THE CRYSTAL METHOD
Legion of Boom
If Legion of Boom were a B&B, the Crystal Method would be set for life—the record is nearly as charming as it is quaint. The charm emanates from the duo's seemingly inexhaustible knack for generating the kind of sinuous, minor-key synth melodies that added a dollop of sexiness to Kraftwerk's inventions back when they had more hair and ideas; the quaintness, from everything else on the album—especially its beats. All too often, Ken Jordan and Scott Kirkland's apparent inability to venture beyond the '90s clichés they helped to popularize, if not create, leaves Legion's 12 tracks foundering like mastadons in a tar pit. Even the album's title looks backward, as though TCM mean to double-handedly signal a return to the days when money flowed like piss to a big-beat soundtrack. Hell, big beat was money. It was rock and hip-hop and industrial music and techno and money, all rolled into a supersized roar of enthusiasm. Big beat was sexy, too. Consider High Fidelity. Supergeek Rob wouldn't have gotten so much as a glance from Laura had he not mixed into the Chemical Brothers' "Block Rockin' Beats" just as she came within flirting range. Hell, some DJs are still trying to re-enact that scene. They probably fare far better than they would with Legion's faux desert-rock track "Born Too Slow." It's unfortunate that TCM's one attempt at busting out of their big britches gets sabotaged by a combi-nation of ex–Limp Bizkiteer Wes Borland's flaccid riffage (surprise!) and ex–Kyuss frontman John Garcia's gurgling impression of Ronnie James Dio trying to use one of Dave Wyndorf's boots as a beer bong. But even they fare better than Legion's other hapless guests—especially Bellray Lisa Kekaula, whom the far boomier Basement Jaxx recently employed so well. ROD SMITH
The Crystal Method play the Showbox with DJ Hyper at 8 p.m. Tues., March 2. $17.50 adv./$20.
"Emo," "white," "Rhode Island." There. Those terms are out of the way; let us not speak of them again. While the same nerdphobic chumps who throw around the term "undie" might consider Sage Francis' identity inseparable from that trio of (apparently pejorative) signifiers, the real substance in Sage's style is his willingness to render those paradigms meaningless. Hope is his first full-length as the MC of Non-Prophets, in which he teams up with producer Joey Beats, and the album plays like a shadowboxing session where punch lines are delivered with brass knuckles. His sneering smartass flow is only sluggish when you capitalize the "S," though Sage's more exosphere than atmosphere, a get-lifted, tongue-twisted dynamic attack neatly underlined by Beats' archetypal indie-rap psych-funk breaks. Sage's forte is deceptively simple sociological dark humor, a Vonnegut to El-P's Bradbury, every slaughtered cipher's passing marked with a bitter battle-rap aloofness that carries about as much remorse as a compulsory "so it goes." And his upbringing seems to have left him with a street-hop/indie-think split personality to boot. It's enough to claim to "go to Fugazi shows requesting Minor Threat songs" a couple lines before name-dropping Craig Mack on the comically nihilistic haters' anthem "Damage." But for such a backlash-prone MC to spend the majority of "That Ain't Right" beating down new jacks with superiority both lyrical and moral ("I attended candlelight vigils for Matthew Sheppard/While you put out another 'fuck you, faggot' record") is proof that self-loathing is just good practice for loathing others. NATE PATRIN
Non-Prophets play Chop Suey with Grand Buffet, Mac Lethal, the Gimme Fund, and Macromatics at 8 p.m. Tues., March 2. $12 adv.
The fact that Mastodon tour with bands like High on Fire and are signed to metal giants Relapse Records might suggest nothing but sledgehammer subtlety. But like Masters of Puppets–era Metallica, the band, featuring guitarist Bill Kelliher and secret-weapon drummer Brann Dailor (both from '90s noiseniks Today Is the Day) find as much spindly beauty as pile-driving doom on the band's debut. It's a balance most bands that crank up the amps never quite understand, but Mastodon already have it down cold. Little surprise as well that the four can also make multipart epics fit into short sharp shocks, art-rock reinterpretations that slim down instead of sprawl. On "Where Strides the Behemoth," the prog-rock-like time signatures and bassist/singer Troy Sanders' raspy bellow are spiked with a thrilling lead melody, while "Ol'e Nessie" has a melancholic radio-signal guitar lead that signals a respite from the album's overriding mayhem. It's a power ballad that doesn't fit that label's mold, thanks to the shift to a monstrous verse, but it returns to that state with a heartbreaking descending chord coda. Remission's a strong start rather than a new dividing line between past and future, but it's no less powerful for that. NED RAGGETT
Mastodon play Graceland with Red Tape, Three Inches of Blood, Hell Promise, and Wormwood at 7 p.m. Sun., Feb. 29. $10.
(Kill Rock Stars/5 Rue Christine)
If, since their inception in 1994, the various members of San Francisco's Deerhoof have been conspiring to mold themselves into a British Invasion version of Blonde Redhead, their seventh proper album signifies quite an accomplishment. On the other hand, if they've been striving to approximate some imagined Yoko Ono free-jazz recordings, they've hit their mark with the song "Desaparece." It's also quite possible that they haven't been aiming at anything, and that's actually where I'd put my money—you don't get a song as simultaneously ridiculous and brilliant as "Dog on the Sidewalk" by overthinking things. Keeping in mind the rotating doors that have welcomed and discharged a small nation of musicians from the band over the years, it's hard to imagine that any one set of goals has ever been tacked up in their rehearsal space. Whatever the case, Milk Man exudes evolution—whether targeted or not. At this point, the band, hallmarked by singer/bassist Satomi Matsuzaki's schoolgirl vocals, is able to bend chaotic pop over its knee and spank it pretty hard in one fell swoop. On "Milking," which may be considered the other title track (the first, the album's opener, is good—but not as good as this), the band drags a sheet of denatured motherboard behind a marching rock song, flips it into chaos and hard-edged prog-core, then turns it over and makes a pretty little children's story out of it—before disrupting the happy ending with an even happier freak-out. After years of bringing the skronk punk, Deerhoof have truly arrived. Hopefully, this doesn't signal that they're about to break up. LAURA CASSIDY
Deerhoof play Chop Suey at 8 p.m. on Thurs., Feb. 26. $8
tHE GIN PALACE
From Detroit, England, another band who neglected to list a bass player in the credits, which must really piss off bass players. But then, who needs low-end dryer lint with guitar sounds like these? Kill-Grief was recorded at London's legendary Gizzard Studios with everything going through a vintage Acme ShitSprayer and produced by one Edd Deegan, who I suspect is actually Ruggero Deodato. (Maybe it's his brother Eumir playing occasional surf organ?) "You Want It" sounds like you feel after being in an inexplicable late-afternoon drunken brawl in a 7-Eleven parking lot and all the cars have mysteriously turned into Edsels and Studebakers, and you bend down to pick up your teeth and decide to start paddling, and then the ward attendant tells you to stop doing that every time they mop the dayroom. The guitars (by Jon "I'll drink anything if it's" Free) are loud enough that it distracts me from Meaghan Wilkie's voice, which at times is insufficiently squeaky for my tastes. Then again, rivers of regurgitated gastric fluid will do that to a larynx, as Australians are well aware of, being that their whole country is upside down. The drummer is Stuart Bell, which sounds like the name of a whiskey, not gin, but then apparently this bunch are training for the Cirrhosis Cup even though they don't have 7-Elevens over there, because in London the preferred drunken-combat venue is the Underground station, where there's the thrilling possibility of being pushed in front of a speeding locomotive. Another thing the guitar sounds like is the industrial hose they use for delimbing. And no, they don't have a bass player, either because the one they once had got really drunk and fell in front of a train, or because bass players are unpopular in London garage bands lately. DAVE QUEEN
(Arts & Crafts)
Color me stupid. When I first saw the title of Stars' second album, I thought: "Finally! Ann and Nancy Wilson get the non–VH1 career retrospective they so richly deserve." Boy, was I mistaken! This 12-track anatomical sleepover (alternate title: Love, Canadian Style) never ventures anywhere near '70s classic rock's overtraveled interstate. Stars' string and synth-bedizened pop oozes from fissures far deeper: the rich lodes first mined by the likes of New Order and Saint Etienne. In other words, they stick to the white keys most of the time, and they're not very mysterious. There's one exception: "Death to Death." The band's male mouthpiece, occasional Sex in the City, um, heartthrob Torquil Campbell, and co-vocalist Amy Millan do a credible Shiva/Kali act on the tune, bringing just enough breathy earnestness to its mildly hallucinogenic lyrics to make "A gypsy told my fortune and I told her hers/You'll die in the mountains wrapped in silver furs" seem far more charming than corny. Carefully contoured organ drones and richly textured, psychedelic-update guitar add to the song's allure, as do hooks beveled perfectly enough for Stars to rightfully change their name to the Near Pornographers. It's too bad that nothing else on Heart tugs quite so hard on the pelvic muscles—or synapses. There's nothing wrong with unabashed sentimentality. But most of this extended cuteness attack of an album is so awash in Nutra-Sweet that the titular organ might as well be floating in formaldehyde. R.S.
Stars play the Crocodile Cafe with the Dears and Aqueduct at 9 p.m. Tues., March 2. $10.