Later That Day
Lyrics Born is figuring shit out, processing, venting, stressing like he made a wrong turn on his way out of Public Enemy's Terrordome, and muttering like he dozed off on the couch last night watching The Public Enemy's James Cagney. LB's no prophet of rage, he just wants to ask Blackalicious' Gift of Gab how he quit smoking, without being pestered by funktoon telemarketers (dude, just cancel the call waiting). His fears may be more mundane than press-sponsored crucifixion, but I'll bet that most days, Chuck D's are, too. "You have no fucking money," a snide computer from the bank tells the puzzled MC; two tracks later he's failing to avoid the paranoid, imagining bureaucratic maneuvers fomented against him: "Man, fuck that shit/I pay my taxes when I'm asked to." "Stop com-plai-ning," responds singer Joyo Velarde on the chorus, and if her hook makes it sound like she's heard this all before, well, being Mrs. Born, she probably has. Born is no whiner, just the sort of optimist who admits, "I can't believe that things ain't worse." The first solo record from the mouthier half of the group Latyrx follows a loose day-in-the-life structure: He starts by relating his dreams, ends with a "Nightro," and cheers up considerably as time marches on. LB's productions articulate an idea of soul that's at once retro and futuristic, humanizing electro burbles with heartfelt female choruses. The fancier his raps (and sandwiching "If you feel it in your heart, reach out like Redd Foxx" into an intricate rhyme scheme that starts with "clay pots" and ends with "XBox" is pretty fancy), the more conversational his cadence. But his plain spokenness has an improvisational quality to it: On "Rise and Shine," he practically rhymes like a jazz vocalist. Even on "Pack Up," the obligatory I-was-here-first boast ("You sissy-ass groups afraid to say the fucking F-word"), he rhymes like he's got nothing to prove, like he just wants to translate the rhythm of everyday life as lived into
sound. KEITH HARRIS
Lyrics Born plays Neumo's at 7 p.m. Wed., March 24. $$13 adv./$15.
Misery Is a Butterfly
Blonde Redhead's sixth album is like digital video to their earlier records' 8mm: more "palatable," tidy, and generally easier on the senses than the rougher previous work. The result is pretty but lacks some of the character of their darker earlier albums, which fell closer to the noise-punk tree—disquiet and anxious, unsettling but never chaotic. The multilayered, more heavily produced Butterfly is gorgeous but more tender and tame, like the defeated, mournful cry of a tethered beast—or butterfly—that's known the ecstasy of freedom. The band's core sound is still there on tracks like the mesmerizing opener, "Elephant Woman," which starts and ends neat while in between undulating hypnotically. Blonde Redhead still don't use a bass guitar, but Butterfly's swirling keyboards and strings lend a sweeping immensity to the band's already rich sound. Vocalist/songwriter Kazu Makino is airier here than on her sad, sexy, strong work on 2000's Melody of Certain Damaged Lemons—"Elephant Woman" aside, the songs are muted next to vocalist/writer Amedeo Pace's bolder, noisier tracks. Maybe that's why Misery is best when it loves company—on the vocal duet "Pink Love," in which the guitars intertwine lasciviously for six hot minutes. KATIE MILLBAUER
Blonde Redhead play the Showbox at 8 p.m. Sat., March 24. $15.
Who Will Cut Our Hair When We're Gone
With a name like Unicorns you know this Montreal two-piece is attempting to lasso your inner fourth-grader. This isn't intellectual dance pop, but then again, what is intellectual dance pop? Early Aphex Twin, maybe? Well, Hair doesn't sound like that—the closest it gets is at the beginning of the song "Child Star," with what sounds like a butter knife trying to slice through guitar strings while the amp is on. Soon enough, however, this particular track becomes not unlike something from OK Computer; Unicorns are nothing if not visceral splicers of junk and jangle. Using both man-powered and pre-programmed drumbeats as backdrops, they uncap cheap keyboard skronk and thick, teasing guitars to color both inside and outside the lines. By avoiding formula, the Unicorns avoid sounding too much like an Elephant 6 band, but be aware that these songs do dabble in whimsy and twee. Songs like "Tuff Luff" do their part to balance out the playground anarchy of "I Was Born (a Unicorn)" by stuffing lines like "Don't put another down payment on the oil in Iran" into quietly built and quickly torn down spirals. Then there's the fact that this record, the band's second, was released on a label known primarily for atmospheric experiments. Consider also that Alien8 recently took on fellow Canadians Les Georges Leningrad. Reports from the front line say Unicorns shows rival those of LGL, so expect freak-show cabaret, complete with costumes. LAURA CASSIDY
Unicorns play Crocodile Cafe with Beans and Kiss Kiss Kiss at 8 p.m. Mon., March 29. $8 adv./$10.