroin is bad for you," comments one viewer) or check out the most viewed music-related vid that day (perhaps related to the new service that started last week allowing users to upload footage directly from a phone or PDA): a blurry, too-loud, obviously cellie-derived clip of Guns n’ Roses blasting out "Welcome to the Jungle" at NYC’s Hammerstein Ballroom on May 12.
How perfect then that I stumble across a few Grandaddy videos on my YouTube travels, including a slightly oogy bit showcasing, as its maker puts it, "a slug on a cucumber listening to Grandaddy." A comment on the lysergic lethargy embedded in the Modesto band’s tunes? Animals, or rather people in animal suits, operate as stand-ins for nature in the group’s shared videos, representing a star-crossed love for the junky delights of an infinitely disposable, shareable information culture, as well as the earthly attractions of the Central Cali natural world. I can totally relate, dudes.
Sluggish Grandaddy fans who can’t break away from waxing their own cucumbers will be pleased to know that Just Like the Fambly Cat is a suitably great, elegiac outro for the disbanding band (so says songwriter Jason Lytle). A pop symphony to that final solution to dissolution and aimlessness: death. If Grandaddy always seem to teeter betwixt stoner listlessness and slacker lack of focus, the threat of imminent nonexistence and looming loss has brought a sense of purpose, opening with a child’s repeated, lisping, "What happened to the fambly cat?" and closing with Lytle’s grandiose finale, "I’ll never return!" The act of recording melts into biography, as Lytle angrily mourns his broken engagement with all the infectious pop trappings ("Jeez Louise") and then gets lost in dusty, hermetic yet elegant reveries reminiscent of such peers as Air ("Oxygen/Auxsend"). There are, as Lytle sings, about "fifty percent less words" here, breaking from pop formulae, but the writing is more than up to providing the mental visuals for Fambly Cat‘s aural invocation of the last, sad days of summer.
Nonetheless, YouTube comes through with some Fambly Cat imagery, as Lytle has come out from behind the animal costume on a lo-fi video for the "single" "Where I’m Anymore." He bicycles down orchard and suburban lanes, bridging Modesto’s agri and aggro environs, as a papier-mâché cat head jumps into the frame for the slow-jamz chorus of lost-pussy meows. This shy number may have emerged after Margot and the Nuclear So and So’s similar catcentric number, but Grandaddy’s easy, sensuous paw tracks promise to stick with you longer, even after Lytle supposedly says good-bye to Modesto, a place tied tightly to another dubbed Grandaddy. After all, Magnet magazine recently reported that Lytle has sold his Modesto house and is moving to Montana, with no plans to perform Fambly Cat songs live ("If we go on tour, somebody’s gonna fucking die"). But perhaps this media-lavished long good-bye isn’t what it seems — and Grandaddy fans can dry their tears — because it appears Lytle will play those tunes after all, at Amoeba Saturday. Like a cat that always comes back, all may not be lost. SFBG
JASON LYTLE OF GRANDADDY
Sat/20, 6 p.m.
Amoeba Music, 1855 Haight, SF
SONIC REDUCER I used to think of myself as the ultimate freak magnet, fending off moist-haired gents with a fetish for girl bands. Damp palms. Foam bubbling at the corners of the mouth. Barely discernable vertigo spirals in their bloodshot eyes. Cute, huh?
But the Court and Spark have me beat. We were sitting around the high-ceilinged kitchen of their Alabama Street Station studio/flat and talking about making their new album, Hearts (Absolutely Kosher), when vocalist-guitarist MC Taylor and guitarist Scott Hirsch suddenly leapt to their feet and started pawing through a drawer by the stove. Drummer James Kim bolted down the hallway. Was it something I said or … ate?
No, they all simply hit on their most memorable piece of fan mail, which Kim pulled from his shadow files. "This is classic," Taylor said, forking the letter over. "This explains to you what the Court and Spark journey is all about."
The script on the wide-rule binder paper was large, loopy, and ever so shaky, and its author told of hearing a song from the band’s last EP, Dead Diamond River, then embarking on his own river of no return: "My life is rough. In May my mom died after having colon cancer surgery. I lost my dad months earlier to lymphoma. For 41 years I’ve been struggling since a child living with severe type 1 diabetes. Not having any health insurance is difficult. My yearly medical expenses are now over $5,000, not including doctor and lab costs. I do without. I hope you will seriously consider sending me a promo copy of your new amazing CD to brighten my life at this difficult time." The missive closed with a San Jose address and came with a checklist of meds.
Of course, the soft hearts of C and S sent the letter-writer the disc — and never heard from their diabetic sad case in the South Bay again.
Score one crazy diamond for C and S, but what’s the attraction? Are the crazies seeking the healing qualities in the band’s shimmering Cali rock ’n’ soul? Are they looking to levitate alongside the group’s increasingly psychedelic yet still hard-to-quantify sound. Am I asking the wrong people? Not for nothing did Taylor first consider titling the new album I Want to Be a Gallant Rider Like My Father Was before Me, after a line in Werner Herzog’s The Enigma of Kasper Hauser. Like Herzog, C and S seem to draw, or be drawn to, those blurry border towns between Insanity, Texas, and Epiphany, Mexico.
Despite Hirsch’s disbelief that their audience actually comes to see them perform rather than the other bands on their bills, C and S are 50 times more comfortable in their collective skin than the first time I spoke to them, around 2002, shortly after the release of their lovely 2001 second album, Bless You.
"We’ve always been the lone wolves out there," Taylor ponders. "But we’ve also played on every kind of possible bill you can possibly imagine, and on good nights, actually, we’ve been able to make it work. We’ve played with everyone from Devendra to Bob Weir."
It’s at home, however, that the onetime UC Santa Barbara students found a sense of freedom last year, tinkering with Hearts to their hearts’ content, experimenting with instruments like harp and hammered dulcimer, and falling in love with Farfisa organ and throwing it, along with a wah pedal, over everything — all while also working on Michael Talbott and the Wolfkings’ new album and the beginnings of Willow Willow’s record. They’d rent, say, a really good, $10,000 mic and then cram everyone into their space to share costs. "We’d wake up earlier than anybody else, since we lived here, and we’d set up and drink coffee and do it," says Hirsch, who also teaches recording at Bay Area Video Coalition.
It may sound too pat for these courtly Mission dwellers, but it looks like they got out of their musical comfort zone by digging deeper into their literal one. "It’s like that Steely Dan quote, ‘We used to spend five months just trying to figure out what chair we were going to sit in in the studio,’" Hirsch says with a laugh. "That’s the kind of freedom that we like and that we found for ourselves — and that maybe they had too, because they would also record a million things and pick just one thing from that. That’s why their records sound so good, I guess." SFBG
Court and Spark
With Jason Molina, Black Fiction, and the Finches
Fri/12, 9 p.m.
Great American Music Hall
859 O’Farrell, SF
SONIC REDUCER A passionate music fan friend recently laid some curious medicine on me as we were hunkered down at Doc’s Clock, watching our inexplicably enraged lady bartender toss one of our half-full beverages: My friend’s musician ex had already written off his barely released singer-songwriter-ish album, because according to his veteran estimate, "people are only interested in bands these days."
Maybe that’s why Vancouver‘s indie-esque artist and sometime New Pornographer Dan Bejar rocks under the name Destroyer. Still, it’s hard to scan the music news these days and avoid single, solitary monikers like Bruce Springsteen or Neil Young, both breaking from their associations with bands and recording protest songs old and new. Bejar’s fellow Canadian Young just last week offered up the quickie, choir-backed Living with War, which includes a song titled "Let’s Impeach the President" and streams for free at www.neilyoung.com starting April 28 (leading one to wonder if the Peninsula’s Shakey is responding to the calls at his onstage SXSW interview for a new "Ohio"?). Perhaps in an instantly downloadable, superniched, and highly fragmented aural landscape, there remains a certain heroic power in creating and performing in the first person, under your own name, while reaching for a collective imagination, some elusive third person.
Chatting on the phone, over the border, Bejar might not easily parse as a part of the aforementioned crew, though he musically cross-references urban rock ’n’ rollers, stardusted glitter kids, and louche lounge cats, explicitly tweaking those "West Coast maximalists, exploring the blues, ignoring the news" on "Priest’s Knees," off his new full-length, Destroyer’s Rubies (Merge). Some might even venture that the late-night, loose lips and goosed hips, full-blown rock of the album, his sixth, marks it as his most indulgent to date.
And Bejar, 33 and a Libra, will readily fess up to his share of indulgences, in lieu of collecting juicy tour adventures. On tour he says, "I tend to go and then kind of hide backstage, get up onstage, try and play, get off, and continue to hide backstage.
"I’m not super into rock clubs," Bejar continues. "I just don’t feel a need to make a home of them."
Just back from the first part of his US journeys ("We played 12 or 14 of 16 dates. That’s hardly any. I think most bands would think that’s psychotic"), Bejar does feel quite at home in Vancouver and will reluctantly theorize about Canadian music. "I think there’s a certain outsider perspective that people might say comes with Canadian songwriters, like the states would never be able to produce a Leonard Cohen or a Joni Mitchell or a Neil Young — just kind of idiosyncratic characters." But then he brakes and reverses. "But I don’t know if I believe that."
Bejar could be talking about his own amiable, idiosyncratic self. Most of his sentences end with a little, upward, questioning lilt, giving his responses a way-relaxed, studiedly casual, postgrad quality, clad as they are in contradictions, at times inspiring detailed analysis, but more often triggering mild arguments and arriving at good-humored dead ends. In other words, the man can talk complete paragraphs — or monosyllables. Rubies‘ last track, "Sick Priest Learns to Last Forever," for example, has been kicking around for five years. "It’s kind of like the first song I tried doing, to break out a certain mold of Destroyer songs that I had unconsciously set up in the late ’90s," Bejar explains. "It was a style of song where the language was mostly based on political or economic rhetoric and social expression and the occasional personal aside. ‘Sick Priest’ is kind of an exercise in a more free-flowing, imagistic song, which I was dead against back in my younger days, and I’ve since completely embraced that style of writing."
Maybe it’s the sax, I venture. To these rust-belt-weaned ears, the new album sounds like urban East Coast rock of the ’70s — à la not only Bowie but Springsteen and, say, the J. Geils Band.
"Wow, Peter Wolf," he sighs. "That’s cool. That’s funny. I mean, I kind of have a soft spot for, uh, that kind of sounding band, though I don’t have a soft spot for the songs that those people wrote. I like the ’70s bar-rock feel, especially the laid-back afternoon variety."
Yeah, like when you’re sitting at the bar, drinking cheap beer, watching the sun shoot through a vinyl padded door.
Bejar can go for that scenario: Despite the fact that he will be playing All Tomorrow’s Parties in England shortly after his SF date, you get the impression he can take or leave Destroyer and even the New Pornographers. (Since he moved away to his father’s homeland of Spain a few years ago, he says, "My involvement is pretty minimal. I don’t go to practices. I don’t tour.") Who knows, when he gets some time off after ATP and the Pitchfork music festival in Chicago, he might even take his own "bad advice," the kind that’s ingrained in Destroyer songs’ "little pep talks," and fall back on a career shelving books at the public library. "Something part-time, maybe, that doesn’t involve too much dealing with the public," he ponders playfully. "I’m good at alphabetizing stuff." SFBG
May 8, 9:30 p.m.
Cafe du Nord
2170 Market, SF
SONIC REDUCER I love the fact that whenever you leave this country, you immediately come to the discomfiting realization that … you’re such a damaged by-product of capitalist America. Case in point: Last week I gazed upon the beauteous, barren, and treeless expanses of Iceland, miles and miles of rock, scrubby grass, and mirrorlike pools of ice. Iceland in the spring is the chill, brown-white-and-blue equivalent of the Southwestern desert, austere yet fragile in the face of certain global warming, and barely containing an undercurrent of volcanic energy reminiscent of Hawaii’s Big Island. So why do I look at these moonscapes and wonder where all the people are and why there aren’t any houses, strip malls, or ski resorts out here? Why do I look at untrammeled land and see real estate?
Reykjavik: I’m here on a press trip with other media field operatives from BPM, OK!, Nylon, and Vapors, studying the club culture, seeing the sights, taking in gutfuls of fresh, fishy air by the wharf, gazing at snowcapped mountains, and perusing menus in shock. I just couldn’t help blurting a culturally insensitive, "Omigod, that’s My Little Pony!" when I saw the roast Icelandic foal with a tian of mushrooms, caramelized apples, and calvados sauce on the bill of traditional Icelandic restaurant Laekjarbrekka.
Likewise, the Icelanders probably can’t help turning those cute puffins and herb-fed lambs into meaty main courses to warm them through those long, dark winters. The real, long-haired, sweet-faced Icelandic horses turned out to be more engaging and curious than I’d ever imagined, strolling up to our group out in the wilds near Thingvellir to examine the hipsters (and hip-hoppsters) and be ooohed over. "They’re more like dogs than horses!" our Icelandair rep, Michael Raucheisen, exclaimed.
After a scrumptious Asian fusion meal at the elegant, cream-colored, deco Apotek (started with kangaroo tartare and finished off with a mistakenly ordered $125 bottle of Gallo cab; travel tip number one: Reykjavik is not the spot to sample California vino), our wild bunch was more into checking out a local strip club than settling in with a good book like Dustin Long’s charming Agatha Christie parody, Icelander (McSweeney’s), or the catalog for the National Museum of Iceland’s current photo exhibit of fishing village life in the southeast, "Raetur Runtsins" ("Roots of the Runtur"). We were more likely to price the local, ahem, pharmaceutical offerings ("$175 for a gram of coke is not cheap!" was one assessment) at the city’s nightclubs than shop for runic love charms or grandmotherly woolens.
One reason for the aforementioned vast, unpopulated expanses: There are only 300,000 people in the entire country — albeit well educated, well employed, relatively youthful, and wired. (Is it any wonder this isle has the highest concentration of broadband users in the world?) Most of the youth culture was happening in the capital, where about a third of the population lives it up, sucks down Brennivin and macerated strawberry mojitos, dances with compact little hand motions that resemble a funky elfin hand jive. I must confess that, watching Deep Dish’s Ali "Dubfire" Shirazinia skillfully work Iceland native Björk into his house mix at NASA, I’ve rarely seen more hot, seemingly straight men dancing, en masse, on the floor, on the mezzanine, in the booths, every damn where. Where did they get the energy — from a geothermal pipeline or those mischievous sprites called Julelads?
As we piled into the van to steep at the sulfur-scented but soul-soothing Blue Lagoon and study the brand-spankin’ Icelandic Idol Snorri Snorrason (I kid you not) serenading the soakers lagoonside with Jack Johnson–like tunes, I could only sit and plot my next visit — possible when Icelandair resumes its summer flights from SF in May? It’ll be too late to catch late April’s new Rite of Spring alt-jazz and folk music festival, but not for October’s Iceland Airwaves music fest (Oct. 18 through 22, www.icelandairwaves.com), where big tickets like the Flaming Lips have filled the city’s venues alongside Icelanders such as Sigur R??s. I’ll have to catch these new Icelandic rock artists:
Ampop, My Delusions (Dennis)
This trio was getting the royal hype in Reykjavik — posters were plastered everywhere. How nice to find that their jaunty yet dramatic English-language orchestral psych-rock traverses the dreamier side of Coldplay and Doves.
Mammut, Mammut (Smekkleysa)
Polished though quirky, this bass-driven, all-lady post-punk fivesome takes a bite of the Sugarcubes, Siouxsie Sioux, and the Raincoats, with plenty of all-Icelandic lyrical histrionics.
Storsveit Nix Noltes, Orkideur Havai (12 Tonar; to be released on Bubblecore)
Last glimpsed at South by Southwest’s Paw Tracks/Fat Cat showcase, these Animal Collective tourmates draw inspiration for their instrumentals from Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, and the Balkans.
Mugison, Mugimama — Is This Monkey Music? (12 Tonar)
The Mark Linkous of Icelandic rock digs into the raw stuff on this acclaimed full-length. He also recently scored Baltasar Kormakur’s film A Little Trip to Heaven, reinterpreting the Tom Waits track of the same name.
For the real folkways, check out Raddir/Voices: Recordings of Folk Songs from the Archives of the Arni Magnusson Institute in Iceland (Smekkleysa/Arni Magnusson Institute), which includes a great booklet on the music, collected between 1903 and 1973 and revolving around Icelandic sagas and cautionary fables of monsters, ogres, and child-snatching ravens. SFBG
CH-CH-CHECK IT OUT
Anthony Hamilton, Heather Headley, and Van Hunt
Hamilton killed, from all reports, at SXSW, and we all know how good that Hunt album is. Wed/19 and Mon/24, 7:30 p.m., Paramount, 2025 Broadway, Oakl. $39–$67.75. www.ticketmaster.com
M’s and the Deathray Davies
Chicago cock-rockers meet quirk poppers. Wed/19, 8 p.m., Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell, SF. $8. (415) 861-2011
The chairs are pushed back when this band of Tuaregs, the indigenous people from Eastern Mali, break out the guitars. Wed/19, 8 and 10 p.m. Yoshi’s, 510 Embarcadero West, Oakl. $14–$20. (510) 238-9200
The gritty girlfriend that might be the next Mary adds a late show. Fri/21, 11:30 p.m., The Grand, 1300 Van Ness, SF. $32.50. (415) 864-0815
The ensemble premieres a collaboration with Walter Kitundu, takes on a Sigur R??s number, and teams with Matmos on "For Terry Riley." Fri/21–Sat/22, 8 p.m., Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 701 Mission, SF. $18–$35. (415) 978-ARTS
Saddle Creek’s electro-folk-pop sweetheart steps out from Azure Ray. Sat/22, 9 p.m., Cafe du Nord, 2170 Market, SF. $10. (415) 861-5016 SFBG
SONIC REDUCER In the best of all music fans’ worlds, an album will grow on you — like lichen, excessive body hair, or a parasite à la guinea worm, only with more pleasure and less arterial spray, I pray. You like it more and more as you play-repeat-play. It starts with an ear-catching opening track or appetite-whetting overture, as that well-worn pop recipe goes, and builds momentum until track three or four. That one should sink its little tenterhooks into you and refuse to let go until you listen to it once again or upload it to your iPod or whatever musical delivery system serves the addiction.
That analyzed, it’s amazing how some bands, like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, can go from compulsively listenable to annoying with one album, Show Your Bones (Interscope). Too bad because the YYYs still stand out, like a slash of smeared red lipstick, as one of the few female-fronted groups to emerge from that much hyped, new-rock New York music scene of the early ’00s. That barely sublimated burden of representation, the YYYs’ association with the Liars and the more artistically ambitious NYC crew, as well as the heightened critical expectations after the strength of 2003’s Fever to Tell hasn’t helped Show. Once the flurry of screeching, obscuring noise and rockabilly riffs are stripped away and the songs are spruced up in the studio, the poppier YYYs sound deathly similar to peers like the Strokes at their most singsong (“Dudley,” “Mysteries”). O’s slight lyrics are exposed as the slender vehicles they are — her piercing tone, which cut through the distortion in the past, simply seems affected.
Even when O toys with teasing double entendre on “Cheating Hearts,” confutf8g the act of taking off a ring with a sexed-up strip (“Well I’m / Taka-taka-taka-taka-takin’ it off / And she’s / Taka-taka-taka-taka-takin’ it off / And he’s / Taka-taka-taka-taka-takin’ it off / And we’re / Taka-taka-taka-taka-takin’ it off”), the story doesn’t go anywhere beyond the (again, repeated) lines “Sometimes / I think that I’m bigger / Than the sound.” The entire enterprise gives up the reheated, ego-stroking aroma of Zep knockoffs like Heart. That wouldn’t necessarily be bad, if those commercial rock invocations seemed to serve more than an ego that seems “something like a phenomena, baby” (see the key fourth track, “Phenomena”). This album feels like a grandiose, strident, ultimately airheaded mess — all Show, no go.
“Fab Mab” flap
I was a humongoid Flipper fan back in the day, but, truthfully, I wasn’t thinking too hard about the imminent “Fab Mab Reunion” show featuring the SF dadaist-punk legends and Mabuhay Gardens regulars the Dead Kennedys, the Avengers, and the Mutants. The reunion part of the show’s name brought out ex-DK vocalist Jello Biafra, who issued the statement, “No, it is not a Dead Kennedys reunion. Yes, I am boycotting the whole scam. These are the same greedmongers who ran to corporate lawyers and sued me for over six years in a dispute sparked by my not wanting ‘Holiday in Cambodia’ sold into a Levi’s commercial. They now pimp Dead Kennedys in the same spirit as Mike Love suing Brian Wilson over and over again, then turning around and playing shows as the Beach Boys.”
I was curious about the pimping notion. The idea can’t help but cross one’s mind with the crowded pit of punk reunion shows (including the Flesh Eaters; see “Zombies Are Back!” page 35), all within spittin’ distance of each other in the past few years. So I spoke to Flipper drummer Steve DePace, who put together the “reunion” after the band’s first performance after a “10-year hiatus” (Bruno DeMartis sitting in for the late Will Shatter) at a CBGB’s benefit last year. Following that, they answered a request to play LA’s closing Olympic Auditorium. “I thought to myself, in the spirit of the funnest days of my career back in the late ’70s and early ’80s at the Mabuhay Gardens — when that scene was flourishing and that club served as the hub to the punk rock scene that developed in SF — what if we were to do a show with that vibe?” says the 49-year-old ex–animation industry project manager, who now lives in LA. “What are the bands around that are still playing from back in those days?
“Listen, Flipper is not making a ton of money,” he continues, adding that Flipper has reformed because they still have a passionate audience. To DePace, the most famous of those Flipper fans was likely Kurt Cobain, who wore his homemade Flipper T-shirt on TV and magazine covers. Of course, there were no official Flipper shirts, he says. “Back in those days we were not into the commerce,” he explains. “No one thought about selling merchandise — nowadays it’s the biggest thing. People gobble it up.” Just keep feeding.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs
April 28 and 29
982 Market, SF
Call for time and price.
“Fab Mab Reunion”
Sat/8, 9 p.m.
1805 Geary, SF
GET A LOAD OF HIS DOWNLOAD
After supporting his buddies the Shins and finding inspiration on Fleetwood Mac’s Future Games (Reprise, 1971), ex-Califone side guy Eric Johnson made one of the loveliest, most underrated indie pop LPs of 2005, Spelled in Bones (Sub Pop). Images of blood injury (the legacy of cutting his head open as a five-year-old and, later, one auto accident too many) crop up, as does a ref to that distinctively northern Midwestern “land of sky blue waters” from the old Hamm’s beer commercial. Johnson’s obviously comfortable listening in the past, judging from these items in the iTunes library on his new computer:
•Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band, Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller) (Bizarre/Straight/EMI)
•Bob Dylan, Blonde on Blonde (Columbia)
•Kinks, Muswell Hillbillies (Rhino/WEA)
•Steve Martin, A Wild and Crazy Guy (WEA)
•Meat Puppets, Meat Puppets II (SST/Rykodisc)
•Rod Stewart, Every Picture Tells a Story (Polygram)
•Kelley Stoltz, Below the Branches (Sub Pop); “Favorite thing I’ve heard this year so far.”
•T. Rex, The Slider (Rhino/WEA); “I listen to it when I clean house.”
Fruit Bats play Mon/10, 8 p.m., the Independent, 628 Divisadero, SF. $10–$12. (415) 771-1421
MORE, MORE, MORE
Italy’s punky musical absurdists swing through town once more, after last year’s power-packed Hemlock and Cookie Factory dates. SF experimentalists the Molecules also reunite. Fri/7, 9:30 p.m., Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk, SF. $7. (415) 923-0923
The Seattle musician makes moody folk songs with a bleeding edge; check his second album, This Murder Is a Peaceful Gathering (Denimclature). Jean Marie, the Blank Tapes, and 60 Watt Kid also play. Thurs/6, 8:30 p.m., Hotel Utah Saloon, 500 Fourth St., SF. $6. (415) 546-6300
Enrico Rava and Stefano Bollani
The Trieste trumpet-player and Bollani back up their recent album, Tati (ECM), while collaborator, drummer Paul Motian, remains in NYC. Enrico Pieranunzi fills out this il Jazz Italiano bill. Fri/7, 8 p.m., Herbst Theatre, 401 Van Ness, SF. $25–$51. (415) 621-6600, www.sfjazz.org
DEADBOY AND THE ELEPHANTMEN
No, they’re not a black-and-white duo that’s read all over, like the White Stripes: Dax Riggs wears floppy T-shirts, emotes vocally, and thrashes away at the guitar. Tessie Brunet bashes the drums. Together they have slain critics throughout the land. Ex-Boyfriends, Rum Diary, and Stephen Fretwell also perform. 9 p.m. Cafe du Nord, 2170 Market, SF. $10. (415) 861-5016. (Kimberly Chun)
Feist’s lilting hit “Mushaboom” (from 2004’s Let It Die) has been stuck in my head for days. It’s easy to see why
Nonetheless, it was a revelation to finally get a looky-loo at the recently released Hot Chick Hot Rod Stoner BBQ DVD (Stroker Productions, www.stonerrock.com), the straight-to-DVD-in-all-its-glorioski sequel to Hot Chick Stoner BBQ. Both projects star Hot Rod Honey — the charismatic, witty, and much more likeable rock ’n’ roll alternative to Rachael Ray.
The latest disc picks you up, throws you in the backseat, and gives you a smokin’ ride to Ace Junkyard in SF, where HRH gently but firmly takes you through the gutbucket basics of barbecuing, from starting a flame to cooking some beer can chicken, while hep, cute, but grittily real-looking metal and stoner rock chicks mill about, show off their shh-weet hot rods, chow down, and get buzzed. HRH lays down the grillable wisdom, urging hot-rodders to "put some time into your ride and some time into your food" before quipping that she’s making her food mild for the party because "I know some folks here have a bad case of honky mouth, so I don’t want anyone’s asshole to blow out."
Between barbecue tips, hip chicks (one, Vicki, works as a mechanic at Oakland Ford and is said to be married to a Drunk Horse) show you how to do elementary work on your machine, like changing the spark plugs. An added bonus: a solid soundtrack by local heavies like Om, Hightower, High on Fire, Acid King, and Dirty Power and cameos of familiar Bay faces and their rides, including Leslie Mah of Tribe 8, Meg of Totimoshi, and Windy Chien, former owner of Aquarius Records (showing off her now-departed Porsche). Toss in some shots of hot girls hot-boxing it and a recipe for "potcorn" with "pot butter," and you can imagine rock kids in Peoria drooling over the high times, good eats, and hip crew in SF.
Hot Chick Hot Rod Stoner BBQ looks that cool, as conceived and directed by Tina "Tankdog" Gordon, drummer of onetime Guardian Goldies winner Lost Goat. The video production teacher, who now drums in Night after Night, found the impetus for the series in Hot Rod Honey herself. "Hot Rod Honey is an old friend of mine. She’s been cooking for rockers for years," says Gordon over the phone. "In fact, she was the reason I stopped being a vegetarian. My old band was playing at Pondathon [in Mendocino County], and she was sitting at the edge of the pond surrounded by a pack of dogs. I said, ‘What are you cooking?’ And she said, ‘Beer Boat Sausage. It’s good. You should try some.’ It was like she put a spell on me. I said, ‘OK,’ and I ate it, and then I ate rattlesnake and steak."
The project took form because, Gordon says, Hot Rod Honey (who apparently not only works on her hot rods but also rides horses, shoots guns, bartends, and barbecues like a bad ass) "needed to be appreciated and kind of honored. I see all these cooking shows, but none of them are interesting to me, y’know. So I wanted to do something I was interested in, in this genre. In general, the stuff I like to document are things that aren’t generally documented. I’m not excited by most of what I see in TV and popular culture; so when you don’t like what you see and you’re someone who makes stuff, you gotta make the stuff you want to see. It’s just like music."
For the Hot Rod shoot in fall 2004, Gordon assembled pals who could understand the project and the vibe "and are down with barbecue." Even her vegan hot chick friends could get with the spirit of the series. "The love of hard rock is a huge thing," Gordon says. "There’s a cross section in there who can appreciate hard rock and who are hungry for that right now." Chomp chomp, there go those crunchy guitars.
Gordon tells me the next DVD will be titled Hot Chick Backwoods Stoner BBQ, and I’m probably not outta line to make a wise crack about seeing a pattern here. But after that, who knows? Gordon and HRH have been invited to film in Mississippi in May with the boys of Yokel, a Jackass-related redneck hipster pride TV series on the Turner South network. Nashville Pussy lovin’—Nascar Nationals meet NorCal hottie headbangers? Bring it on.