If you can't dance while you're brooding, why bother with being alive at all? Seattle's Bright White Lightning gets it, which is why Bad Teeth is so good. In "Weekend Rapture," they sing "We're all gonna die" over and over again, but the rock and roll shake mixed with mechanic purrs and blips of arcade and Keno sounds makes everything seem fine: Last night on Earth? Might as well party. "Love Lost" could have been unearthed from the same time capsule as Depeche Mode's "Enjoy the Silence." Despite the celestial, new-romantic sound, it pulls off a dangerous sneer. What if Depeche Mode's David Gahan and The Dwarves' Blag Dahlia made a song together? This would be it.
The band uses Nintendo Game Boy, Commodore Amiga, Atari XL and several synths to make electronic chip rock. Some songs dabble in ska bass lines and others employ badass guitar solos fit for a slo-mo fight scene in a Jet Li movie. "Amigo" is the best song on here. It's about a robot, but when singer Scott Howell sings, "I thought I was just a living wage/ 'til I told myself I would have to break away," you know it's about all of us.
Bright White Lightning plays the Badlander Fri., Sept. 28, for KBGA's Birthday Bash, with The Extremities, Fly Moon Royalty, The Sidekicks and other bands at 9 PM. $7/$5 advance at Ear Candy. $10 for ages 18–20.
K. Flay: Eyes Shut
K. Flay had me hooked with her cover of Liz Phair's "Fuck and Run"a more hip-hopified version as heartbreakingly raw as the original. Fortunately, the San Francisco artist isn't just a cover queen. On her new EP Eyes Shut she offers all originalsones that are witty, tough and honest as any old-school Phair tune. K. Flay, aka Kristine Flaherty, is a Stanford graduate but there's no whiff of shelteredness here. On "10th Avenue" she clears her throat and sniffs in rhythm before rhyming: "Who do I love? Well not anyone, take my hot dog on a poppy seed bun.
Frightened, cause I got a lot of people counting on me.
And I'm talking like an asshole, walking like a zombie."
"Sunburn" has a breezy Built to Spill chorus, but K. Flay never loses her edge when she sings pretty. "We Hate Everyone" is frighteningly misanthropic, but totally relatable. "A dozen idiots rubbing tits in a mosh pit/Paid all my bills but the water's still toxic." K. Flay isn't just complaining; she's both giving voice to an apathetic generation and being critical of it. One last note: her lone-wolf approach to production and recording translates well to her one-woman live shows. (Erika Fredrickson)
K. Flay plays the Top Hat Tue., Oct. 2, at 10 PM with Michna. $10/$8 advance.
Sic Alps: Sic Alps
A word of advice to bands: If you want people to care about your music, make it sound like you care about your music. Another reviewer put it perfectly when he described Sic Alps' sound on their eponymous fifth album as "an enveloping haze of indifference." I understand garage rock would be nothing without that too-cool-for-school, apathetic ethos, and that garage rock is, by definition, rough. But I don't have much patience for bands that fail to live up to their own clear musical potential, simply because things like, oh, say, playing in tune and keeping a beat just aren't cool.
I say "clear musical potential," because Sic Alps certainly has it. While album opener "Glyphs" is clunky, it has Beatles-inspired hooks, including nice orchestral touches. "Thylacine Man" is a minimalist guitar-and-vocals tune that showcases Sic Alps' ability to perform a beautiful song that stays the course, melodically and rhythmically. "Wake Up, It's Over II" pilfers its progression from "Hey Joe," though that familiarity may be its saving grace. Meanwhile, "Drink Up!" is a sloppy sonic trainwreck from start to finish, enough to make me walk away entirely. (Melissa Mylchreest)
Sic Alps plays the VFW Tue., Oct. 2, at 10 PM with Thee Oh Sees. $7 advance at Ear Candy.
Cat Power: Sun
Since the release of her aptly-named 2006 album The Greatest, Chan Marshall has struggled with alcoholism, bankruptcy, mental illness and a public split from Giovanni Ribisi. You can hear it on Sun. Gone is the piano-heavy soul of The Greatest, and in its place are drum machines and even occasional Auto-tune. The most striking difference, though, is the terrible moral authority of tracks like "Human Being" and "3, 6, 9." Cat Power has suffered, even after she tried to stop, and Sun sounds apocalyptic and accusatory in the manner of Lion and the Cobra-era Sinead O'Connor.
It's a substantial departure, and for the most part it is interesting and fun. Marshall seems to have lost some of her sense of nuance in the transition to a new style, however, and several of the tracks on Sun sound interchangeable. They're catchy, but they lack that staring-at-her-shoes intrigue that has been the hallmark of Cat Power's career. One exception is "Manhattan," an oblique and muted sigh that ranks among her best songs. Mostly, though, Sun accomplishes the strange feat of sounding new in the same way over and over. Personal problems notwithstanding, she can do better. (Dan Brooks)