Streets of Your Town: This week's concerts, with Stevie Nicks, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Amanda Palmer, and more
10:33 am Jun. 25, 2012
There was no outpouring of affection when The Flatlanders (June 25, B.B. King's) split up in 1973—no awards show tributes, no sold-out farewell tour. Instead, the group unraveled just as quietly as it began, its three members—Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Joe Ely, and Butch Hancock—amicably parting ways and embarking on solo careers. Time has a strange way of intervening, though. Their individual reputations grew steadily over the next 20 years and, in 1990, Rounder Records released More a Legend Than a Band, a slightly-modified reissue of the Flatlanders' one and only album, from 1972—which, in perhaps the most revealing indication of the band's marginality during their existence—had been released only as an 8-track tape. The Rounder reissue netted the band a more appreciative audience, and their yawning vocals and cockeyed lyrics formed the basis for the ensuing alt-country boom. The group has sporadically reunited over the past several years and recorded a handful of new albums. Next month, they'll release The Odessa Tapes, a compilation of the group's earliest songs that were previously assumed lost. That the 1971 recordings are the group's newest release is oddly appropriate; The Flatlanders are a band that are happily living their career in reverse. Another country trio given to sporadic reunions is Crosby, Stills & Nash (June 26, Wellmont Theatre), though to simply say their original bow was "more successful" than the Flatlanders would be something of an understatement. The career of jittery indie group the Feelies (June 29, Maxwell's) is closer; the group stopped and stalled repeatedly after releasing the massively influential Crazy Rhythms, but last year's glimmering Here Before proves they've lost none of their anxious energy.
The New York duo Silver Apples (June 26, BAM Café) share the Flatlanders peculiar popularity-to-inspiration ratio. Formed in the late '60s, the New York duo wrote hypnotic, percussive songs that feel in some ways like a template for the locked-joint motorik groove that would form the backbone of songs by Krautrock groups like Neu! and Can. Where those groups are ruthlessly stentorian, though, there's something mystic and almost science-fictiony about the music of Silver Apples. (It's no coincidence their name comes from a reference in a poem by William Butler Yeats to "the silver apples of the moon.") Much of that is due to the fact that the group made their music using a series of oscillators, instruments that produced weird, wavelike sounds that recall electric bolts in a mad scientist's laboratory. With its strange whooshes and blips, the group's self-titled debut created a roadmap for groups like Stereolab, who mimicked its blank-stare approach to songwriting, and Spacemen 3, whose songs had a similarly percussive drone. They're also, in many ways, the inventors of a certain strain of minimal electronic music—the thudding rhythms and neon streaks of sound feeling, at this distance, like an early, unknowing stab at IDM. After the death of collaborator Danny Taylor in 2005, frontman Simeon Turner has been mostly performing alone under the Silver Apples moniker—leaving one man responsible for a universe of sound. You can hear traces of the Silver Apples in the duo Peaking Lights (June 29, 70 N. 6th St., above Public Assembly), who also create twinkling, hypnotic songs that employ gauzelike, interstellar synthesizers. The guitarist Marc Ribot (June 26, Village Vanguard) also has a mean experimental streak. His jagged tone defined records like Tom Waits' Rain Dogs as well as more outré entries by John Zorn, and his solo records flirt with jazz and no wave. Codeine (June 29, The Bell House) slow The Silver Apples' space-traveling feel to a merciless crawl. Each of their songs feels like a great heave followed by a greater collapse, frigid guitars dropping from above like giant icicles.
Amanda Palmer's (June 27, Music Hall of Williamsburg) music can be icy in a different way. Beginning with the music she made in the early '00s with the Dresden Dolls, and continuing through her recent solo outings, Palmer has pursued a kind of doomy version of '30s music-hall songs—stomping, minor-key, piano-driven songs over which she drapes her dramatic, sobbing alto. There is an emotional unguardedness to Palmer's songs—her lyrics can be ruthlessly blunt. "My friend has maladies/ rickets and allergies/ that she dates back to the 17th century," she howls in "Runs in the Family," "Somehow she manages/ In her misery, she strips in the city." This knack for Edward Gorey-style directness has netted Palmer a considerable fanbase. She recently raised a staggering $1 million on the crowdfunding site Kickstarter to fund a new record, tour, and art book (she had set a modest goal of $100,000). Such fealty is a fine reward for Palmer's ruthless commitment to her vision. Both Stevie Nicks (June 29, Jones Beach) and Cassandra Wilson (June 28-29, Blue Note) command a similar loyalty, for more or less the same reasons. Nicks, arguably one of pop's greatest songwriters, has the ability to write lyrics that pulse simultaneously with both anger and longing while Wilson, arguably one of pop's greatest interpreters, applies her smoky croon to songs by everyone from U2 to Oscar Hammerstein, instilling each of them with a rare elegance.
Elegance is not something found in the music of Japandroids (June 27, Bowery Ballroom). But what they lack in class, they make up for in euphoria. The Canadian duo recently released the aptly-titled Celebration Rock, which is full of bright, bashing songs about the joys of being alive. They would know: While on tour for their last record, Post-Nothing, frontman Brian King suffered a perforated ulcer, (as he described it in an interview with Rolling Stone, "your stomach kind of explodes"), a condition that quickly becomes fatal without the proper medical attention. In that context, the rah-rah punk rock on Celebration feels like a raucous sigh of relief. Every song crests in a shout-along chorus—gang vocals uproariously belting out some big, grinning variation of "Whoaah!"—and rushes forward as if it's trying to outrun time. In a musical landscape that can at times feel overrun with cynicism, such an unapologetic sonic serotonin rush is a welcome relief. Chief Keef (June 25, S.O.B.’s), on the other hand, rocketed to popularity by talking about things he hates. The 16-year-old Chicago rapper's profile has been steadily rising over the past year, netting an assist from Kanye West, who appropriated Keef's bleary "I Don't Like" to make a hit of his own. The clattering indie-country group Roadside Graves (June 28, Pianos) also have a few things they don't like—one of which is the modern method of music consumption. "It ain't much consolation when you're staring at a screen," they sing, "compared to the satisfaction of staring at a record sleeve." Their music accordingly delivers old-time cowboy crooning with a punk rock snarl. The outlook of the metal band Gaza (June 25, St. Vitus) is is even less sunny. Their last record was called He is Never Coming Back, and the "He" of the title is divine. Their thick, tarry riffs are the sound of suffocating despair.
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