Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Germs! The Adolescents! at the Key Club, 12.28.

At 15, I had a tiny crush on Eli Sammler. Rather, Shane West, the brooding actor who portrayed him on that guilty pleasure of a Friday night soap, Once and Again. Eight years later, I'm somewhat embarrassed to admit this, not because his mysterious gaze actually screamed “headshot material!” or because he was on a weekly drama – in fact, it would get much, much worse with A Walk to Remember – but because this actor would eventually attempt to shake off his work history with a new role fronting the reunited Germs in place of the late Darby Crash, who he portrays in What We Do is Secret. With “You're So Oi!” written on his back in mockery of the leather-and-spike-coated 16-year olds who'd come to shout along, it seemed odd that no one would mock him back for his equally “punk” black nail polish or, hell, his resume.

West mimicked the sloppy vocal styling of Crash surprisingly well, and had a grand time tossing a full meal over the audience (beer, water, Tostitos, cake chunks), but his poses capped off what seemed a giant photo-op of a reunion. Blowing sarcastic kisses and sneering that the fans before him looked “silly” in punk garb, it felt as though West was daring to tease and taunt us, the fans who weren't lucky enough to be fronting a famous punk band. Even Lorna Doom and Pat Smear stood together for a number of photo-friendly moments, and though far more entitled to such than West at this point, the sounds coming from their bass and guitar were nearly unrecognizable, with Doom's bass overpowering the once-clear treble of Smear's guitar, giving their songs a heavy masculinity that wasn't originally there.

What earned greater applause than the Germs themselves was the female fan who got on stage to steal the mic for “Caught in My Eye.” Garnering even greater enthusiasm were the Adolescents, whose set was wasted on a supporting slot – even with their collectively worn appearance and Tony Cadena's need for an inhaler mid-set, the O.C. group was tight, heavy and fierce enough to prompt fights. Unexpected but sweet, also, was how Cadena gave props to security (working their asses off on this night) for keeping crowdsurfers from wrecking the "$30 cords" and "$200, $300 monitors." It was, in fact, their ending with “Kids of the Black Hole” that caused a number of fans to plead for more, of which not much could be heard after the Germs finished up with “Lion's Share.”

P.S. Shane West is slightly redeemed for giving props to L.A. indie thrashers the Mae-Shi, who rocked their opening set and appeared to have as much of a vocal fan base as the Adolescents or the Germs. Not redeemed: the possibly-legal girls in stilettos who shoved their way to the side of the stage so they'd be there waiting when cute ol' Shane walked by.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

...and speaking of obligations...

Now that I've succeeded in making a hideous logo that resembles a pound sign...and compiled lists of records and songs that, while not even-numbered on their own, comprise a collective list of are my favorites of 2007.

13 Favorite Albums (nearly in order):

1. Celebration – The Modern Tribe
2. The Good, the Bad and the Queen
3. Animal Collective – Strawberry Jam
4. The Twilight Sad – Fourteen Autumns, Fifteen Winters
5. Les Savy Fav – Let's Stay Friends
6. Pissed Jeans – Hope for Men
7. Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings – 100 Days, 100 Nights
8. King Khan and His Shrines – What Is?!
9. Caribou - Andorra
10. Siouxsie – Mantaray
11. Battles - Mirrored
12. Marco Mahler – Design in Quick Rotation
13. Tom Brosseau – Grand Forks

A sad sort of list, isn't it? I listened to everything I'd anticipated and then some; I wound up disappointed by some of the anticipated records and pleasantly surprised by a few I'd never expected, but overall came out with a shockingly small list of favorites. A number of records made the Honorable Mentions list: Spoon, Frog Eyes, Shellac (best album art!), Holly Golightly and the Brokeoffs, Billy Childish and the Musicians of the British Empire, The Saints, Grinderman, Common, Elvis Perkins, Black Lips, Devendra Banhart, Times New Viking, Dizzee Rascal, Wiley (little known fact: I like grime), Antelope, Foetus, The Hives, Pharoahe Monch, Blonde Redhead, Eilen Jewell, Babyshambles, Thurston Moore, Fridge, Old Time Relijun, Mika Miko, M.I.A., The Oh Sees, PJ Harvey -- I liked you. I liked all of you. And I really wanted to put you on my favorites list but couldn't quite do it. Bettye Lavette, Panda Bear and Justice...I tried to like you, I really did. Candie Payne and Michael Yonkers...I never found copies of your respective debut and long-delayed album, but I'm sure I would have liked them. Beirut, Band of Horses, Department of Eagles, Dungen, Shocking Pinks, Deerhoof, Iron and Wine, Liars, The Books, Dinosaur Jr. and Radiohead...I never bothered to listen, and I'm sorry, but I'm sure I'll buy the albums one day.

Looking at others' lists, I realize there are tons and tons of albums that I didn't know about even by name, but hell, who has the time to listen to every album out there? So this is this, and that is that. Never mind that I didn't even touch the electronic genre!

And then there was that dreadful dilemma, the one where individual songs off an album wow you to pieces but you can't bear to put the whole album on the list. Hence the “favorite tracks” list, which looks rather bland when I stare at it.

27 Favorite Songs (alphabetical by artist, because I hate prioritizing):

Animal Collective – Fireworks
Battles – Atlas
Bjork – Declare Independence
Black Lips – I Saw a Ghost (Lean)
The Boonaraaas – Out of Sight
Britt Daniel – Bring it On Home to Me (Sam Cooke cover)
Cajun Dance Party - Amylase
Celebration – Hands Off My Gold
Colleen – Blue Sands
Elvis Perkins – While You Were Sleeping
Foetus – Mon Agonie Douce (J.G. Thirwell remix)
Frog Eyes – Stockades
Holly Golightly and the Brokeoffs – Devil Do
King Khan and His Shrines – Welfare Bread
Les Savy Fav – The Equestrian
Mark Sultan – Cursed World
The Muslims - Extinction
Pharoahe Monch – What It Is
Pharoahe Monch – Body Baby
Pissed Jeans – A Bad Wind
Sea Wolf – You're a Wolf
Siouxsie – Sea of Tranquility
Spoon – Don't Make Me a Target
The Wombats – Little Miss Pipe Dream
Tom Brosseau – Blue Part of the Windshield
Twilight Sad – And She Would Darken the Memory
The Walkmen – Red River

*On a side note, cursing the baby Jesus the other day apparently brought me to his attention, for when I awoke Christmas morning, baby Jesus had blessed me with a head cold. Goddamn you, baby Jesus.

Monday, December 24, 2007

"I don't want your crummy gifts," said Alvin.

Baked goods and KRTH's "38 hours of Christmas oldies" aside, I've been finding more and more each year that Christmas is about the most depressing holiday of the year. This is sort of a common fact - at least in bad, seasonal romantic comedies, anyway - but the fact hadn't quite hit me until returning to Los Angeles in a post-college, adult state last year, when it first became necessary to budget gifts below rent and acknowledge that parties (particularly of the office or reunion varieties) eventually become something to dread. These are the trivial things, though.

I don't like to talk much about my personal life here, but in a post of such downer material, I should note that my only close family nearby are my (divorced) parents, meaning that I've learned to embrace the Jewish deli on Christmas, and furthermore, that I'm an Atheist and as such have no need to celebrate the baby Jesus, however adorable he might have been in his manger. In any case, it's around this time of year that I come to wish I'd once adopted religion or some sort of strong identity; outside of Christmas, you've got Chanukah, almost comedic for the images it evokes of dreidels, prayers spoken with lots of hacking noises and gentiles who can't spell "yarmulke." You've got Kwanzaa, born out of pride and begun on a day that no one seems to remember. And the fasting period of Ramadan, when homeless people can laugh and point and say, "Ha! Get a taste of starvation now, suckers."

But Christmas, a designated Christian holiday, is what we non-religious folk resort to out of convenience, and out of a lack of faith, it becomes a day not associated with Jesus and thanks and family, but with obligations. You feel obligated to buy people crap because you're afraid they'll feel forgotten otherwise. You feel obligated to hold your tongue when you see the disappointment on a friend's face, because even though you racked your brain for the perfect gift and it turned out not to be what they wanted, you don't want to be the cause of a holiday fight. You feel obligated not to gag when your grandmother chews with a smacking sound, and not to feel hurt when your out-of-state grandparents send you the same generic card and check for the tenth year in a row, because you don't want to look overly sensitive in pointing out that your relatives don't care to know you. If we, the Atheists and agnostics of the world, enjoyed the holiday with the same spirit as those who celebrated a religious figure or intent, perhaps obligation wouldn't be such a burden. Goddamn you, baby Jesus.

In any case, it is because of my extreme dislike of Christmas that I've chosen to acknowledge not a religious holiday but something more interesting, for which I am far more thankful: the belated December birthdays of Woody Allen and Little Richard. Woody Allen, the man who made it hip to be neurotic and bespectacled (er...him and Rivers Cuomo), turned 72 on Dec. 1. Of no other filmmaker can I claim to have seen and enjoyed over twenty films, let alone seen that many and looked forward to the twenty that remained. Little Richard, meanwhile, turned 75 years old on Dec. 5, and from his influence on the music of the Beatles and the moustache of John Waters to his appearance on Full House (as Uncle Richard!), I'd say he's contributed to society on a much more agreeable level than that possibly-invented figure, J.H.C. So, to the suave Allen Konigsberg and fabulously flamboyant Richard Wayne Penniman, I salute you. Happy belated birthday!

Little Richard - She's Got It

And for you Christmas celebratin' suckers:
Canned Heat and the Chipmunks - The Chipmunk Song

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Peter Murphy's not dead.

Sweet Jesus. If this year wasn't enough to make the '80s Goths proud, what with the release of Siouxsie's brilliant solo album and the auctioning off of David Bowie's beautifully aging face, it appears next year will bring a new record from the great guilty pleasure that is Bauhaus. Full story at CMJ, and the tracklisting for Go Away White, due March 4 on Bauhaus Musik, will be as follows:

01. Too Much 21st Century
02. Adrenalin
03. Undone
04. International Bulletproof Talent
05. Endless Summer of the Damned
06. Saved
07. Mirror Remains
08. Black Stone Heart
09. Zikir
10. The Dog's of Vapour

Ahh! Exciting!

Bauhaus - St. Vitus Dance

Monday, December 17, 2007

Fuck the champagne, we want gin! (Les Savy Fav. El Rey Theater. December 15)

Saturday at the El Rey was a smash, but I wouldn't expect anything less from Les Savy Fav, one of this decade's best rock bands. I'd actually had a chance to get a lengthy interview from Harrison Haynes, Andrew Reuland and Seth Jabour, the group's drummer and guitarists, prior to the show (results will be at Campus Circle in a month or so), and Haynes had admitted that he liked not having much more than a loyal cult following because he didn't like the idea of playing venues much larger than the El Rey. Jabour mostly agreed, though reasoning that it wasn't just a larger venue size but a mainstream frat boy fan base that he'd hate Les Savy Fav to adopt. They like their fans, and they don't want to become Modest Mouse.

The show itself was a much needed party on Wilshire, with the venue sadly about half-full during great opening sets by We Barbarians and the Dodos, suddenly finding us packed by the time Tim Harrington poked his shiny dome out from the velvet curtain. I'd befriended a massive LSF fan next to me prior to the show's start, a girl who stood her ground at front and center only to faint and get hauled off near the end of the Dodos' supporting set. What she ended up missing was a chance to be selected as a toy soldier at the show's encore, a chance to get pulled on stage and draped over Tim Harrington (which happened during the first five minutes of the set), and a chance to get kissed on the mouth (which Harrington did to about four people, including the male friend of mine who later admitted that the boy kiss was “pretty good!”).

Nipples were caressed, water was spat and sprinkled, and the four musicians of Les Savy Fav (including silent trooper of a bassist Syd Butler) put on one of the finest, tightest performances this side of the recording studio. After a quick 45 minutes of our crowd shouting along the lyrics to great shit like “Scout's Honor” and “Yawn Yawn Yawn,” the group returned for a half-hour encore, with Harrington dressed as pantless Santa, offering his Christmas services to a timid audience member who sat all too excitedly on lap.

About five or six giant teddy bears were ripped apart, ass first, and tossed out to us only to get viciously decapitated. This, so each of us could claim a paw, head (or in my case, nose) to take home as a violently earned souvenir. Waves of cotton snow showered over us and created a layer on the floor by show's end. By the time we all left the venue, we were showing off our various bear parts to one another and watching some crazed fan run into the street at a red stoplight to shriek and wave around the head of a bear he'd captured. The next morning, Wilshire was comparably quiet, but some cotton stuffing could still be found as far as a block west of the theater. Les Savy Fav may very well be the sexiest band in the world.

Les Savy Fav - Scout's Honor
(from the fanfuckingtastic 3/5, released when Harrison Haynes and Andrew Reuland were merely credited as coyote handler and stunt man, respectively)

Also, purchase new record Let's Stay Friends to make up for the thousands who grabbed the leak instead.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

...and speaking of shows this week...

Cannot go without mentioning several more concert options for the week, which is already perking up to look "exciting" and "grand."

Squirrel Nut Zippers! tonight at the El Rey.
Eilen Jewell tonight at the Mint.
The Morning Benders...twice. Tomorrow at the Silverlake Lounge and Friday at the Echo. The others simply don't do flyers, but if you're curious about this third act, the Morning Benders are a folky pop group out o' the bay, quite similar to the Shins (thanks mostly to frontman Chris Chu's vocal pitch), and they haven't yet got an album out, as that's due in early 2008. They're darling as indie pop can be, and will be performing with local kids Let's Go Sailing on their Friday date. Oh! And they're offering a friggin' bargain of an EP package on their MySpace page. Go get 'er.

Hey ho, it's a show!

Marco Mahler is aye okaye!

These days, one should be reluctant to pay heed to a singer-songwriter whose one sheet makes reference to time spent in pre-gentrified Williamsburg – oh, the cred! – or finds its sole photo of the artist looking contemplative, scruffy, disheveled. If I had a dollar...

But Marco Mahler is a pleasant surprise who should be immediately plucked from the seemingly endless horde of stubbled and bearded folkies who keep threatening to hush the world. Last June, Mahler self-released the record Design in Quick Rotation, an effort so beautiful and simple that not much since David Thomas Broughton's 2005 record can comparably stand up to it. There sounds to be little here but a voice, a guitar and a beat barely louder than a footstep, save for the plugged-in guitar on “Think Tank” or additional light percussion on “Study Airports,” which do nothing to speed things up further. The simplicity is divine, as anything additional would damage the soothing nature of the record, and even Mahler's voice, semi-deep, semi-talky, is nearly unnoticeable under all that graceful picking (the latter of which is at its best on instrumentals like “Otmar Elmer” and “Go Crocodile”).

Mahler reportedly found lyrical influence in his wife's poetry, and his lyrics are certainly more poems than stories, somewhat primitive in sound with an adult's understanding. But lyrics aren't the strongest point here, and there's nothing lovelier, listening to Design in Quick Rotation, than hearing Mahler's fingers pluck strings in syncopation with all those faux-footsteps. One to consider for your Best of 2007 lists, particularly if you're a fan of Multi-Panel, Bert Jansch, the Books or David Thomas Broughton.

Fun Fact: For those who don't care much for interpretation, Mahler's also in the habit of mentioning food in nearly every song. He may be a poet but he's also a man.

Marco Mahler - Go Crocodile
Purchase Design in Quick Rotation
Be a cheapskate and listen to the album on MySpace.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

And speaking of Mick Jones...

Here's a shot of Mick Jones and his vampire teeth. Poor Mick Jones.

Carbon/Silicon at the Troubadour! Lordy!

Monday's Carbon/Silicon show was more heavy on the rock than anticipated (listen to some of the stuff off their website to gain a better understanding of this), and though certainly no Clash or Generation X, the Mick Jones-Tony James pairing is pulled off well when you've got a chance to see the differences in their mannerisms and styles. It was quite lucky that they managed a venue as tiny as the Troubadour, floor capacity 147, and while the show was sold out and rather packed with fans of all ages in black leather, it was also lucky that – save for one bastard who yelled out in inappropriate timing to “remember Joe Strummer” while Jones asked him nicely to quiet down – the audience was a polite bunch.

Mick Jones, to put it bluntly, comes off as a bit of a dandy; sort of a frail build, hunched shoulders, crows' feet around those permanently baggy eyes, delicate hand gestures to complement his speech. His teeth are dreadful and he's got white hair so high on his chest that it peeks up from under his shirt collar. He makes a cheap blue suit look even cheaper by pointing out that he's left in the pins, but somehow looks elegant and proper even when muttering up a storm of profanities under his breath and complaining about his irritating cuff links. Meanwhile, second guitarist Tony James (onetime London SS band mate and former Generation X bassist) has a thin crop of white hair all around his head, and sort of resembles a new age yoga instructor (though one that would get the ladies swooning, no doubt). He's the one in the band with the real looks, a smile like David Bowie's, pretty blue eyes, and a willingness to let his first couple of shirt buttons to go undone while he puckers and stands with his guitar over a bent knee. My mom dug him.

The band played a fairly short set, less than two hours and with no opener, plus they showed up late in the first place and stuck quite strictly to their set list, which contained no songs from either of their prior bands (and no, there were no Big Audio Dynamite requests). It was actually a refreshing change to see aging rock stars who didn't live in the past, instead opting to stick with what they'd started together in recent years. They're insisting with the music alone that they're not at all has-beens, and are a solid band in their own right, as Carbon/Silicon, which Jones pointed out as a solid 50/50 effort.

The show was also entertaining – Jones' voice hasn't changed a bit since his Clash days, and though he was a touch hard to hear during each song, except for the chorus of “What the Fuck?” during the band's encore, quite obviously, his nonsensical storytelling alone was worth the effort of admission. Stories ranged from “I was in Costa Rica and saw a yellow anteater” to “You know when you're on the moon looking back and you think, 'fuck?'” And then there was the one about being in another country with the Clash on tour and seeing all the food shops, somehow equating that to learning lots about other cultures. I dunno, he was an awkward speaker. But amusing nonetheless. And best of all, amid all the posing he and James did for what seemed every camera in the house, the two were smiling their asses off, showing themselves to be, quite possibly, the happiest band in the world.

Just added 12.12.07: Video clip! Video clip!