TRANS AM, IDA 6/7, LOUNGE AX While they revel in a stripped-down version of robotic instrumental prog rock on their eponymous debut album, Trans Am have subsequently concentrated more on the Kraftwerk and Gary Numan synth squiggling that dots the CD. Their current set finds them operating with clinical precision on their complex rock originals, but the highlight is their nerdy electro-funk segment, a low-rent, geek-boy approximation of "Tour de France"--era Kraftwerk that somehow works. A gentle New York folk-rock trio--including Dan Littleton of Liquorice--Ida favor moody atmospherics and keening melodies over coffeehouse strumming. On their second album, I Know About You (Simple Machines), they often let their wispy tunefulness collapse beneath a musical attack so quiet and somnambulant that a rush of steam from an espresso machine would sound more exciting. Ida will appear as a beefed-up quintet for this gig, with Trenchmouth's Fred Armissen on bass. Ui headline. KENNY LATTIMORE 6/7, ARIE CROWN On his eponymous debut album this silky-voiced R & B crooner delivers the sort of bedroom-geared slow jams best left to a master like headliner Barry White. Kenny Lattimore can certainly sing, and he even penned half the tunes on the album, but aside from the obligatory sultry grind provocations there's little reason to notice. FIRE WITH VON FREEMAN 6/7, BOP SHOP Scheduled as part of the Bop Shop's three-day Southport Records festival, Fire is an improvised music project featuring tenor sax legend Von Freeman, bassist Tatsu Aoki, drummer Mike Raynor, pianist (and label boss) Bradley Parker-Sparrow, and vocalist Joanie Pallatto. As heard on the combo's eponymous debut, the results are interesting but ultimately unsatisfying. Though most of the material features some loose structural element, aside from Aoki the group members don't take to pure improv very well. Nevertheless, any chance to hear Freeman stretch out on something other than a standard should be welcomed. GODRAYS, GARDEN VARIETY 6/7, EMPTY BOTTLE The Godrays are essentially two-thirds of late hyper-popsters Small Factory, but on their forthcoming debut, Songs for T.V. Stars (Vernon Yard), they cool down SF's frenetic tempos and suffocating cuteness in favor of some mild rock grit. The sweet, bouncy melodies remain, however. On last year's Knocking the Skill Level (Headhunter/Cargo) Long Island's Garden Variety spit out a furious barrage of precise postpunk with an intensity matched by the strained vocals of bassist Anthony Roman. Of course, it's the usual aggression borne of suburban boredom, but do you honestly expect them to be up in arms about censorship on the Internet or something? Garden Variety also play tomorrow at the Fireside Bowl. FISHBONE 6/9, CUBBY BEAR Flogging a dead horse, Fishbone continue on. Their new Chim Chim's Badass Revenge (Rowdy) finds these veteran ska-funk fusioneers moving toward a metallic George Clinton P-Funk vibe with miserable results. The over-the-top scatological lyrics make Fishbone closer to Frank Zappa than Dr. Funkenstein, and the band's busy instrumental wanking sounds like limp grandstanding without real songs to back it up. Nope, not good at all. SIXTEEN HORSEPOWER 6/11, SCHUBAS On the recent Sackcloth 'n' Ashes (A&M) this Denver trio picks up on the gothic blues of the early Gun Club--the quavery whine of David Eugene Edwards, who plays guitar, banjo, bandoneon, and lap steel, is a dead ringer for the crooning of the late Jeffrey Lee Pierce--and transports it to an appropriate, strung-out conclusion. Yet Sixteen Horsepower convey considerably more range than their forebears, as well as a degree of humor. They also open for Morphine at the Riviera next Saturday, June 15. FUN LOVIN' CRIMINALS 6/12, METRO Recalling such forgettable quasi-hip-hop novelties as House of Pain and Lordz of Brooklyn, this trio marries an old-fashioned hoodlum rapping shtick to a rock-and-funk-heavy melange of tired hip-hop grooves. As if including dialogue from Pulp Fiction on their debut album, Come Find Yourself (EMI), isn't warning enough, these enthusiastic knuckleheads also sample "Freebird" and tediously appropriate the main riff from "Smoke on the Water," both in the same song. TAV FALCO'S PANTHER BURNS 6/12, DOUBLE DOOR One of the most original and twisted practitioners of American roots music, Tav Falco has abandoned the wild excess of the crazed psychobilly he churned out in the 80s in favor of a more measured and sultry strain of Cimmerian cabaret music. On his terrific new record, Shadow Dancer (Upstart), Falco injects his inimitable swarthy touch into old hits by singers as diverse as Dean Martin, Gene Pitney, Jimmy Witherspoon, Dion, and Bobby "Blue" Bland with results that are simultaneously languorous, off-kilter, and strangely seductive. His sideways approach is frequently compared to fellow Memphis rocker Alex Chilton, but Falco's delirious blend of rockabilly, Latin rhythms, and smoky lounge balladry is all his own. An inspired performer, he also plays FitzGerald's on Friday, June 14.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Chris Toliver.