All You Need Is L-O-V

Five clever suburban panhandlers huddled around the letters “LOV” written out in nickels, dimes, and quarters on the sidewalk outside the Limelight’s main entrance. “Help us make love on the sidewalk,” they yelled, reaching out to a nearby and similarly futuristic-tribal-warrior-punk-uniformed posse to get enough silver to form that E. An enterprising transient man decided to make some love of his own by poking fun at the youths, then hitting them up for money. It was a balmy Wednesday night, and there was a playful air hovering over this trenchcoatless, Marilyn Manson-worshiping crew as they waited to be let into Mindless Self Indulgence’s record release party.

What the Beasties are to hip-hop, MSI are to industrial music. Like the B Boys, Mindless Self Indulgence are a bunch of New York punk rock brats putting an obnoxiously cool spin on a straight-faced genre (the quartet also share the Beasties’ affinity for hip-hop). Their alphabetically organized Elektra debut, Frankenstein Girls Will Seem Strangely Sexy, brims with 30 severely un-p.c. rap-metal-industrial ditties like “Dicks Are for My Friends” and “Bitches,” served up in under an hour, tongue planted firmly in cheek (at least that’s what the album’s disclaimer says). Live, singer Little Jimmy Urine is known for classy acts like flashing the audience and then peeing on them. Tonight, Urine—clad in a USC marching band outfit, before stripping down to a French maid’s uniform—goosed a guitar tech with the plastic end of a feather duster. Pointed to guitarist Steve, Righ? and said, “He wrote the faggot part of that song.” Made a midsong dash across the crammed dance floor to the bar directly opposite the stage, hopped up on the counter, and asked for a drink. And raced up to the club’s glass-encased, label-exec-filled VIP section overlooking the dance floor to sing the encore, his dyed-pink, dreaded head peeping out the window. The rest of the group played along to the cluttered din of samples and breakbeats, adding to the mix some hefty Limp Bizkit-style thrash, though Urine held out on the nookie—his bladder was probably empty. —Lorne Behrman

Polyphonic Perversity

Dave Douglas can play Balkan jazz, klezmer jazz, even Egyptian jazz, but can he play, uh, jazzy jazz? Making his simultaneous major label and Village Vanguard debut, the trumpeter suddenly found himself placed in front of an audience that valued improvisatory aplomb over conceptual hubris, and he’s always shown more of the latter. His tribute albums to Wayne Shorter and Booker Little challenged critical orthodoxy more than the kind of pieties usually offered with the passing of the generational torch.

Sure, he could simply play like a slightly less dexterous Little, but what makes him interesting is his interpretive audacity; he uses historical figures like Shorter, Little, even Joni Mitchell to grind his own ax. On Soul on Soul (RCA), pianist Mary Lou Williams provides the occasion for a record mostly filled with Douglas originals, and—apart from a few stride diversions by the ever agile Uri Caine—it pretty much sticks with the mid-’60s styles young players with decidedly different ideologies were mining a decade ago.

But Douglas is hardly a neo-nostalgia act, and his opening set at the Vanguard offset any expectations that his venue or label would alter his style. Rather, it made him seem even more stridently postmodern, playing with, say, blues, Latin, or swing, more than really playing them. Wading through the polymorphously perverse polyphony of Josh Roseman and Greg Tardy, Douglas’s statements weren’t mere solos, but critical arguments, and the ensuing hermeneutics excited as much as they inspired. Just when you thought he would go for an emotive climax, he would undercut it with brass effluvia. As you’d expect from a trumpeter who quotes Walter Benjamin in his liner notes, his musical critique is well-grounded. Dave Douglas, bless him, is safe from the banalities of mechanical reproduction. —David Yaffe

Smoke Signals

Five songs into his astonishing set at the Roxy last Thursday, bathed in blue light, Gustavo Cerati coquettishly blew smoke rings into a sweaty legion of Latin rock romantics. “When there’s nothing left for us to say/I become one with the smoke/snaking through reason,” he crooned in enunciated Castilian, eschewing guitar solos for his MPC3000 on “Bocanada,” a trippy modern bolero and the title track of his new solo album. Cerati, best known as the ax-wielding front man for the defunct Argentine power trio Soda Stereo, has fully embraced electronica, metamorphosing into a kind of South American ambient drama king.

Like all great rock shows, Cerati’s reached several climaxes—the first on “Tabú,” a sci-fi spy movie soundtrack that’s like James Bond playing Wes Montgomery riffs, fighting a psychological battle with the “savage alchemy” of desire. The second came with two successive old Soda tunes, “Sweet Sahumerio,”—like Saucerful of Secrets-era Pink Floyd laced with dub-heavy break beats—and “Hombre al Agua” (“Man Overboard”), an orgy of teen-spirit-smelling power chords. But most compelling was a lengthy, keyboard-driven interlude, a spacy extrapolation from “Aquí y Ahora” (“Here and Now”), which, with Cerati pogoing furiously, segued into “Pulsar,” a song from his ’94 solo album, Amor Amarillo, that prefigured his move from rock to club rhythms.

The most compelling Latin rock incorporates soulful folkloric and African meters, but Cerati’s Southern Cone aesthetic employs a medium-cool art-rock palette (notwithstanding the Andean flute drones and electro bossa-nova beats that fuel “Raíz”) and—as the night drew to a close—a hint of irony. For “Verbo Carne,” he dismissed the four-piece band and torch-sang to a backing track of a London orchestra, lamenting “the useless perfection of searching for silence.” —Ed Morales

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