SONIC REDUCER In the best of all music fans' worlds, an album will grow on you — like lichen, excessive body hair, or a parasite à la guinea worm, only with more pleasure and less arterial spray, I pray. You like it more and more as you play-repeat-play. It starts with an ear-catching opening track or appetite-whetting overture, as that well-worn pop recipe goes, and builds momentum until track three or four. That one should sink its little tenterhooks into you and refuse to let go until you listen to it once again or upload it to your iPod or whatever musical delivery system serves the addiction.
That analyzed, it's amazing how some bands, like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, can go from compulsively listenable to annoying with one album, Show Your Bones (Interscope). Too bad because the YYYs still stand out, like a slash of smeared red lipstick, as one of the few female-fronted groups to emerge from that much hyped, new-rock New York music scene of the early ’00s. That barely sublimated burden of representation, the YYYs' association with the Liars and the more artistically ambitious NYC crew, as well as the heightened critical expectations after the strength of 2003's Fever to Tell hasn't helped Show. Once the flurry of screeching, obscuring noise and rockabilly riffs are stripped away and the songs are spruced up in the studio, the poppier YYYs sound deathly similar to peers like the Strokes at their most singsong ("Dudley," "Mysteries"). O's slight lyrics are exposed as the slender vehicles they are — her piercing tone, which cut through the distortion in the past, simply seems affected.
Even when O toys with teasing double entendre on "Cheating Hearts," confutf8g the act of taking off a ring with a sexed-up strip ("Well I'm / Taka-taka-taka-taka-takin' it off / And she's / Taka-taka-taka-taka-takin' it off / And he's / Taka-taka-taka-taka-takin' it off / And we're / Taka-taka-taka-taka-takin' it off"), the story doesn't go anywhere beyond the (again, repeated) lines "Sometimes / I think that I'm bigger / Than the sound." The entire enterprise gives up the reheated, ego-stroking aroma of Zep knockoffs like Heart. That wouldn't necessarily be bad, if those commercial rock invocations seemed to serve more than an ego that seems "something like a phenomena, baby" (see the key fourth track, "Phenomena"). This album feels like a grandiose, strident, ultimately airheaded mess — all Show, no go.
“Fab Mab” flap
I was a humongoid Flipper fan back in the day, but, truthfully, I wasn't thinking too hard about the imminent "Fab Mab Reunion" show featuring the SF dadaist-punk legends and Mabuhay Gardens regulars the Dead Kennedys, the Avengers, and the Mutants. The reunion part of the show's name brought out ex-DK vocalist Jello Biafra, who issued the statement, "No, it is not a Dead Kennedys reunion. Yes, I am boycotting the whole scam. These are the same greedmongers who ran to corporate lawyers and sued me for over six years in a dispute sparked by my not wanting 'Holiday in Cambodia' sold into a Levi's commercial. They now pimp Dead Kennedys in the same spirit as Mike Love suing Brian Wilson over and over again, then turning around and playing shows as the Beach Boys."
I was curious about the pimping notion. The idea can't help but cross one's mind with the crowded pit of punk reunion shows (including the Flesh Eaters; see "Zombies Are Back!" page 35), all within spittin' distance of each other in the past few years. So I spoke to Flipper drummer Steve DePace, who put together the "reunion" after the band's first performance after a "10-year hiatus" (Bruno DeMartis sitting in for the late Will Shatter) at a CBGB's benefit last year. Following that, they answered a request to play LA's closing Olympic Auditorium. "I thought to myself, in the spirit of the funnest days of my career back in the late ’70s and early ’80s at the Mabuhay Gardens — when that scene was flourishing and that club served as the hub to the punk rock scene that developed in SF — what if we were to do a show with that vibe?" says the 49-year-old ex–animation industry project manager, who now lives in LA. "What are the bands around that are still playing from back in those days?
"Listen, Flipper is not making a ton of money," he continues, adding that Flipper has reformed because they still have a passionate audience. To DePace, the most famous of those Flipper fans was likely Kurt Cobain, who wore his homemade Flipper T-shirt on TV and magazine covers. Of course, there were no official Flipper shirts, he says. "Back in those days we were not into the commerce," he explains. "No one thought about selling merchandise — nowadays it's the biggest thing. People gobble it up." Just keep feeding.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs
April 28 and 29
982 Market, SF
Call for time and price.
"Fab Mab Reunion"
Sat/8, 9 p.m.
1805 Geary, SF
GET A LOAD OF HIS DOWNLOAD
After supporting his buddies the Shins and finding inspiration on Fleetwood Mac's Future Games (Reprise, 1971), ex-Califone side guy Eric Johnson made one of the loveliest, most underrated indie pop LPs of 2005, Spelled in Bones (Sub Pop). Images of blood injury (the legacy of cutting his head open as a five-year-old and, later, one auto accident too many) crop up, as does a ref to that distinctively northern Midwestern "land of sky blue waters" from the old Hamm's beer commercial. Johnson's obviously comfortable listening in the past, judging from these items in the iTunes library on his new computer:
•Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band, Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller) (Bizarre/Straight/EMI)
•Bob Dylan, Blonde on Blonde (Columbia)
•Kinks, Muswell Hillbillies (Rhino/WEA)
•Steve Martin, A Wild and Crazy Guy (WEA)
•Meat Puppets, Meat Puppets II (SST/Rykodisc)
•Rod Stewart, Every Picture Tells a Story (Polygram)
•Kelley Stoltz, Below the Branches (Sub Pop); "Favorite thing I've heard this year so far."
•T. Rex, The Slider (Rhino/WEA); "I listen to it when I clean house."
Fruit Bats play Mon/10, 8 p.m., the Independent, 628 Divisadero, SF. $10–$12. (415) 771-1421
MORE, MORE, MORE
Italy's punky musical absurdists swing through town once more, after last year's power-packed Hemlock and Cookie Factory dates. SF experimentalists the Molecules also reunite. Fri/7, 9:30 p.m., Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk, SF. $7. (415) 923-0923
The Seattle musician makes moody folk songs with a bleeding edge; check his second album, This Murder Is a Peaceful Gathering (Denimclature). Jean Marie, the Blank Tapes, and 60 Watt Kid also play. Thurs/6, 8:30 p.m., Hotel Utah Saloon, 500 Fourth St., SF. $6. (415) 546-6300
Enrico Rava and Stefano Bollani
The Trieste trumpet-player and Bollani back up their recent album, Tati (ECM), while collaborator, drummer Paul Motian, remains in NYC. Enrico Pieranunzi fills out this il Jazz Italiano bill. Fri/7, 8 p.m., Herbst Theatre, 401 Van Ness, SF. $25–$51. (415) 621-6600, www.sfjazz.org