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House Of Tudor 

Teutonic new wave, Dutch sample-pop, junkyard blues, and snarling post-punk

Wednesday, Nov 14 2001
A few years ago, while digging through the discount bins of her Amsterdam record store, Elisabeth Esselink bore Solex in the hopes of liberating some marked-down sounds she suspected would otherwise go unheard. On her third album, Low Kick and Hard Bop, the sprightly voice of Solex plays peekaboo with new noises: talk show hosts, blues harmonica, tiki tunes, boisterous deaf people, mariachi percussion, big band brass, daredevil drum rolls, arcane telephone rings, and train crossings. But while the same samples in another's hands might sound like a patchwork quilt of hyperkitsch, Low Kick processes supernatural concinnity, an internal harmony among the parts that creates a seamless whole. Solex's "whole" is an elegant soundtrack for a world where sounds create characters and moments are more relevant than words. On "Look ... No Fingerprints!," organ loops and relentless cymbals accentuate the story of a boxer who scored his first knockout when he was just 15. Kazoos and the cartoonish plunk of piano keys act as glib bedfellows for the menace behind "Good Comrades Go to Heaven," in which Esselink sings persuasively, "I just don't think they never ever had a better day." Finally, on "You Say Potato, I Say Aardappel," Esselink says only, "Say, to/ Say, pel," proving sounds speak volumes and a well-worn fedora is just as comforting as a "pot for the pee." Solex performs on Friday, Nov. 16, at the Bottom of the Hill with Dälek and Kevin Blechdom opening at 10 p.m. Tickets are $10; call 621-4455.

On Saturday nights gone by, armed with a penny whistle, a foot drum, some iron spikes, a washboard, a harmonica, a ukulele, a vacuum cleaner hose, and a whole pile of junk from an old Safeway shopping cart, the boys in Rube Waddell created a delightful, earthly ruckus on the piss-soaked sidewalks in front of Leed's shoe store on Mission Street. Well, Leed's may be gone and Mahatma Boom Boom, Reverend Wupass, and Captain Feedback may have moved on to the more auspicious confines of prevailing recording technology, but there's no need to go washing your pits just yet. Rube Waddell's first compact disc, Bound for the Gates of Hell, is just as gritty as a street-corner stomp with two cow patties and a cup full of gravel. And I mean that in the best possible way. From sadistic Irish reels to junkyard jigs to guttergrass ballads to back-alley blues to Spanish serenades, Rube Waddell proves its musical chops while licking them with an irreverent, Skid Row sense of humor. No one, and I mean no one, can create an Appalachian Bowery with such nimble-fingered dexterity and humor. Rube Waddell celebrates its record release on Saturday, Nov. 17, at the Starry Plough in Berkeley with Ohlene headlining and Japonize Elephants opening at 9:45 p.m. Tickets are $6; call (510) 841-2082.

Seemingly suckled on the cool, Teutonic decadence of Berlin new wave, Tracy & the Plastics emerge on their Chainsaw debut, Muscler's Guide to Videonics, twitching and flickering amid synthesized drumbeats and android handclaps. With pouty-lipped precision, Tracy enunciates misshapen observances such as "Fill her with plastic candy/ Got the one-eyed piggy pony"; meanwhile, her bandmates Cola and Nikki deliver oddness with equal aplomb, Cola sweetly preparing a "banana with sunglasses" and Nikki spitting up over art tests. Tracy & the Plastics are triumphantly stern, sexy, and danceable, and so delightfully "other" that it may be alarming to discover the group is not European, nor, in fact, a "group." From what I can ascertain, Tracy & the Plastics is Wynne Greenwood, a musical freak who arrived in Olympia, Wash., by way of New Jersey. If you ask after Tracy's origin (as several people did on her Web site,, she might tell you it takes only three teeth to fill an empt y hand: one to keep count and two to breathe and stop. Then again she might tell you being Tracy is the "possibility of horse-fed chickens and train-fed pussies." She probably won't tell you that Tracy & the Plastics is a new wave video-art band comprised of Greenwood and two VHS personas (also played by Greenwood) who sing backup and carry on snide, surrealistic conversations with one another between songs. While the low-tech characters and the impeccably scripted interactions between woman and machines are enchanting, the holographic nature of the band is less interesting than its output. Straddling a keyboard between the Normal, the Need, and Laurie Anderson, Tracy & the Plastics offer a blanket of vintage circuitry for the prematurely weaned post-punk. Tracy & the Plastics perform on Saturday, Nov. 17, at the Bottom of the Hill with Erase Errata, Mecca Normal, and Panama opening at 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $8; call 621-4455.

For more than 25 years, over the course of 25 albums and at least 27 different band lineups, the dry, atonal snarl and impassable cynicism of Mark E. Smith have been at the core of the Fall. While other post-punk acts have grown in popularity, Smith remains thoroughly ensconced in his cult status -- proof enough, for many followers, of his dense genius and off-kilter, Manchurian humor. Live, Mark E. Smith is the bon ton of unaffected disaffection and even those who have difficulty distinguishing one Fall album from another will be captivated by his careless disregard and casual perfection, as if he were Brigitte Bardot walking among fishmongers. The Fall performs at the Great American Music Hall on Monday, Nov. 19, with Erase Errata and the Evening opening at 9 p.m. Tickets are $20; call 885-0750.

About The Author

Silke Tudor


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