Kinky pop from the Subways, protest jazz from the Liberation Music Orchestra, and godhead rock from Echo & the Bunnymen

Yes, the Subways played a few weeks ago on The O.C., but the still-not-old-enough-to-buy-beer trio couldn't be less like Death Cab for Cutie, the show's poster band. Where Death Cab is grown-up and introspective and artsy, the Subways are spastic and impulsive and full of hormones. While Ben Gibbard and Billy Lunn both write songs about girls, Gibbard pens complex, heartfelt lyrics like "I want to live where soul meets body," whereas Lunn offers, uh, simpler rhymes: "My heart is blue/ My heart is blue for you." And where Death Cab remains one of the most boring live bands on the planet, the Subways -- including Lunn's dreamy brother, Josh Morgan, and miniskirt-wearing bassist/girlfriend, Charlotte Cooper -- promise to rock you six ways from Sunday and look hot while doing it. Like a scrappier, garagier Oasis, these three youngsters have gotten so heated during gigs that they've sent guitars and pieces of drum kit sailing at each other. Watch out for flying amps when the Subways drop in on "popscene" at 330 Ritch this Thursday, Dec. 1; visit www.popscene-sf.com for more info. -- Maya Kroth


The British post-punk/pop outfit Echo & the Bunnymen, featuring at its core singer Ian McCulloch and guitarist Will Sergeant, initially formed in 1978, scored a bunch of U.K. hits (one of them, "The Killing Moon," crossed the Atlantic and became an altrock staple on American college radio), then disbanded 10 years later when solo careers beckoned. Over the ensuing decade, said solo careers -- including Electrafixion, the jarringly hard-rock 1995 McCulloch/Sergeant one-off project -- stalled, and in 1997 Echo re-formed and released Evergreen. I happened to catch one of those reunion shows in New York City, and it was god-awful; the band was rustier than a sunken World War II battleship, and McCulloch's usually resonant voice was a shambles. Fortunately, they've had nearly another decade and a few more albums to get back to the brilliance of early Echo, and that's reflected on this year's absolutely terrific Siberia -- the band's real comeback. Media accounts claim this is Echo's most intense and triumphant tour in 20 years (even the fickle British press has been slurping the Bunnymen of late). See for yourself when McCulloch, his bandmates, and their outstanding hairdos swoop into town on Monday, Dec. 5, at the Fillmore; call 346-6000 or visit www.thefillmore.com for more info. -- Michael Alan Goldberg


Yes, grasshopper, there was "socially relevant" music that precededthe folk boom of the 1950s and the rock of the 1960s. Outside of blues and folk -- both often topical -- two notable examples are Bing Crosby's '30s hit "Brother Can You Spare a Dime" and Billie Holiday's "Strange Fruit," which pertained to Southern lynchings. Jazz, too, has its protest side, and bassist Charlie Haden is one of its most vocal exponents. In 1969, he and pianist/arranger Carla Bley co-founded the Liberation Music Orchestra, whose self-titled album combined fiery free-jazz and folk melodies. More recently, the U.S./Iraq venture inspired Haden to reconvene the LMO for Not in Our Name (Verve), a collection of interpretations of uniquely "American" songs. "Amazing Grace" and "America the Beautiful" (along with the more contemporary "This Is Not America," co-written by David Bowie and Pat Metheny) are given renditions reflecting both outraged irony and persevering optimism. The album features Bley, drummer Matt Wilson, exLounge Lizard Curtis Fowlkes, and sax champ Tony Malaby, some of whom will be joining Haden this Tuesday through Sunday, Dec. 6-11, when the jazzman takes the stage at Yoshi's in Oakland; call (510) 238-9200 or go to www.yoshis.com for more info.-- Mark Keresman

 
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