Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

CD Review: Sex With No Hands – Squeeze It

The title of the cd is a pun, since this tongue-in-cheek San Francisco dance/funk sextet – couldn’t resist that word – relies on two accordions plus an oldschool, 1980s style keytar (a synth mounted on a body that looks like a guitar and is played while slung over the shoulder), plus a horn section. Their songs are catchy, they have a good sense of humor and they don’t take themselves seriously at all – and claim to have been cited by the Onion for having one of the best band names of 2008 (well, it’s true – they do). Along with the keytar, they also use one of those silly talkboxes (you know, like Zapp & Roger, or Mr. Blue Sky? Mr. Blue? Sky? Mr. Blue!) when they really feel like going for laughs.  

 

The first cut on the cd is Red Light Love, a funk song, like what Zapp & Roger would have sounded like with accordions. The second track, Pogo Stick is predictably funny, Freudian, latin inflected funk with the occasional cheesy keytar flourish. Tengo Un Secreto is a scurrying Mexican banda polka with similarly amusing Spanish lyrics. The last song on the ep is a completely over-the-top, klezmerized cover of a Billy Idol hit which they call Rebbe Yell. It’s a hoot, right down to the faux Billy Idol vox. When it’s time for that idiotic guitar solo, the keytar and accordion duel it out til the drum break, which is as just as funny but for completely different reasons. You can dance to everything here: stick it in a party cd and watch the quizzical expressions. WTF is this? This is fun! If the cd is any indication, they ought to be an excellent live band. Best thing about the cd is that it’s free, download it here. Bay Area fans should check out their show on a killer triple bill on March 21 at Cafe du Nord; Sex With No Hands are scheduled to hit at 11:30, but show up early at 9 for all-female, 60’s-era Kinks cover band the Minks and then awesomely catchy yet haunting harmony-driven art-rockers Blue Rabbit.

February 14, 2009 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CD Review: Blue Rabbit – Separate

“Modern Baroque pop that falls on the Bjork side of Arcade Fire,”says their press kit. Not exactly. This strikingly smart, tuneful, harmony-driven, female-fronted San Francisco band isn’t particularly quirky or the least bit precious. Nor are they a tenth-rate Echo & the Bunnymen ripoff. Rather, Blue Rabbit come across as something akin to the long-lost  mystery sister of Feist and Rasputina, with a catchy pop sensibility that’s remarkably schlock-free. Although a devious programmer at Clear Channel (could such a person actually exist?) could slip some of the songs on this cd into the mix without alienating all the ten-year olds waiting for that Miley Cyrus song that pops up every 40 minutes.

 

Blue Rabbit love minor keys and intricate, imaginative vocal arrangements, sometimes using counterpoint and two sets of lyrics. The cd is a diverse mix of upbeat fare and slower, darker material. It kicks off with the defiantly funny, new wave-inflected Sleep, haunting organ in the background against the cello and a pounding drum roll evocative of the Joy Division classic Atrocity Exhibition. “I’m so tired tired tired/I’d like to sleep sleep sleep.” Then they bring it down with a trip-hop beat on Getting Away, a pop song with a twist, leaping into doublespeed on the chorus with a minor-key ragtime feel. The title track is a somewhat bitter but catchy dance tune with incisive piano:

 

Lift the rat trap, free the mouse…

Take your lips from the back of my hand

And end separate as we began

 

Another minor-key tune, Missing Piece begins in 6/8 time with sparse cello accents, climbing to a fingersnapping cabaret chorus. The song builds methodically and inescapably to a beautiful crescendo with lush harmonies and orchestration. Other standout tracks include the bouncy, snide Stupid Flag (“Raise the stupid flag, raise it high, wave it wide with all you have), and the gorgeous Love Secret, another big 6/8 ballad to close the album. Beginning with dark, rustic cello over plaintive broken chords on the guitar, it morphs at warp speed into a classic 60s style pop song on the chorus. What might be most impressive is that Blue Rabbit delivers live, too, those beautiful voices soaring over the darkness and drama. This band could appeal to just about anybody, from the American Idol crowd to those with vastly more purist or cynical taste. Blue Rabbit are at the Canadian Music Fest in Toronto sometimes in the March 12-14 window; Bay Area fans can catch them at Cafe Du Nord, 2170 Market Street between Church and Sanchez in San Francisco on March 21.

February 10, 2009 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , | Leave a comment