Friday, February 20, 2004

Some recent shows

The Notwist @ El Rey

Lately, some of us have been piggybacking on my bud Tony, all-knowing Indie rock source who's been hitting all the shows. He tipped us off to this appearance in LA by The Notwist, who've intrigued me ever since Missy and Scott raved about them in Toronto. This innovative German outfit didn't disappoint, putting on an energetic show in which they jammed Autechre-styled moody techno pulsations with trobbing guitar/bass. A couple of my friends found Acher's voice too fey and wimpy for the band's muscular sound, but I dug the collision between the textured music and that fragile B&S-like vocals. Only gripe is they seemed to be a little off working their abrupt high/low dynamic. The song I dug most from their set was "One Step Inside Doesn't Mean You'll Understand", replete with sampled sax and little digital hiccups. Also, the two songs sung by the lead singer of Themselves (the opening band) were pretty dope.

Spotted at the show: Andre 3000 from OutKast.

Jon Brion @ Largo

I knew Jon Brion as the man behind the whimsical PUNCHDRUNK LOVE score, and later as the producer of Aimee Mann's albums. But I didn't know he was this crazy multi-instrumentalist impresario until he started wowing LA with his much-buzzed residency (every Friday) at the intimate club Largo. It took forever to get in, but Brion's virtuosity was well worth it. His shtick is to first play an instrument (the drums, say) solo, establishing a pattern, then digitally looping his solos and playing another instrument (keyboards, say) over the drum, then digitally looping the keyboards until finally he picks up the guitar and plays and sings over the looping drums and keyboards. As a listener, you feel like a producer isolating each instrument until Brion puts it all together. His solo stuff is a mixture of straight-ahead indie rock and bittersweet Rufus Wainwright-like ballads. Fine, but not especially impressive. It's when he starts taking requests that the show elevates. Someone yelled out "My Bloody Valentine doing "My Funny Valentine" (this was Feb. 13th at midnight), and Brion, after a five second pause to think through his song, played a fucking mean approximation of MBV's trippy sonic smears to go with a brittle, breathy (dare I say Chet-like?) vocal rendition of the standard. Good stuff.

Metric @ El Rey

My new pal Jo turned me on to this kickass band, fronted by strutting sex goddess Emily Haines. Metric's got this synth-heavy New Wave sound with powerful guitar hooks and a penchant for sudden dynamic shifts, but Haines' charisma and emotional range carries them. The addictive "Combat Baby" and the meandering and lovely "Hustle Rose" are the standouts.

Spotted at the Metric show: Frodo (aka the bizarre looking Elijah Wood).

Ralph Nader -- Supreme Fuckhead Commander of Fuckheads

At one time, the one-time consumer advocate would've left a fine, if debatable, legacy. Now, if these "indications" are true, and he runs for President again, he's just a contemptible egomaniac. His "twiddle dee, twiddle dum" crap in 2000 was bad enough, but can anyone who's paying any fucking attention to the world today still insist that Nader's bullshit is valid? What a fucking nutcase. If anyone votes for this assclown this time around, they do deserve a second round of the worst Adminstration of the last 50 years. And while the Nader Voters in 2000 frustrated the living hell out of me, at least in that election there existed the possibility that Shrub would be relatively moderate and possibly competent. Now we know better. Or is "not selling out" still more important than, y'know, the direction of the country and the world?

Monday, February 16, 2004

The Curse of A-Rod?

So after a widely publicized courtship between A-Rod and the Red Sox that was stopped at the altar, A-Rod's suddenly a Yankee. Traded for Alfonzo Soriano and a decent prospect.

Many Sox fans are apoplectic, while the press gleefully replays the "Yankees Top Sox Again, for the 8,382th time" meme. After a winter in which Sox fans finally thought they have the upper hand, the planet reverts to its original orbit. A new larger-than-life #3 that just eluded the fumbling fingers of those cursed New Englanders.

It's all very neat, especially if you're one of those people who thought the Manny-for-A-Rod swap would lock up the AL East for the Sox. I wasn't one of them. Why? I was never convinced it dramatically improved the Sox, especially since it necessitates the complementary Nomar + Williamson for Magglio Ordonez swap. For what the Sox had to pay to get those marginal upgrades, I'm not convinced it would be a dramatic improvement. Neither did Rob Neyer. (I'd love to dig up those win share numbers crunched by SoSH folks, but I'm too lazy to look.) And given the extra financial commitments and change in personnel, it seemed like merely a good but not great deal. If it happened, great. If not, life goes on.

The hang-up proved to be money, which is the hang-up of every team in Major League Baseball save the Yankees, who operate on apparently an unlimited budget. Actually, the Yankees didn't exactly buy A-Rod; the Rangers are paying a big chunk of change and the Boone/Henson contract reductions mean that they aren't adding too much payroll. What this deal really cost them was one of the best young players in the game.

Soriano's not as good as A-Rod and likely never will be. But he's awfully good (.335/.535/.870+ & 35+ steals the last two years) and considerably cheaper. Sure his defense stinks but so does Mr. Intangible Derek Jeter, who gets to stay at SS because the team doesn't want to bruise his Cameron-sized ego anymore than it has. So A-Rod's Gold Glove D is diminished by throwing him at a new position, plus they now have to plug up a hole at 2b, a position shallow with good, acquirable players.

A-Rod won't make the difference next year. Who will prevail between the Sox and the Yankees will depend more on:

* Kevin Brown's health. If healthy, the guy's better than Schilling and close to top-form Pedro. He'll neutralize the pitching advantage the Sox presently have.

* 2003 anomalies? Bill Meuller, Varitek, Nixon, and Ortiz all had career years. Will they come close to match that production, or will there be a dramatic fall-off?

* Jon Lieber v. Byun-hyung Kim: Who will be the better #5 on an evenly matched starting rotation.

* Nomar and Manny: off years for both in 2003, will either or both bounce back after team tried so eagerly (and publicly) to trade them?

The MFYs are still the team to beat. But I wouldn't hand the AL to them just yet. An an aging all-star team does not an invincible squad make. Just ask the 2004 Lakers. Or the 2003 Yanks.