John S. Hall, BOB WISEMAN, Betsy Years 5/9, Lunar Cabaret John S. Hall will probably be remembered as the man who blew Beavis and Butt-head's minds with "Detachable Penis," but that's pop culture for you. As the force behind King Missile, he's actually got a lot of other jewels under his belt, like "Jesus Was Way Cool," "Sensitive Artist," and my personal favorite, "Take Stuff From Work." Lately he's been on the spoken-word circuit and lurking on the edge of actual literary respectability. Not so the Canadian Artist Nearly Known as Prince, Bob Wiseman, who has in addition to his own pursuits worked with Eugene Chadbourne, Jane Siberry, and Kids in the Hall's Bruce McCulloch; his legal problems with the Purple One have made Negativland look golden. Kicking things off are local free-jazz-psychedelic-pop mutants the Betsy Years, who seemed to be taking a country-and-western direction when I last saw them. Expect insufferable cleverness punctuated by flashes of sheer genius.
JAN JAMES 5/9, Martyrs' This homegrown belter-and-weeper could be a force to be reckoned with if she used a real human songwriter instead of the computer software that's spitting out the faceless blues rock she's wasting her fabulous voice on...oh, shit, she writes her own material. You know, independence isn't everything.
PROTEIN 5/9, Double Door On Protein's debut album, Ever Since I Was a Kid (Work Group/Sony), singer Josh Zee tries to assure us, "I remember heavy metal / I remember juvenile hall." I remember heavy metal too, fondly, but I also remember bad AOR rock. I even remember a band I saw opening for Foreigner when I was 12. The lead singer spent the second half of the set with a piece of the toilet paper the crowd had thrown at him stuck to his shoe, but they sucked so bad I didn't even feel sorry for him. House of Large Sizes headlines.
DEAD AND GONE 5/11, Fireside Bowl This California quartet's second album, God Loves Everyone but You (Alternative Tentacles), reveals a fascination with death (as seen in the movies), quite a bit of Black Flag damage, and lots of grim pronouncements ("You'll watch the vultures fly around") delivered in a theatrical growl that reminds me somehow of a scrawny art-school kid--like a very young Nick Cave, specifically--trying to convince me he's a badass. It crunches, it punches, it howls; it does what it's supposed to do. But here's some free advice, guys: you can't let the guy from Green Day coproduce your record and boast about your DIY cred.
DAVID MURRAY & FONTELLA BASS 5/12, Steppenwolf Theatre While I question the long-term wisdom of bringing in music to help promote increasingly dull theater, Steppenwolf does have to justify its "20 Years on the Edge" hype somehow. And they could do a lot worse than hiring Kahil El'Zabar (who will play percussion at this show) to curate a concert series. Fontella Bass, of course, is singing "Rescue Me" on an oldies station somewhere in the country even as you read this, but in real life she's returned to her soul-gospel roots; it should be fascinating to hear her perform with world-class reedist David Murray, his frequent collaborator, bassist Fred Hopkins, and a host of other stars that doesn't include John Malkovich.
SILVER APPLES 5/15, Double Door At the tail end of the original psychedelic era, drummer Danny Taylor and single-name synth whiz Simeon--New York's Silver Apples--put out two intriguing albums of electronic hippie music; shortly after the second came out, their label folded and they broke up. In the three decades that followed, those records influenced groups from Suicide to the Scientists to Stereolab. Now that electronic music is having its day in the sun, Simeon's making some long-overdue hay: A German label, TRC, reissued the albums on one CD in 1994; and Simeon's new version of the band, with Xian Hawkins of Mobius Strip and drummer Michael Lerner, has recorded a new single (actually the b-side is a remake of "Lovefingers," arguably the catchiest number from 1968's Silver Apples). This lineup has been playing shows along the east coast, including the Ptolemaic Terrascope convergence in Rhode Island two weeks ago. Reports from the road are mixed, but if you're at all interested in viewing the current electronica craze in its proper place on the continuum, you'll pay your money and take your chances. --Monica Kendrick
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Uncredited Photo of John S. Hall.