Monday, August 31, 2009

Os Mutantes at the Echoplex! August 28, 2009. Los Angeles, CA.

This Os Mutantes performance, in which singer/guitarist Sérgio Dias Baptista came to light as the face of the group as it had been founded in late '60s São Paulo, was all things animated, celebratory, joyous. Since their return a couple of years ago, the band has found a place with ANTI- Records and now has a fresh record to share, Haih Or Amortecedor, which was well-sampled at the Echoplex by a group which largely appears to consist of members half the age of its founders. No bother, though; they were all smiles to the nth degree.

“Querida Querida,” off the brand new Haih Or Amortecedor, found new female vocalist Bia Mendes, dressed to nudge forward the new adventures of Barbarella, exercising her face with the expression of a skilled telenovela actress. Meanwhile, the equally new “2000 e Agarrum” was positively maddening in the sense that a Spanish-language game show turns awkward when men in animal suits appear suddenly to announce bad news. “Baghdad Blues?” A little sleazy. But only a little. And it worked.

Of course, the night's encore consisted of “Bat Macumba,” perhaps the only song around whose lyrics are even more fun to read on paper than to hear aloud, and “Panis et Circenses,” a gem in its own right. Rarely does a band radiate pure sunshine as did Os Mutantes on this night, though when you're dressed to the nines for wizardry and space travel, it's only fair that your vibe matches your look, right?

Friday, August 28, 2009

Dungen at the Troubadour. August 26, 2009. West Hollywood, CA.

There was a point during “Ta Det Lugnt” at which Gustav Ejstes, after shouting the three words-as-chorus with a bit more height than usual, redirected his microphone toward the audience so it could echo his “lugnt.” What, because we're any good with phonetic Swedish? With a squint here or there, now and then, one could even make out the appearance of lips opening and closing along with Ejstes, faking it through a mouthing of foreign lyrics.

While Ejstes danced and shook a literal fever out of his system, taking an occasional break to psych out on piano or flute (his eighth flute, says he), bassist Mattias Gustavsson rocked a fro, and a modest blue drum kit transformed into a booming hero by way of mallet. The group, modest and quiet, represented by Ejstes' constant shrug of shyness, brought peace and cool with its psychedelic folk-rock, a real feat in this tiny and stuffed black room. Also noteworthy were openers Kurt Vile and Woods, who respectively played a lovely banjo and made incense look sort of badass.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Here came the Sonics!!! (The Sonics at the Echoplex. 8.21.09. Los Angeles, CA)

It's been a very hit or miss time with all these reunions over the last few years (heavens, I feel a theme stirring 'round these parts), but let it be said that of all the bands recently reveling in their decades-old catalogues, the Sonics are, thus far, the most successful of the bunch. There's nothing sad about watching them return to a set of 1960s hits, because, truly, those songs were perfect pieces of punk rock then, and the men driving them have still got the oomph to pull them off as perfect pieces of punk rock today.

At the Echoplex last Friday, prior to their Sunset Junction appearance (on Sunday), they threw around an expected array of hits – “Dirty Robber,” “Psycho,” “Strychnine,” that goddamned “Louie, Louie.” The Wailers' Ricky Lynn Johnson, moving his mouth in an unfortunate gumming motion while taking in air, is their drummer at present, a fine one at that, and Gerry Roslie, though using what appeared to be an inhaler between songs, still showed himself to be a hell of a screamer, even in his 60s. Saxophone player Rob Lind appeared the happiest of the bunch, sort of had that ah hell, it's all in good fun look about him, and did a decent job of balancing out the seriousness that was painted on Roslie's face for the entire set.

It wouldn't be surprising if the band managed to make it as a group in their 70s; they're certainly able to keep up with their 45-year old songs, still played loud, hard, and somewhat as fuzzy. And they are, by far, the best thing to come from Tacoma, Washington.

The best live footage I've seen of the Sonics' recent performances, shot by Avery Strok, can be found here.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Pissed Jeans at the Troubadour. 8.15.09. West Hollywood, CA.

Trekking through the nostalgic sludge of a Pissed Jeans record – any of them – makes it easy to miss the humorous lyrics barked out beside a thick, heavy grind of bass and grungy guitar. Read those to “I'm Sick” (off 2005's Shallow) and then try to make out the audible component. Matt Korvette's sounding a bit sloshy, yes? But the Pissed Jeans live experience more than compensates, essentially transforming the band into the unabashed Matt Korvette Show, showing whoever's playing audience what it is to lead a band, and what it is to bring humor rather than a self-aware need to make a statement.

Walking the line between revolting shamelessness and ironic sex appeal, Korvette hovers somewhere between Iggy Pop and Tim Harrington, a routine of shakes, swaggers, gut rolls, and angst. Fuck if he can't charge his way through a fighter of an introduction like “False Jesii Part 2” (off the brand-new King of Jeans), though the new “R-Rated Movie” makes for an awkward soundtrack to some awkwardly...ah...PG-13-rated dancing. It's a pity the Troubadour didn't fill up to see him thank us for “being respectful,” all the while moving with an appalling awareness of his body and its functions.

And lurvely opener Lamps:

Friday, August 7, 2009

I guess 1982 has officially passed.

Apparently everybody's dying these days; Willy DeVille, of onetime Mink DeVille fame, died August 6 of pancreatic cancer, which had allegedly only been discovered during preparation for hepatitis C treatment. Willy/Mink DeVille didn't have the same impact on me as, say, the Cramps (so there aren't any long, sad anecdotes to share as there had been for Lux Interior), but I would like to share "Spanish Stroll." Why? A few years ago, while listening to Steve Jones' Jonesy's Jukebox on the radio, I once heard "Spanish Stroll" and found it pleasantly kitschy, pleasantly poppy...just pleasant. And then I snapped up a bunch of Mink DeVille records (which are, I hate to say it, easily accessible in most vinyl bins for under five bucks), and had a nice listening party with the self. Have a listen and perhaps do the same.

Mink DeVille - Spanish Stroll

In news nearly as depressing, Richard Hell is going to release Destiny Street Repaired on September 1, and it's available for complete, free stream until August 12. What is it? It's a re-done version of Richard Hell and the Voidoids' Destiny Street, complete with rhythm tracks spared from the 1982 recording, though this time with new lead guitar and vocal tracks that've been recently recorded. Is it necessary? Absolutely not. Is it something over which to be curious? A little bit. There's an anecdote that comes with this, too. About four years ago, I had a chance to meet Richard Hell at a meet-and-greet in New York, and though I was initially put off by his shiny button-down, I was charmed by his authentic slur and learned that he's actually a really nice guy. We had a good one-on-one chat for a few minutes, though mostly about his cat, which he imitated quite well, and by the time I'd left, realizing, sweet Jesus, I just heard Richard Hell meow, it occurred to me that an aging punk rocker is just an aging man with a slur leftover from whatever drugs he's once done. And that is exactly what Destiny Street Repaired sounds like.