Sound of zZz
zZz—pronounced, according to the band’s website, “like the French say ‘Jazz,’ without the ‘J’ and ‘A’”—just may be the most promising Dutch import since Bettie Serveert, though the bands’ shared native country and ever-growing popularity in the U.S. indie scene are pretty much where the similarities end.
The Amsterdam duo comprising Bjorn Ottenheim (vocals and drums) and Daan Schinkel (vintage organ) has created a psychedelic trance-rock sound on Sound of zZz that takes the listener through the dregs of a dimly lit Dutch nightclub at 4 a.m. Like a speed trip winding down, the beats are at the same time steady and frenetic. The sound is markedly robust for only two instruments, an impressive feat in itself. The organ is the driving force behind each song, carried by the undercurrent of Ottenheim’s locomotive drumbeats and vocals that sound like a hybrid of Jim Morrison and The Damned’s David Vanian.
Notable tracks include “Ecstasy,” with frantic organ-and-drum pounding that immediately speeds up the heartbeat, and “Lalala,” which sounds like it belongs on the soundtrack to a low-budget ’60s surf flick.
What’s so remarkable about zZz is its crossover appeal—fans of trance, pop, rock and punk can all find something novel and fresh on this album. (Rachel Carlson)
zZz plays Higgins Alley Upstairs Sunday, March 5, at 9 PM. Tracy & The Plastics, Duel and razz m’tazz open. $6.
Larry Keel and Natural Bridge
Opening with a boggling multi-instrument riff, Larry Keel and Natural Bridge blasts out of the gate and blazes straight through 14 bluegrass standards. Not that every track is delivered at breakneck speed, but even the slow ballads are treated with the same exhilarating energy as the mercurial instrumental tunes. The song-list features selections from Flatt & Scruggs, the Stanley Brothers and Hank Williams.
Whereas many Keel-band incarnations have explored the outer reaches of space-grass, his current crop of musicians hits the traditional bluegrass nail on the head. Banjoist Andy Thorn, who studied jazz guitar at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, plays in the straight-driving (but lighthearted) three-finger Scruggs style. North Carolina transplant Mark Schimick sings honestly and picks an explosive and playful mandolin, breathing new life into traditional tunes without abandoning the original forms. Larry’s wife Jenny Keel, who has played bass on all her husband’s projects for the last eight years, also lends lead and harmony vocals to the group. Larry Keel himself, a Virginia native, is a freakishly talented guitar picker with a freakishly gruff singing voice to match. Nobody said bluegrass has to be pretty, and Natural Bridge is beautiful precisely because it isn’t. (Caroline Keys)
Larry Keel plays The Other Side Saturday, March 4, at 10 PM. $10.
Get Set Go
Los Angeles-based Go Set Go’s second album Ordinary World can be described as a twisted musical celebration of misery. These 21 songs feature the lyrical musings of a man who appears to be on the verge of suicide, incongruously set to upbeat, danceable pop/rock melodies colored with obnoxiously sing-songy choruses.
Some sort of irony is presumably the effect intended by lead vocalist Mike TV, whose songs of depression, substance abuse, bad relationships and “hating everyone” are not only cheerful and peppy, but filled with silly, often asinine, quips; then there are the scores of “ooh ooh oohs” and “hey hey heys.” When TV sings on “Suicide” of various methods of killing himself, including drinking a big glass of Drano, his one-word refrain of “Su-i-cide!” is so revoltingly catchy it’s next to impossible to expel it from one’s head.
Though the lyrics are boldly personal (they were penned during a particularly tumultuous period in TV’s life), their lack of profundity makes their apparent sincerity a hard sell.
Regardless, if you’re feeling down and loafing around your apartment drinking whiskey to your Tom Waits albums is no longer cathartic, put on Ordinary World, sing along, and dance your blues away. (Rachel Carlson)
Get Set Go plays The Raven Wednesday, March 8, at 10 PM. Volumen and Victory Smokes open. $5.
Famous Anonymous Wilderness
Listening to Famous Anonymous Wilderness is a lot like hopping a train and observing your homeland through the slats of a boxcar door. Due to the speed and density of the subject matter, a single image may hold your gaze while you miss others that only flash past. When the ride is over, you’re not as innocent as you once were, but the experience holds lessons about the heart of your country that you couldn’t have learned any other way.
With songwriting sensibilities akin to Gillian Welch and a delivery as venomous as a young Bob Dylan, Graham Lindsey haunts listeners and challenges them to come back for more. Like Dylan, he was raised in the chilly northern Midwest, and like Welch he cut his musical teeth playing in a punk band—at the time hailed as “the world’s youngest” of its genre. He left that band, called Old Skull, behind to travel the country, hitting Brooklyn, New Orleans and Nebraska along the way. Somehow, the miles Lindsey traveled translated into years, aging both the young musician’s point of view and his singing voice. Now 27, Lindsey’s a troubadour to watch out for. (Caroline Keys)
Graham Lindsey opens for Wayne “The Train” Hancock at the Elk’s Lodge (see Spotlight in this issue), Tuesday, March 7, at 10 PM. $14.