The Short List: The Week’s Recommended Shows

Destroyer ~ Wednesday, May 6Destroyer songwriter Dan Bejar's flowery narrative prose wraps the nut of a song's message in a thick layer of surrealism, one that renders his meaning almost as difficult to decipher as an e.e. cummings poem. In tandem with Bejar's nasal sing-speaking, it's safe to say Destroyer is an acquired taste. But like an appreciation for fine wine, it's a taste that once acquired brings the same measure of pleasure on the first go-round as the 200th. Not only that, those subsequent listens (or "sips," if you like) often unmask new linguistic subtleties—puns, pop-culture references, what have you—that you might've missed on the first few dozen rotations. But it's the instrumentals that help Destroyer's compositional style retain its exciting freshness, even though there's been little sonic evolution over the 13 years that Bejar's been releasing records. From the unbelievable organ solo in "Queen of Languages" (from 2000's Thief) to the breakdown on Trouble in Dreams closer "Libby's First Sunrise," Bejar's music is as layered and intellectually absorbing as his lyrics. While it's best to experience Bejar in person after you've become familiar with his music, he's appearing solo on this particular tour, which means it'll be a little easier than normal to pick out the buried meanings and subtle jabs hidden in his bizarre wordplay. With Azida. The Crocodile, 2200 Second Ave. 8 p.m. $12 adv. SARA BRICKNERNapalm Death ~ Wednesday, May 6Few bands are capable of taking an anti-violent political stance with as much fury as the venerable grind institution Napalm Death. And fewer still have matched Napalm's blunt courage in confronting the terrifying realities of American fascism under the Bush regime. Universally recognized as the band that invented grindcore, it's astounding to consider how Napalm Death in its '80s infancy must have appeared to have a life expectancy not much longer than its infamous one-second song "You Suffer." Lo and behold, the band has not only survived but creatively thrived, when it easily could have gone on autopilot or, uh...burned out. These days, following an experimental period in the '90s, Napalm has chosen to refine rather than expand on its established sound, but by no means has their music lost its energy. The new album Time Waits for No Slave conveys as much agitation as when in the band's early days an entirely different lineup, then teenagers, railed with all their might against the evils of corporations. Back then the convincing aggression in Napalm's music covered up their naiveté. Now, from the perspective of an adult concerned with the world around him, vocalist Barney Greenway's lyrics hit even harder. And his outspoken stance against the Nazi presence in metal, among other things, comes as a beacon of hope for fans who are sick (and rightfully wary) of the whole skinhead/violence factor at shows. With Kataklysm, Toxic Holocaust, Coliseum, Trap Them, Crush Your Enemies. Studio Seven, 110 S. Horton St., 286-1312. 6 p.m. $17 adv./$20 DOS. All ages. SABY REYES-KULKARNIScout Niblett ~ Thursday, May 7Scout Niblett is the nom de indie rock of one Emma Louise Niblett, a native of Nottingham, England and current resident of Portland whose unhinged, bluesy moans and wails bear at least some resemblance to fellow Brit Polly Jean Harvey, circa Rid of Me. Like ol' Peej, Niblett can make your little hairs stand on end with either an eerie whisper or a raw howl. Her powerful voice and knotty lyrics are generally accompanied by lo-fi guitaring and rudimentary drumming that makes Meg White sound like Neil Peart, but sometimes it's a roaring, Nirvana-worthy sludgefest. With Triumph of Lethargy Skinned Alive to Death, TacocaT. Tractor Tavern, 5213 Ballard Ave. N.W., 789-3599. 9 p.m. $8. MICHAEL ALAN GOLDBERGThe Prids ~ Friday, May 8When you hear a band described as moody post-punk revival with proto-goth leanings and a somewhat radical vegan/animal rights–based political agenda, you're generally either in or out. Such a confluence of galvanizing and, let's face it, sanctimoniously mopey elements aren't an open invitation to the merely curious. Yet somehow the Prids manage to maintain an engaging musical persona. While they make no bones about their sociopolitical beliefs and affiliations, the Prids are not a "message" band. Sure, the lyrics are occasionally pointed, but they don't bludgeon you with the smug stick; you can actually listen without hearing word one about foie gras or beakless chickens. Sonically, the Prids are definitely on the darker end of the post-punk-inflected indie spectrum, with minor-key melodies, moody atmospherics, and a penchant for poetic indulgence in the vein of William Blake and his Romantic cohorts. Balancing all this beguiling darkness is an undercurrent of ecstatic electro-pop that owes a lot to the New Romantics of the early '80s, including occasional sojourns into the world of synth-pop. With Romance, Catholic Comb. Funhouse, 206 Fifth Ave N., 374-8400. 9:30 p.m. $6. NICHOLAS HALLAfterMath ~ Saturday, May 9In the decade since he left Seattle, former Screaming Trees drummer Barrett Martin has covered a lot of musical ground, doing the L.A. studio thing, studying percussion traditions around the world, and keeping up Tuatara, the cinematic-rock band with R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck and Scott McCaughey. All these strains—along with Martin's jazz training at Western Washington U.—come together in this new quintet, formed when Martin moved back home a few months ago. With some of the shrewdest progressive-groove players in town—including trumpeter Dave Carter, the ubiquitous Joe Doria on keys, and fat-toned Brett Joseph on sax—this loose collective mixes funk, Afro-beat, Afro-Latin, and a deep swing. Just two gigs in, AfterMath definitely adds up, and their first-Saturday shows at ToST are going to be a highlight of the new-jazz month. They'll be joined this time by the Nigerian-British singer Adama (a sometime collaborator with Tuatara), local Senegalese drum master Thione Diop, the Circle of Fire dance crew, and who knows who else. ToST, 513 N. 36th St., 547-0240. 9:30 p.m. $5. MARK D. FEFERBaby Gramps ~ Saturday, May 9Highly conspicuous anywhere outside a ZZ Top impersonators' convention, Seattle's own renegade steel guitarist Baby Gramps literally sounds like a flesh-and-blood Muppet who's just a little worse for wear. Gramps alternates between a high-pitched squeal and a throaty growl that would make both Jim Henson and Tuvan singers proud. With his rusty strings and completely unrefined playing style, he appears to aspire to folk and Django-era jazz guitar, but keeps both feet planted in the dirt of American roots music at its rawest. His playfully absurd lyrics, however, transcend both. And while Gramps, with his silly antics, might initially look as though he'd appeal to children, he's just as likely to make 'em cry. At the same time, he'd no doubt incorporate the sound of a screaming child with panache. "Do you believe in faeries?" he asks on one of his songs. Whether you do or not, you'll have little doubt that Gramps is a creature in a class by himself. With Daddy Tree Tops. Bit Saloon, 4818 17th Ave. N.W., 782-1680. 9 p.m. SABY REYES-KULKARNIBassnectar ~ Saturday, May 9Bay Area jock Bassnectar (aka Lorin Ashton) has a balls-out sonic and performance style that's made him a club and festival-circuit favorite. (He's a headliner on Lollapalooza this year, along with a who's-who of electronica, including MSTRKRFT and Simian Mobile Disco.) He puts dub-step, hip-hop, breaks, and much more through his production meat-grinder, then plastic-wraps it in everything from a cataract of synths to a torrent of rhyming. The result is something he calls "omnitempo maximalism." Which you might take to mean that if Bassnectar were a writer, he'd be David Foster Wallace—stuffed to the gills and loving it. Besides Blackalicious rhymesayer Gift of Gab, he'll have a custom-built sound system in tow tonight that's sure to melt the walls. With Sidecar Tommy. Showbox at the Market, 1426 First Ave., 628-3151. 8 p.m. $18 adv./$20 DOS. All ages. KEVIN CAPPSteve Earle ~ Monday, May 11At first blush, Townes, Steve Earle's album of Townes Van Zandt covers, seems fairly obvious. After all, Earle—the outlaw roots rocker turned pinko folkie—learned the art of songwriting directly from the enigmatic Texas icon. But just as Dylan wound up sounding nothing like Woody Guthrie, Earle wound up sounding nothing like his mentor. Van Zandt's words were expressions of the soul in the form of country-folk poetry both wistful and devastating. Earle's material, on the other hand, is less poetically sensitive and more tell-it-like-it-is blunt. Suitably, his delivery is like that of a barrel-chested attack dog, making his covering of Van Zandt's songs trickier than you'd think. But Earle's brawny vocals and thick-thumbed guitar actually add something to Van Zandt's songs...an oomph akin to being punched in the chest. Townes is Earle's way of saying "This guy was the greatest songwriter on the planet. If you aren't convinced yet, then wake the fuck up!" Easy Street Records, 20 W. Mercer St., 691-3279. 6 p.m. Free. All ages. BRIAN J. BARREric Alexander ~ Tuesday, May 12 and Wednesday, May 13Museum pieces are no good for jazz. But then there are players who speak a vocabulary of the past with so much power and conviction that they make it a living tongue, and Eric Alexander is one of the most valuable of these. The Olympia-reared saxophonist is fully planted in the Blue Note hard-bop tradition, but he never sounds like an homage act; he's got too many surprising ideas, too many sparks flying off the bell of his horn. With his regular New York pianist David Hazeltine and Seattle support from Chuck Deardorf and Matt Jorgensen, Alexander will make his persuasive case that the muscle-swing format of the '50s and '60s can yet reach the hearts and minds of the Twittering class. Dimitriou's Jazz Alley, 2033 Sixth Ave., 441-9729. 7:30 p.m. $22.50. All ages. MARK D. FEFERLeon Russell ~ Tuesday, May 12 and Wednesday, May 13Veteran singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Leon Russell—he of the Old Testament–looking white beard and flowing white locks—may be the ultimate all-time session musician: Since the early '60s, when he got his start working with Phil Spector, he's been the go-to keyboardist for the likes of Bob Dylan, the Stones, the Beach Boys, George Harrison, B.B. King, Glen Campbell, Elton John, Joe Cocker, Eric Clapton, Frank Sinatra, and the Band. And Gary Busey. But Russell's own songs and sprawling discography are impressive in their own right; a swampy sort of Southern rock, gospel, blues, country, pop, and funk—all rendered with grit and soul and brought to life by his idiosyncratic drawl—have all found their way into his work. Russell's solo career has been one of relatively brief but prolific bursts and lengthy hiatuses; right now he seems in the midst of the former, recently releasing three albums. Tonight should provide plenty of evidence why Russell has been so in-demand by the best for most of his 67 years. With Jeff Fielder. Tractor Tavern, 5213 Ballard Ave. N.W., 789-3599. 8 p.m. $30. MICHAEL ALAN GOLDBERG

 
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