Dead Meadow+Imaad Wasif

Be careful not to spill the bong water on your beanbag when doing that slow-mo hippy-dance, swirly air-guitar thang to D.C. psych-rockers Dead Meadow. Their new album, Three Kings (featuring five new jams and a live concert film), is more spacious and floaty, patiently winding its way through the chakras. Opening is the most excellent Wasif (a part-time touring axman for the triple Yeahs), whose mystical musings straddle Marc Bolan’s Unicorn while wielding Tony Iommi’s “Hand of Doom.”

Sun., April 25, 7:30 p.m., 2010


The Smith Westerns

The Smith Westerns owe a huge debt to Marc Bolan’s grimaced whisper-singing, Bowie’s ecstatic glam-rock rave-ups, and any number of Nuggets garage rockers’ far-beyond-driven guitars. (OK, maybe they just really like indie rockers Destroyer, who are inspired by those things plus Dylan.) They claim their biggest influence is “girls” but, no matter how you cut it, they’re using farmers’ market-fresh ingredients to cook up some pretty cool sounds. Instead of regurgitating note-for-note remakes, they’re adding to glam-rawk’s musical canon.

Sat., April 3, 8 p.m., 2010


Dandy in the Underworld: Super-Plastic Profound

While devouring the ultra-readable Dandy in the Underworld, I was convinced it was a modern-day Tristram Shandy, a satirical work of fiction posing as a racy, breathless retelling of truth. This supposed memoir of a bisexual-artist-slash-thrill-seeker is just too witty, juicy, and full of surreally complex experiences and twisty relationships to have actually happened. Even during the occasional dull patches, when the named author, Sebastian Horsley, seems to think that every single thought in his noggin is worth relaying, he’s way more interesting than most drunks and tell-all celebrities. And as Horsley plunges into hopeless degradation on every variety of narcotic, you hate him because he’s so adept at describing his horror with zingy wordplay that illuminates as it tickles.

“Father was more interested in penetrating orifices than penetrating insights,” he asserts early on. “Drinking when he wasn’t thirsty and screwing regardless of season—that was all there was to distinguish father from other mammals.” And that’s just Pops. Mother, stepfather, and everyone else Horsley’s ever met are also picked apart like chicken wings, and so is the vain but self-lacerating Horsley himself, who, when considering the possibility of life after death, admits, “I don’t believe in life before death.”

But I’m assured that Horsley is a real person who has indeed had an actual life. A Google search reveals that he wrote for the British paper The Observer, often about his own ridiculous exploits—from nailing over 1,000 prosties in a genital rampage to being nailed on a crucifix in the Philippines, without anaesthesia. (“Now, the one time I actually needed drugs, I declined.”)

Born as a failed abortion, the now 45-year-old Londoner escaped his mirthless childhood by deciding to be a girl—for a while, anyway—then grew up to adore glam rocker Marc Bolan, who was “super-plastic profound,” and later Johnny Rotten, who he decided was an “extraordinary poet” with “moral conviction.” Horsley tried becoming a rock star himself but failed, instead finding success as a drug user and equal-opportunity sex partner while wondering: “How can you make love with your excremental organs? It was so naughty of God to put the chocolate machine in the playground.”

That certainly didn’t stop him from poking around a couple of apertures and using his willy as a fleshy ice-cream cone. He ended up torn between Scottish-gangster-turned-artist Jimmy Boyle (who I’m not convinced existed either; Damon Runyon must still be alive and gone gay and druggy) and a girlfriend named Ev (who does sound banal enough to be real; under Horsley’s scalpel, she comes off like an unenlightened whiner and no fun at all). Horsley married the latter—though “I was more interested in having outlaws than in-laws”—only to find that Boyle had been shagging Ev for ages. Even more damagingly, Boyle was an egomaniac who only wanted to talk about himself. This irked Horsley, who’s such an attention whore that he was stunned when his fellow AA members weren’t thrilled he wanted a camera crew to follow him around at meetings!

Dotting his picaresque quest for fame and adulation are both defeated gestures (suicide attempts) and restorative ones (rehab visits), with Horsley feeling most alive when dancing on a precipice, halfway between life and extinction. Memorably, a boyfriend once put Horsley’s head in a toilet, then pushed it down with his stiletto heel, and Horsley loved it! (I still can’t figure out if he’s gay or just European.) But even when shoved into titillating submiss-ion, he never loses his unabashed love of language, dabbling in reversals (“I thought I was drinking because I was unhappy. It didn’t occur to me that I was unhappy because I was drinking”) and aphorisms that would have tickled his dandy idol, the frilly Quentin Crisp. (“Homosexuality,” writes Horsley, “is God’s way of ensuring that the truly gifted aren’t burdened with brats.” Unless they live in Park Slope, I guess.)

When all the yin/yang zingers verge on becoming oppressive, our harrowing hero aims for a more sober tone, especially when he spends his birthday hanging out at Auschwitz—mainly so he could talk about it—and when he undergoes that ritualized crucifixion that makes him re-evaluate everything, then come out just as superficial. So superficial that I started thinking maybe he is real.

A professional poseur, Horsley seems to understand that life is meaningless, but must be attacked with gusto—and with good clothes, too. “I believe in nothing,” he writes in conclusion, “but with as much style as I can.” The man certainly knows how to dress up his despair. His lifelong dandification, he says, shields him from suffering while using artificiality to reveal the truth—”and the truth is that we are what we pretend to be.” I guess Horsley is super-plastic profound: His combination of self-flagellation and megalomania is surprisingly delightful. He’s nailed it.


Pervs Capture Production and Cadence of Glam ’70s

Louis XIV are, probably unintentionally, to Ziggy Stardust (the singer has the cadence nailed) and Marc Bolan what the Rutles are/were to the Beatles. That’s not necessarily bad, either: The appeal of The Best Little Secrets Are Kept lies almost completely in the production, which nicely mimics the timbre of Tony Visconti-ville circa ’71-’74. That was a sound worth imitating, and Louis XIV’s aim is close to perfect—so much so they probably recorded the bass guitar on the edge of the tape, just like their idol. But if Visconti were an adviser, he would have told them that Ziggy always had a lead guitarist at the recording session and Bolan was born to boogie. Not much on Secrets is catchy, either. But feet can be stamped to a few numbers, and if you don’t smile and laugh at “Illegal Tender,” you’re just too young and dour. One heckuva try; let’s hope they stick with it.

Louis XIV play the Bowery Ballroom April 26.


Hoosiers From the Heartland Pay Homage to Hipster Heroes

Proclaiming emancipation from fascist insects, Five Pillars of Soul by John Wilkes Booze compiles and condenses the Hoosier sextet’s multi-EP 2002 quest for chutzpah preservation, offered now in one easy-to-sweat installment. A chapbook-sized bonus is the 8,000-word-plus manifesto that riffs lovingly on each pillar, at one point explaining samsara via the snowless grass around Albert Ayler’s Ohio grave. Despite the flashy concept, the real meat is a baker’s dozen tracks eulogizing a badass Dream Team of Ayler, Melvin Van Peebles, Tania Hearst, Marc Bolan, and Yoko Ono (who plays center or at least power forward in JWB’s cosmology). Vocalist Seth Mahern’s Alice Donut–dunkin’ Tiny Tim falsetto scorches when surrounded by r&b garage-rock gospel choirs; he’s also persuasive balancing dorky spoken words, bubbling white guilt, and shape-shifting Mirian Zazeela drones that allow his freedom fighters an opportunity to loosen the reins and just cold chill (as on non–Mission of Burma–remake “Academy Fight Song,” a ghostly plea for psychedelic nookie). Fugs and Zombies covers act as place settings, as do Bloomington local flavors, a bleating sax, and a hippified hoedown. But lucky song number five—”Marc Bolan Makes Me Want to Fuck, Part II” ‘s combo of humid piano, revolutionary whispers, molasses geetar, and good ol’ Timothy Leary—taps the pleasure dome best.