To the great shame of music lovers worldwide, the Beatles are on the top of the charts again. In January, when the band's album, 1, charted at No. 1 in Germany, Australia, the U.K., and almost everywhere else, my only solace was that the record stopped at No. 2 in Japan, where Love Psychedelico reigned supreme. Fronted by former San Francisco resident Kumi, this duo creates irrepressible, multilayered pop tunes that compel club kids to sing in Japanese and English -- even if they have no idea what they're saying. Occasionally dark and folky, Love Psychedelico mixes forceful female vocals with a sprightly go-go aesthetic, bleeding a hard-bitten guitar sound into shiny dance-floor hooks. Now, the group brings its Beatles-besting tunes to San Francisco, headlining the South by Southwest-spawned "Japan Nite." The bill also features hardcore girl trio Bleach, brash and noisy combo Heart Bazaar, and the piano-fueled Jerry Lee Phantom -- easily the greatest, most ridiculous punk rock outfit since the Toy Dolls. "Japan Nite" arrives on Saturday, March 24, at the Paradise Lounge at 9 p.m. Tickets are $12; call 861-6906.
I saw Face/Off in the theater three times. I wasn't there for John Woo's restless direction, Oliver Wood's artfully balanced cinematography, Nicolas Cage's and John Travolta's acting "prowess," or the implausibly sketched script by Mike Werb and Michael Colleary; it was the work of John T. Cucci, sonic mastermind behind Gladiator, Magnolia, Sleepy Hollow, and Being John Malkovich, that hastened my return. In Face/Off, Cucci created the hollow crack and billow of Castor Troy's trench coat, the reverberating flare and hiss of Troy's wooden matches, the metallic thud of Sean Archer's prison boots, and every other sound that made me want to live inside the movie. As I watched, I mused, "If only my hand swooshed when it moved dismissively through the air or cracked with the punch of a brilliant retort; if only my food and cigarettes sounded as good as they looked." If I couldn't be in Face/Off, I wanted my own personal sound artist to make the noises of my day come alive.
Other folks who share my aural yen might want to attend "Sound Effects: The Magic of Foley." Following in the 5,000 miles of footsteps laid down by Jack Foley -- the original situational soundman who gave silent pictures new life by turning belches into motor revs, wooden chairs into creaking stairs, and key chains into slave shackles -- professional Foley artists will demonstrate their craft live, creating effects for movies as they are being screened, using the junk that is still considered tools of the trade: rusted car fenders, broken bicycle wheels, plates, glasses, swimming flippers, fans, toy guns, and old phones. "Sound Effects: The Magic of Foley" will be presented on Saturday and Sunday, March 24 and 25, at the Exploratorium at 2 p.m. Ticket price is included in the $9 museum admission fee; call 397-5673.
After the Foley artist, the soundtrack composer runs a close second in my sound-centric heart. In animated films, such music often supplies both the score and the Foley effects, giving characters their unrealized leitmotivs and drawing emotion out of potentially stagnant scenes. On Fetch!, a collection of pieces composed and performed for short animation by Nik Phelps and the Sprocket Ensemble, you can practically hear rubber balls bouncing across the titular song. Over the course of the record, the Ensemble draws tongue-wagging dogs with steel guitar and clarinet, colors insufferable felines with flute and cello, paints children fighting with water-phones, and enlivens wise men with violins. Fetch! bounds through live and studio recordings of classical, jazz, klezmer, and Western styles -- all highlighted by decidedly 'toony tones -- offering true delights for fans of the Lounge Lizards or Henry Mancini. Nik Phelps and the Sprocket Ensemble celebrate their CD release on Monday, March 26, at the Minna Street Gallery at 7:30 and 9:30 p.m. The Ensemble also plays on Tuesday, March 27, at 21 Grand (21 Grand Ave. in Oakland) at 7:30 and 9:30 p.m. Ticket price for both shows is $10 general and $7 students; call 681-3189.