Blinded by Scientists?

Pub date June 7, 2006
SectionMusicSectionSonic Reducer


SONIC REDUCER It may be yet another sign of a time-space-buckling rock apocalypse. Or a chilling harbinger of imminent, sonic-subtlety-be-damned deafness. Or simply a case of sudden, acute perceptiveness. But you had to wonder, watching We Are Scientists and Arctic Monkeys at the Warfield on May 31, how two such different bands (at least on record) could blur together into one indistinctive, loudly guitar-oriented mass. And I like that fetchingly raucous and hook-slung Arctic Monkeys album. I enjoy the forceful post-punk rock of We Are Scientists, live wisecracks about dead dads, babes up front, and all.

Both bands work hard for their money though I can’t speak for the second half of Arctic Monkeys’ set. I had to flee because of my lumbago, left charring in the oven. But as I was racing to my vehicle, I did wonder about the so-called ’00s rock revolution: Could it have gotten stalled somewhere around the time the Arctic Monkeys decided to jettison their straight-forward approach at Great American Music Hall earlier this year and reach for the shadows, smoke machines, and drum-triggered, classically trite rock light show?

Perhaps they’re trying too hard, and if the bands aren’t, then someone is, be it their stylists or marketing departments. What they and other nouveau rock heads should realize is that some arts are beyond science. It’s too easy to slag We Are Scientists, as so many have, starting with a tone set by wink-wink song titles like “This Scene Is Dead” and “Cash Cow” and gamboling forth to the canny exploitation of cute kittens on the cover of With Love and Squalor (Virgin). The cellular building blocks of a fun, poppy, and even harder rock band are there, once you start hacking away at the thick, waxy snark buildup. It’s not that I don’t want to hear about the bad new good times of bands like We Are Scientists and the Killers but whether they dig deeper and darker into the not-so-secret life of hotties or step back (rather than up, to a privileged perch) and develop a sense of songcraft, they need to make me wanna walk on their wild side.

Killers and bad dudes Speaking of Killers, word has it the Hundred Days show at Bottom of the Hill June 3 was buzzing with A&R types because the SF band’s demo was mixed by Mark Needham, who also worked with the Killers. Colin Crosskill e-mailed me to confirm that Killers producer Jeff Saltzman has expressed interest in working with Hundred Days on their next album, based on the recordings…. Shoplifting’s name, unfortunately, proved too prescient: The Seattle band’s gear was lifted from their van parked on Guerrero Street before their May 29 SF show. They’ve posted a list of stolen gear at for sharp eyes at Bay Area shops and swap meets…. In other thieving matters, Annie of Annie’s Social Club had a green-and-white guitar autographed by X stolen from her premises; if you have info, contact

Running in the streets Paranoia, punch-ups, temper tantrums, spread-betting losing sprees, and banging cracked-out, nameless pop stars nope, that wasn’t the scene at Sonic Reducer’s recent birthday splashdown. Instead that’s all on the new album from the Streets (a.k.a. Mike Skinner), The Hardest Way to Make an Easy Living (Vice/Atlantic), a riff on the trials and tribulations of fame that has divided many who have heard it.

“Honesty has always been what I’ve been good at,” says a subdued Skinner, calling from his London home. Making Machiavelli look like a po-faced naïf, one crack at a time, he adds, “People have definitely not liked it as much. But on the whole I think it’s gone down really well.”

I spoke to Skinner when his first CD, Original Pirate Material, came out stateside, when neither of us was completely sure his brand of hip-hop would go over well in the United States. Even now, Skinner says, “I didn’t expect anyone outside the UK to give a shit about it,” so sidestepping the gangster game seems easy. These days, he believes, “it’s a competition to be the hardest. Who’s the most credibly tough. I do think it’s very difficult to stand out against that.”

Why get rich and die trying? Worse, you can stiff like 50 Cent in his own biopic. Instead, Skinner sounds like he’s going the Jay and Em route and concentrating on running his own label, the Beats. “I just want to stay busy and hopefully never work at Burger King again.” SFBG

The Streets with Lady Sovereign

Fri/9, 9 p.m.


1805 Geary, SF


(415) 346-6000


Cat Empire

Putf8um-selling Aussie Latin-jazz-ska-hip-hop fusion purveyors make the Latin-jazz-ska-hip-hop kittens purr. Fri/9, 9 p.m., Independent, 628 Divisadero, SF. $15. (415) 771-1421.

Oakley Hall

Back-to-the-garden refusniks? Cali-fucked-up dreamers? Brooklyn’s mega ensemble can’t stop putting out music this year; their latest is the bejeweled Gypsum Strings (Brah). Fri/9, 9 p.m. Cafe du Nord, 2170 Market, SF. $12. (415) 861-5016.

Soundwave Series

Its first Live Play show at ATA will be documented by KQED’s Spark. Myrmyr, Luz Alibi/Mr Maurader, and Moe! Staiano’s Quintet with guest curator Matt Davignon improvise to previously unseen videos culled by 21 Grand’s Sarah Lockhart. Fri/9, 8 p.m., Artists’ Television Access, 992 Valencia, SF. $6–$10.

James Blackshaw

The young UK guitarist grabbed Wire and Fakejazz’s attention with last year’s O True Believers (Important) — and now has ours. Sat/10, 9:30 p.m., Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk, SF. $10. (415) 923-0923.