Monday, November 24, 2008

Nodzzz/Abe Vigoda/Vivian Girls/Love is All. The Smell. November 18, 2008.

Though the galloping rhythm of Abe Vigoda was pushed back from its previously listed headlining space and into that sophomore hole known as the supporting slot, the Smell was already quite full when they took the stage early on and after rather friendly rockers Nodzzz. There was dissonance. There was a pit! And there was Sweden.

New York's Vivian Girls, who visually represent Williamsburg, played dumb, open-chord punk rock as it's meant and harmonized with apathy like a riot grrl act straight out of the '90s. They're nice girls in banter and slightly vicious in their delivery – an odd match, then, but a perfect lead-in for Sweden's Love is All, who are perhaps the happiest looking group to play at the Smell in some time.

Fronted by dainty Mia Farrow look-alike Josephine Olausson, whose accent is sweet and thick, and supplemented with the sax action of Åke Strömer, whose glasses are perfectly '80s, Love is All seemed to bring together the mods and rockers for a big merry dancefest, with everything from their debut's “Talk Talk Talk Talk” to a cover of “I Ran” (off their recent Covers EP). It was also a perfect opportunity to hear Markus Görsch play his drums oh-so-rapidly on “Make Out Fall Out Make Up.” On the whole, every act on the bill was a joy not to be missed!

Abe Vigoda:

Friday, November 21, 2008

The (International) Noise Conspiracy at the Eagle Rock Center for the Arts. November 14, 2008.

Despite their compromises, every visit to Los Angeles made by the (International) Noise Conspiracy seems to find its gaps filled by lively shows at intimate venues, the way they're meant to be seen. And for all my gripes this time around, the band supplemented its label obligation with headlining shows at El Cid and the Eagle Rock Center for the Arts.

The night of the latter, we got all squished and cozy up in front of that stage, barely a foot high. The band played a loud version of “Smash it Up” and gave a performance of “A Body Treatise” slightly less raunchy than on the previous night. People up front knew every word of every song – save for the new ones, of course – and it was sort of terrifying to see how intensely some followed along, though I suppose for this reason it's rather handy that (I)NC's given up on “Communist Moon” for the meantime.

In any case, this set made up for the night before on a number of levels; for one, it was bluntly stated that the band rarely plays old songs – not because they don't believe in them – but because they've forgotten how to play them. That, and they'd rather move forward (though, really, they've probably just forgotten how to play the old songs). Excused. And when they're headlining an intimate space, even the more recent tracks, those that lack the same fire as the old, develop a fury that can't be replicated on record. On top of the fact, it was great to see band members walking around and interacting with their fans (prior to putting on those flashy purple suits, natch), watching the smaller names before them, dancing to music between sets and above all else proving that they're good enough for a greater setting but are by no means above anything less. This group of men – to this day, they may be one of the best live rock bands in the world.

P.S. Even Swedes understand the joke of L.A. suburbs - upon declaring that they were "happy to be here in Eagle Rock," Dennis Lyxzen giggled a little and said "good times."

P.P.S. Also check out fanfuckingtastic opener Slang Chickens, who'll be at the Echo in Echo Park on December 14. They're essentially cowpunkers, one of whom makes some vicious noise with a banjo (best suited to fans of Gun Club-style punk).

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The (International) Noise Conspiracy at Club Nokia. November 13, 2008.

Forgive the indulgent “I” statements and high school attitude that follow; I've watched the (International) Noise Conspiracy open for the Offspring and – as of this week – Taking Back Sunday, and though it's petty to resent a mere band for performing at large, corporate-owned venues with touring bands they clearly dislike, I started resenting this band for doing so despite preaching against capitalism and the like since the start of their musical career. It's hypocritical to preach against “the man” and then allow said Man with a capital “M” to promote your art to a greater audience. Even musicians need to make a living, but to compromise this deeply?

I fell in love with T(I)NC for sparking my interest in topics like socialism, communism and anarchism, systems I never really learned about in school. That they promoted reading and independent thought, and introduced me to Emma Goldman, now a minor hero of mine, via a briefly shown quote in a stupid music video with stupid lyrics and a swinging tune. This band, I fell in love with for its '60s aesthetic and fierce style, and the unmatched scream of its frontman, previously the center of what may be the best hardcore band of all time. I loved what this band stood for, and the way it presented itself.

Thursday evening, however, its performance was wedged between skate-rappers 3OH!3, whose best line was “Do the Helen Keller and talk with your hips,” and a chunk of that genre which refuses to call itself emo, Taking Back Sunday. Bands have been accused of selling out many times, but this wasn't selling out the way a band like, say, TV on the Radio has been accused (in which a good band gets signed to a major, continues to release good records, and finally gets credit for its work). No, this was a solid band getting lumped into an MTV lineup, performing to girls and guys with hair straightened and sideswept (not respectively), themselves now looking like a parody.

The political talk was more lukewarm than usual – Obama's just one man, we the people ought to take over the White House, no, I haven't made this speech twenty times before – and the group came out looking like a Topanga Canyon project of Devendra's, or perhaps a crop of extras from Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. Purple suits, Dennis Lyxzén in a cape, the group one haircut shy of looking forty years too late (said exception being bass player Inge Johansson, the perpetually clean cut goth). Per usual, there was “Up for Sale” (why yes, yes we are), “Capitalism Stole My Virginity,” and “Black Mask (2004),” which has permanently replaced 1999's “Black Mask,” one of the simplest yet most vicious songs in their catalog.

But in an unexpected turn, Lyxzén quotes his “good friend” Patti Smith on the definition of rock and roll, and then says, “but I'm just not feeling it tonight – too much bad politics, bad music, bad haircuts.” A swipe at his tour mates and the audience standing before him, and it completely goes over the heads of all. So the band launches into “Waiting for Salvation,” and Lyxzén jumps off an Orange amp, well over the head of guitarist Lars Stromberg, whose Mick Avory face is now covered with the history of Southern rock, and a complete set of speakers on stage right goes out, perhaps in an odd turn of karma.

We're pissed, but we cheer when the sound returns, at which point we've missed some comments about Sweden being a complete turnaround from L.A., and then...god, yes, “A Body Treatise.” A rather handy cameraperson manages to shift the direction of the camera (whose footage is projected beside the stage) during a simulated act of fellatio, rather par for the song, and the band transitions into “I Am the Dynamite,” their new atheist anthem. By the time the show ends, Lyxzén has ripped off the upper half of his suit to reveal a well-established Straight Edge tattoo on his lower back, and the band concludes with fists in the air, Constantines-style, receiving few props from an audience who'd given greater cheers to the dope beats or whatever of 3OH!3.

Has this band become too good for its songs? Part two to follow...

T(I)NC - Waiting for Salvation
Purchase Bigger Cages, Longer Chains
T(I)NC - A Body Treatise (live)
Purchase Live at the Oslo Jazz Festival

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

TV on the Radio. The Wiltern, Los Angeles. November 6, 2008.

There's not much to say about TV on the Radio that you haven't already read (or, for that matter, heard firsthand). Their live show is so incredibly different from their recordings - without the precision of sound that comes with a production job, on stage they are far more energetic, spontaneous and powerful. Regardless of how many times they've performed "Staring at the Sun" to an audience, it will always come out as more of a dance tune on stage. Regardless of how many audiences have seen a live rendition of "The Wrong Way," Tunde Adebimpe will frantically hop as fast as its beat will go. This was the case in 2005, and it's the case in 2008.

There was a fair variety of album coverage, actually with a lack of emphasis on recent release Dear Science, "Halfway Home" and "Dancing Choose" arriving a little later and sort of blending in, with only the latter, it seemed, earning the same enthusiasm as a particularly passionate "Young Liars" as opener, or Return to Cookie Mountain's "Wolf Like Me." The band was joined onstage by a brass section that included sax player Stuart Bogie of Antibalas, who ran a happy lap around the stage during "The Wrong Way," and invited up openers the Dirtbombs to round out their vast percussion ensemble for an encore performance of "A Method."

The Dirtbombs themselves, for such a band of badasses, are actually quite square. And that's kind of cute. The "Frere Jacque" opening riff of their "Underdog" cover never gets old (and almost sounds more deep and dark on Mick Collins' guitar than on the Sly and the Family Stone original). Their dueling drummers, respectively a teddy bear and a literal whistleblower, eventually shared the hell out of one drum kit until nearly all other equipment from the band's set had been taken down. And though the majority of the gorgeous, thick glasses-donning, crappy beer- and fruity concoction-drinking audience had come for the excellent TV on the Radio, the Dirtbombs fared quite well in such a large venue.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Swedes are back! The Swedes are back!

Hey ho! It's an exciting concert update. See, I'm a nerd for this band of Swedes who've somehow gotten less famous and more polished over the last few years, the (International) Noise Conspiracy, and while their albums have admittedly grown less and less urgent over the years, their live show remains - not much contest here - the BEST. The best.

It so happens that this band of Swedes will be in Los Angeles this week. Initially, they were set for an opening slot with Taking Back Sunday at Club Nokia. Yes, this is still set to be. However, they've done the right thing and added on two small headlining shows as well. These dates are not to be missed and are as follows:

November 12 - El Cid
November 13 - Club Nokia
November 14 - Center for the Arts (2225 Colorado Blvd., Eagle Rock)

Additionally, their brand new record, The Cross of My Calling, will be released on November 25 (US) and November 14 (Europe). They would rather you pay for literature than their album, so they've placed the album on their My Space page as a free stream. It's not their best by a longshot, but it's better than their last effort, to be sure. Have a listen and spend your money on Living My Life, then. But support their live performances, as they are simply tops!*

*Also, watching Dennis Lyxzen slither around to "A Body Treatise" is an 11/10 on the scale of sexy, and this song is almost guaranteed to be on the set list.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

You disappoint me, California.

Unless you've been living under a rock (not talking to you, Osama), you've heard that California managed to help elect a reasonably liberal president and simultaneously reject the right to gay marriage, mere months after a ban was deemed unconstitutional here. What happened to our liberal bias? 61% vote for the Democratic candidate, and still, we send in 5.4 million votes in favor of Prop. 8? Even Los Angeles county, the greater home to West Hollywood, voted with a 50/50 split, leaning slightly in favor of a ban. We're flaky bastards, we Californians.

Anyway, it's for occasions like this that the great piece known as the petition exists, and whether it's for you, a friend, or a token gay uncle, consider signing one of the (many) petitions to challenge this ban. Marriage is for love, in most cases, but without the right to marriage, half of a gay couple may not have hospital visitation rights, Social Security/tax benefits or family leave from work. "Religious tradition" may apply, but plenty of heterosexual couples neglect that "til death do us part" nonsense in favor of divorce, and if an Atheist can marry, so can a gay man or woman.