MOUSE ON MARS
Fitzgerald's oft-quoted maxim about the lack of second acts in American lives seems far more applicable to electronica veterans. Most such software music developers tend to compose a singular set of sonic bells and whistles, then repeat 'em ad nauseam, sliding deeper and deeper toward irrelevance in the face of a constantly changing beatscape. Yet the long shadow of this truism makes the transformation of Dusseldorf's quirky electro-pop duo Mouse on Mars into a part-time funk machine on their eighth album, Radical Connector, even more of an unexpected joy. With all nine tracks adorned by indecipherable, cut-up vocals, courtesy of longtime MOM percussionist Dodo Nikishi and Cologne newcomer Niobe, Radical Connector's narrative nonfocus often doubles as a warm nouveau bounce, unlike anything the band's previously tried. Irreverent trademarks—arrhythmic Commodore 64 popcorn sounds making the forced-smile melodies that attracted indie-rock beat haters to the group—recede, replaced by pocket-sized Rodney Jerkins–style computer R&B reimagined by click-happy German technophiles. And while not everything here rises to the metallic stomp of "Blood Comes" or the loping, good-time glide of "Wipe That Sound," which some industrious MC should soon turn into a first-rate club banger, Mouse on Mars' new act involves some of the year's most potent electronic funk. PIOTR ORLOV
Mouse on Mars play Chop Suey with Ratatat and Junior Boys at 9 p.m. Fri., Oct. 1. $12 adv.
When you finally hold a copy of the world's most famous unreleased album in your hands, you almost don't want to ruin the fantasy by listening to it. Pressing play could shatter a world where a musical masterpiece drives its creator insane, that insanity being evidence of his genius. But where the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds was a pristine collection of orchestral pop songs, Smile, newly recorded 37 years after it was scrapped, is more like a great American musical with a libretto by William Carlos Williams. Songs are segmented, melodies are reprised, and you find yourself constantly trying to follow a pastoral story line that may not exist. Not surprisingly, the tracks that prompted esoteric raves and bootleg swapping are the standouts. The newly reconstituted "Heroes and Villains" (the original appears on 1967's ad hoc Smiley Smile) does the beach blanket twist like a sequel to "Sloop John B." "Mrs. O'Leary's Cow" is ignited by violent swirls of psychedelic strings. But Wilson's songwriting is at its best with "Wonderful"—appealing simplicity amidst an hour's worth of whistles and bells. The album's only fault lies in Wilson's singing: While his voice as a young man could have effortlessly evoked sunshine and young love even without the lyrics spelling it out, the new vocals often sound tired. Oddly, the trademark falsetto that age ought to snuff out first is the range that sounds entirely untouched. Still, this feels like a victory: music geeks 1, time 0. LINDSEY THOMAS
Ask not for whom the delay-drenched guitar tolls. You can almost hear Macha vocalist Josh McKay suppress a giggle on Forget Tomorrow's tongue-in-cheek title track as he intones, "Now you know my story too well/Gotta make sure that you never tell/I've been planning to ring your bell." Given the song's marriage of hammered dulcimer, vibraphone, and temple blocks with newly ordered synth, très chic bass line, and a smutty insouciance straight out of the Tuxedomoon trick bag, you have to wonder if McKay plans to bump off Anita Ward. "Forget Tomorrow" is the only murder banger on the Athens-based trio's first proper album since 1999's See It Another Way (they did a one-off collaboration with Bedhead in 2000), but it's not the only song with '80s- derived dance-floor aspirations. The mildly contorted "(Death) Inevitable" adds gamelan elements to LCD Soundsystem–like precision discotronics, then runs the output through a menthol cave. Similar strategies animate the neo-PIL instrumental "D-D-D," while "Smash and Grab" commandeers Tommie Sunshine's favorite vocoder settings in the service of four-on-the-floor psychedelia. The band's cavalier attitude toward punk-funk is bound to bundle the undies of those who wear their nostalgia like a three-year accumulation of friendship bracelets. As on Macha's two previous albums, Forget Tomorrow's deft interpolation of exotic instruments with guitar, bass, drums, and electronics defines the band's sound. DFA seems like just another exotic substance to them, more like DMT than (genetic) DNA. Before the album is half over, it's out of their systems and they're comfortably ensconced in their usual post-Nowsville amalgam of William Burroughs' Interzone, William Gibson's Chiba City, and the scarier parts of Tatooine. Forget Yesterday would have been more on the mark. ROD SMITH
Macha play Crocodile Cafe at 8 p.m. Sun., Oct. 3. $8 adv.