CMJ: Lykke Li at Bowery Ballroom


Rock on, Gold Dust Woman. CREDIT.

Lykke Li/Friendly Fires/Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson
Bowery Ballroom
Tuesday October 21

Lykke Li is basically Madonna in the “Borderline” video. You can picture her wearing a giant bow and spray-painting Greek columns while some shady fashion photographer leers at her as she sings “If you want to complain/I’m not the complaint department.” She has a dookie rope for her kazoos. She can sing and bash a cymbal with a drumstick simultaneously, which is not as easy as it looks. She’s got a riser onstage for when she wants to be taller, and sing into the creepy-robot-voice mic. She also sings sweetly and not-annoyingly into a bullhorn, which is even harder than it looks. Both she and her band have a restless, oddly endearing physicality nicely captured here. She announces “I’m a debut artist — I only have 10 songs” by way of introducing her cover of Ray Charles’ “After My Laughter Come Tears,” usually singing “After your laughter” instead, which is better, actually. She does a bit of Vampire Weekend’s “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa,” too. And she finishes us off by half-rapping the first verse of A Tribe Called Quest’s “Can I Kick It?”, shaking her feet fairly good on the rhythm rug. Beats the shit out of Kate Nash.

Lykke, earlier in the day at the Tribeca Grand, photo by Rebecca Smeyne

It’s a delight to once again contribute to the Voice‘s time-honored passive-aggressive CMJ coverage. Our first victim tonight is Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson, who’s my pick for Volatile Opening Act 2008: Setting the table for Howlin’ Rain some months back he was sloppy but beguiling; stuck on a Black Kids bill with an indifferent crowd and a lousy sound setup a few months later, he was disastrous. Tonight, too, he is wrasslin’ with the soundman from the get-go: “Really, it’s not us,” he insists. “It’s the nature of CMJ.” But his wobbly, acquired-taste voice, is way way stronger now, and his sad-sack folk songs have turned way more raucous, way angrier, way longer, way better. He is still apologetic. “Technical difficulties,” he mutters. “I make up for it by singing too hard. Ha ha. I’ll fuck you all later.”

Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson, earlier in the day at the Tribeca Grand, photo by Rebecca Smeyne

And then, the Friendly Fires. Great googly moogly. For those who find Franz Ferdinand too masculine, behold these ludicrous disco-pop U.K. boys, led by a spastic frontman doing a complex impression of Chris Martin reenacting the “Carlton freaks out on speed” episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Every dude in the band has his own cowbell except the guitarist, who instead plays his guitar with a Dustbuster. They are the least sincere people to ever sing “I need your love.” They are the Flock of Seagulls of dance-punk. They are frankly pretty awesome.