One of my favorite groups of the early '90s was a little-known but delightfully deviant Irish trio called the Pale. That band's only EP, Dogs With No Tails
-- an eccentric smash of ska, disco, and Middle Eastern melodies that proffered half-cocked refrains about dogs, whales, armadillos, and girls, sung occasionally in French with Irish accents -- was a permutation of music that had come before it, but it was fresh enough to be a full decade ahead of its contemporaries. Led by a snarling Russian with a skill for drink, the Full Moon Partisans
are more gritty, gutsy, and graphic than the Pale, but the hiccup-y rhythms, vigorous pace, distorted lyrics, giddy fervor, off-kilter phrasing, and seemingly blind inventiveness leave me with the same hopeful afterglow, and the overwhelming desire to shake my ass like a dog with no tail. At their most pedestrian, the Full Moon Partisans sound like early Talking Heads if the art-school scholars had been shoved into a gulag with the Stooges; at their most peculiar, they teeter on the edge of ye-ye, conjuring Françoise Hardy and Jacques Dutronc, while playing footsy with the Birthday Party and Cornelius on a dusty Moog and a banjo. It's not right, which is just about perfect. And if the Full Moon Partisans were not reason enough to attend this show, the local crew is opening for another native treasure: Named for a short story by James Joyce, the Two Gallants
are as cerebral as the Full Moon Partisans are visceral. Employing a direct, simple folk style, the powerfully literate duo uses drums, guitar, harmonica, and voice to invoke a tattered, reckless world where men lose their nerve, children leave home, women are struck barren, and train whistles cut through more than just fog. With the release of the Two Gallants' debut album, The Throes
, comparisons to great modern folkies like Dylan will be difficult to avoid, as much for the distinctive vocals of Adam Stephens as for the poetic prowess of the pair, comprising Stephens and Tyson Vogel, who, despite the fact that they are just old enough to legally imbibe, have already constructed their own myths and matched them with artistic force. Unforgiving songs like "Fail Hard to Regain" and "Train That Stole My Man" possess all the urgency and violence of an old-fashioned miners' strike song, yet they remain intimate tales of personal betrayal textured by old grease and apron strings; ballads like "Crow Jane" and "The Throes," which chronicle the anguish of love affairs, take on nearly archetypal significance. More than your arms and legs will be moved when the Two Gallants perform on Friday, April 30, at Cafe Du Nord with Mellow Drunk and the Full Moon Partisans opening at 9 p.m. Tickets are $8; call 861-5016 or visit www.cafedunord.com
Did you consider Ron Howard's remake of How the Grinch Stole Christmas in 2000 a portent of the encroaching cultural apocalypse? Did you mourn the emotional precision of Dr. Seuss stripped of heart and strangled by irrelevant subplots? Did you grit your teeth at the sight of movie trailers while thousands streamed to the box office, making Grinch the top-grossing flick of the year? Or did the inevitable sacking and soiling of your favorite children's writer only become evident after Mike Myers donned whiskers and a tall striped hat? What will it take? Elijah Wood as Yertle the Turtle, Bill Murray as Thidwick the Big-Hearted Moose, Robin Williams as Bartholomew Cubbins, Steve Buscemi as the Lorax? The Lorax! Certainly, that is where Hollywood will strike next, but not if Shadow Circus Creature Theatre has anything to say about it. "The Hollywood fools who created this mess will keep on producing these bad films unless ...," concludes the notice for The Cat in the Hat(chet), a puppet play that is set in the not too distant future, when a movie studio has descended on Golden Gate Park to begin filming The Lorax. Unbeknownst to the filmmakers, the park and the Lorax's good name are protected by an elfin patriarch and his legion of Faerie Trash sentries. Carnage ensues. For those unfamiliar with Shadow Circus Creature Theatre, neither puppets nor faeries nor Dr. Seuss are entities with which to be trifled lightly. The Cat in the Hat(chet) will be performed on Friday, April 30, at the Edinburgh Castle with Lucid performing live music at 9 p.m. Tickets are $5; call 885-4074 or visit www.castlenews.com.