Music

A Beautiful Mind

"It is rare to be amongst such collective beauty," gushed slightly delirious host Winona Ryder Thursday at Index Magazine's Night With JT LeRoy and Friends, a tribute to the 23-year-old gay "It boy" 's literary and celebrity status (Winona called him "the beautiful JT," while Garbage's Shirley Manson wryly designated JT "our little genius"). Manson, Debbie Harry, Vanessa Carlton, Rosario Dawson, and Tatum O'Neal, among others, read from LeRoy's eccentric lot-lizard confessional Sarah(soon to be a film by Secretary's Steven Shainberg) and short story collection The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things (soon to be a film by Asia Argento, for whom JT has apparently fathered a child). Most offered testimony to LeRoy's power—Carlton (a proxy for her boyfriend, Third Eye Blind's Stephan Jenkins) confessed her sweetie had "exploited" the work of LeRoy in order to court her. Ryder declared that his writing has a "beautiful effect . . . it doesn't exist in our language." The famously shy JT himself, with enormous blond hair, huge sunglasses, and a purple-and-black outfit (including some sort of neo-bustle), made but one teensy appearance, introducing "his" band Thistle (he writes the lyrics).

After their enthusiastic set of wistful, vocally powered pop, Thistle (whose two performing members raise their five-year-old son, Thor, with "co-dad" JT, in San Francisco) received a standing ovation from their babysitter. Guitarist Astor wore a "raccoon penis bone" necklace (JT sells these Sarahtalismans on his Web site: "sexual amulets, used from Texas to Appalachia to enhance sexual luck"). Singer Speedie, a lovely redhead affecting a strong British accent, charmingly bantered between their five songs, one of which—unremarkable except for a predictably dramatic chorus entreating, "Know thyself, because I cannot be yours"—was written for Thistle by Billy Corgan. But while Madonna blurbs the band on www.jtleroy.com as "very cool and angry sounding," Thistle didn't sound angry. Excepting the effervescent last and best number, the music was somber and reflective—an appropriate soundtrack for this benefit for the McAuley psychiatric treatment program. As Ryder quipped, "We all may need their services." —Hillary Chute


Cocktail Nation

Mexican radio banned Molotov, and no record store would touch its politically vicious and raunchy debut album—¿Dónde Jugarán las Niñas?—six years ago. Topping the charts only months later effectively made the genre-hopping funk-rap-metal quartet a successor to the aging Clash-styled punkers Tijuana No! Members of that border-town group would goose-step, the lead singer wearing a mask of former California governor Pete Wilson as he sang "Gringos Klu Klux Klanes," protesting Wilson's anti-immigration policies. So when this Mexico City group dedicated its most controversial and misunderstood song, "Puto," to Bush and "his boss" last Monday at Irving Plaza, it came as no surprise that most fans cheered a notch louder. The three Chilangos and a gringo tag-teamed on vocals and played musical chairs on drums and guitars, hurling verbal grenades at the Mexican government as well as anyone who'd get in the way of a party or a lay. Fratty lyrics about culinary sex (laying it on thick with "Here Comes the Mayo," from Y Tu Mamá También) mixed it up with Bolshevik dogma ("Everyone in the pit, flip off those in the V.I.P. area," the band instructed fans before "Gimme tha Power"). Purposeful irony doesn't escape them, either. Performing "Frijolero (Beaner)," a languid, Old West-inspired polka-cumbia off their recent third release, Dance and Dense Denso, Randy Ebright (the son of an ex-DEA agent) used his best American drawl to spit curses at "beaners on the wrong side of the goddamn river," while in Spanish, Tito Fuentes, Mickey Huidobro, and Paco Ayala responded in chorus, "Don't call me a frijolero, pinche gringo." Then, turning the mosh-ready political rally into a macho-flavored sex talk show, the group pulled girls onto the stage as props for their testosterone-laden "Changüich a la Chichona" rap about big-breasted women as snack food, followed by the reggae-metal "Rastaman-dita" (from Apocalypshit), with its images of desirable papayas and mangos. Lascivious food for thought hasn't been this good since the Tibetan Freedom Festivals. —Enrique Lavin


Postal Living

With war, snowstorms, smoking bans, fare increases, and crippling budget cuts, this New York City April was cruel indeed. Thankfully, momentary relief was provided on Saturday when Ben Gibbard—indie's own J. Alfred Prufrock, unable to eat a peach without passive-aggressively dithering and/or using an SAT word—paid a visit to the Bowery Ballroom with his electropop ensemble, the Postal Service. The group—a collaboration between the Death Cab for Cutie frontguy Gibbard and Cali IDM wizard Jimmy Tamborello (a/k/a DNTEL)—recently dropped Give Up (Sub Pop), a fluttering, flirting debut. The pairing is perfect—in their day jobs, Gibbard's brainy songcraft occasionally shudders under the weight of his thesaurus, and Tamborello's circuitous, circuited compositions often paste when they should be cutting. Here, Gibbard brings the power pop and Tamborello brings the PowerBook, together singing (and typing) out beautifully skittery songs for the heart, head, and hard drive.

"Should we be dancing?" asked a prim, Teach for America type in front of me. The worthy question went unanswered as Gibbard switched from guitar to drums, sweating and swooning for a crowd used to bobbing with its neck, not its ass. Then again, so is he: In "Clark Gable," Gibbard sang a song about making a movie about kissing a girl, and in the majestic "Brand New Colony" he cried "Everything will change" in the sadly self-aware manner of an overeducated dreamer. But whenever the hetero-male moping got too pomo, the spotlight switched to honorary postwoman Jenny Lewis, the sullenly sexy singer-songwriter of Rilo Kiley. On "Nothing Better," Gibbard and Lewis danced about architecture, duetting on what's possibly the world's first post-emo song. As He moans about marriage and lost love, She smartly interrupts, supplying charts and graphs about why she ditched him. It's disco/not disco, love/not love, kiss/kiss-off. The encore was an irony-deficient glitchcore rendition of Phil Collins's "Against All Odds." "Take a look at me now," Gibbard sighed, while behind him Tamborello surfed Nerve.com, Googled "true romance," and downloaded another surprisingly wholehearted dose of heartbreak.—Andy Greenwald

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