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House Of Tudor 

16 Horsepower; Le Tigre; Wammies

Wednesday, Oct 4 2000
Secret South is the fateful, disquieting fulfillment of the promise 16 Horsepower tendered on its first two releases, Sackcloth 'n' Ashes and Low Estate. On Sackcloth, we were witness to the emergence of a new Southern Gothic voice, the son of a traveling preacher whose lyrical mind was held in the terrifying sway of existent devils lapping at his soul. On Low Estate we heard David Eugene Edwards and his constant musical companion, Jean-Yves Tola, embody those terrors on a visceral plane of thundering percussion and weeping guitars, but the poetry seemed rushed, taking a back seat to musical fervor. Together, the albums offered confirmation -- authentic murmurs of passion and penance drenched in minor-key banjo and Edwards' eerie treble -- but alone they stood half-formed, dripping and premature, full of pretense. With Secret South, the clicking tongues will be stilled. This is not an album created for exhibition: It is intimate and deep-seated, as private and perpetual as the bayous it inhabits. As always Edwards tills his family history for organic matter, but here an acceptance of his bloodline has been realized; by passing through the lower, quieter ranges of his voice he seems to absorb the lives of his kin, singing from within their psyches, rather than depending on the haunting remoteness of his wail to treat them as distant curiosities. Similarly, Edwards allows his exemplary banjo playing to give way to hesitant, timid picking that pulls at the ear like a whisper. On "Wayfaring Stranger," a traditional folk song given a musical solitude and menace hitherto only implied by the lyrics, Edwards conjures the uncertainty and tentative hope of both the main character and the child who first heard the song. Despite the faint loping of a carnival-esque keyboard and the mention of rasping locusts and hammering church bells, "Silver Saddle" is the most straightforward song 16 Horsepower has recorded. "Her talkin' ain't like the other girls/ She takes my living at a glance," sings Edwards simply, with exhausted, evident gratefulness. Personal moments aside, Secret South remains epic in proportion, with most of the songs awash in Gothic layers of pastoral orchestration and lyrics that invoke the heroic struggle between everyday man and the malevolent maw of sin. For the first time, though, Edwards sounds like he has actually walked through the mire. Abandoning the safety of the soapbox, he arrives among us with open palms and real stories to share. 16 Horsepower performs on Wednesday, Oct. 4, at the Great American Music Hall with Slim Cessna's Auto Club opening at 9 p.m. Tickets are $10; call 885-0750.

My distaste for simple-minded grrrl power rhetoric notwithstanding, Bikini Kill's Kathleen Hanna (creator of the Valley Girl Intelligentsia) has never failed to produce highly entertaining, frequently unshakable anthems. The sprightly harvest of her latest band, Le Tigre, is no exception. Opening with a song that bears the irresistible chorus, "Who took the bomp from the bompalompalomp," Le Tigre's self-titled debut blends new wave-style samples with primitive Farfisa organ, garage guitar, and unrepentant girly harmonies that bring to mind such joyous girl groups as X-Ray Spex, the Need, and, dare I say it, the Shangri-Las. While Hanna would probably enjoy being the strident voice of feminism (her consequent interviews are nearly unlistenable), her lyrics are better left analyzed only by pre-pubescent girls in need of easily digestible guidance. Certainly, the call-out verse of "Hot Topic," which names super-cool subjects such as David Wojnarowicz, the Slits, Vaginal Cream Davis, Billy Tipton, Nina Simone, Gertrude Stein, and the aforementioned Need, could serve as a trouble-free guide for young teens in search of culture; similarly, the call-and-response of "What's Yr Take on Cassavetes" ("Misogynist? Genius? Alcoholic? Messiah?") is no great example of deep critical thinking, but it might serve as impetus for some burgeoning young artist to publicly question creative pedagogues. That is not to say these songs are readily dismissed; in fact, exactly the opposite is true. Hannah's innocent whimsy and uncomplicated notions of right and wrong might be exactly what enables her music to be so infectious. Whether singing about her Metro pass or the gay guy next door who gave her hope as a child by singing show tunes, Hannah's songs are gluey like Sugar Babies, and equally as pleasing. Le Tigre performs on Wednesday, Oct. 4, at the Bottom of the Hill with Tracy & the Plastics and the Little Deaths starting at 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $7; call 621-4455.

As this year's SF Weekly Wammies (Saturday, Oct. 7, at the Great American Music Hall) were intended to be a no-stress, low-competition, eye-catching, tit-twirling party for musicians and their fans, we shied away from only booking nominated bands as we've done in the past. (We chose Persephone's Bees long before the nominations came in, swear.) Still, we thought it imprudent not to offer some of this year's contenders a chance to strut their stuff, so, in what we hope will become a tradition, the SF Weekly Wammies Pre-Party is born. Blue Period, Sparrow's Point, JoJo, the Slow Poisoners, Whisky Pills & the PBR Street Gang, Barbee Killed Kenn, and more will grace the stages of the Paradise Lounge on Thursday, Oct. 5, at 8 p.m. Admission is FREE, people! Call 861-6906. A pre-show booze-up will be held between 7 and 8 p.m. for all nominated bands and previous Wammies winners (you know who you are).

Having attended the Wammies pre-party and the Wammies award ceremony, you must feel pretty connected to the local music scene, but you're not off the hook yet. Ian Brennan -- the man behind the Monday night acoustic showcases at Brain Wash, the subsequent local-band CD compilations, and all those benefit shows where bands get naked or play in the park to help him help us save our city's culture -- is celebrating the four-year anniversary of "San Francisco Unscrubbed." Jason Lytle from Grandaddy, Paula Frazer formerly of Tarnation, Dr. Frank of the Mr. T Experience, Red Meat, Carlos Forster of the For Stars, Mark Growden, and Noe Venable will perform, and since Brennan is tireless in his altruism, this show will be a benefit for Save San Francisco. The show is on Sunday, Oct. 8, at Slim's at 8 p.m. Admission is free; call 255-0333.

About The Author

Silke Tudor


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