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House Of Tudor 

R.L. Burnside; Nerve Meter; Pepe Deluxé

Wednesday, Jan 24 2001
The 73-year-old voice of R.L. Burnside rises up out of dusty floorboards of ambient beats and lazy slide guitar, sounding as splintered and smoke-weary as the song's title, "Hard Time Killing Floor." And that's just the beginning. Burnside's most recent album, Wish I Was in Heaven Sitting Down, is, to date, the most effective collision between Burnside's North Mississippi mountain roots and the indie world to which he was introduced after his exposure in Dave Stewart's documentary Deep Blues and his subsequent tours with the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. While Come On In combined Burnside's country blues vocalizations with electronica by way of Beck producer Tom Rothrock -- and spawned the nominal radio hit "It's Bad You Know," which landed on the Sopranos soundtrack -- Wish is the true realization of Burnside's forward thinking. "Miss Maybelle" becomes a hard-driving two-step with Beck's turntablist DJ Swamp laying down hysterical scratching in the place of traditional washboard; "Chain of Fools," as popularized by Aretha Franklin, becomes a rebel song through Burnside's gritty intonations, Tom Waits sideman Smokey Hormel's swirling guitar, and Swamp's looped beats; and the traditional mandolin blues of "My Eyes (Keep Me in Trouble)" becomes an electronic hoedown. Whether it is the formidable knowledge of Burnside himself or the adroit sensitivity of Hormel and Swamp that brings Wish to life, it is a relevant work of historical unification. R.L. Burnside performs on Wednesday, Jan. 24, at the Great American Music Hall with Robert Belfour opening at 9 p.m. Tickets are $15; call 885-0750.

Between the prickly cacophonies of bass-toned towers crumbling into brackish marshland and the succor of velvety organs flickering across cool shoulder blades ... between the tender secrets of a quiet little girl and the peril of a faceless cannibal horde ... between the rolling tones of a well-smoked man and the pouty sneer of a spoiled androgyne ... between the ballad and rock 'n' roll delirium lies Nerve Meter. Historically, a "nerve meter" is both a delicate medical instrument that travels along the spinal chord, probing the flesh for reaction, and the poetic ranting of an addicted madman named Antonin Artaud. The Nerve Meter of which I speak is neither, but possesses the qualities of both: a trio of local musicians -- vocalist/guitarist/ piano player Will Lerner, bassist Trevel Beshore, and former Red House Painters drummer Anthony Koutsos -- that creates sinister love songs and kinetic fugues that rub against the ear like a well-worn shammy hiding sharpened blades. On its self-titled debut, Nerve Meter brushes elegant piano melodies with diastolic severity ("Quiet Type") before plunging into queasy outbursts of rousing guitar and bass ("Triplesex") that leave a person feeling bruised and desirous. Lerner's voice wafts through the deep, ruddy chasm plumbed by the Tindersticks' Stuart Staples, then stretches itself in fearsome wails reminiscent of early Peter Murphy. But unlike Bauhaus, Nerve Meter is shamelessly romantic even at its most rough and bawdy, and unlike the Tindersticks, Nerve Meter offers a songwriter who possesses lyrical subtlety and substantive sincerity. Such is seen in "Face," on which Lerner sardonically warns an angelic boy of his impending doom, marked by Koutsos' restrained and intensely effective playing, and in "Shut," on which Lerner fights the metaphoric draft left by the open door his lover just stepped through. Taken as a whole, Nerve Meter is startlingly cohesive and pop-minded, lingering in body and mind and prompting repeat listens. It is not groundbreaking, but it is certainly faultless. Nerve Meter plays on Thursday, Jan. 25, at the Hotel Utah with Grand Value opening at 10 p.m. Tickets are $5; call 546-6300.

While they're from Finland, the big beat purveyors of Pepe Deluxé sort of got their start here when, in 1995, four-time Finnish national champion DJ Slow was asked to contribute a track for the San Francisco-based Bomb Records Return of the DJ series. Slow hooked up with vinyl junkie Ja-Jazz and '60s-psych-sample whiz James Spectrum, and Pepe Deluxé was positioned to take Britain by storm -- or at least make some quick cash from national advertisements and lazy jams created for phone sex companies. The group's American debut, Super Sound, is a gleeful compendium of 13 cozy, cut-and-paste tracks filled with organic static, hypnotic self-help voices, and freaked-out, pill-popping Muzak. Pepe Deluxé performs on Saturday, Jan. 27, at Amoeba Records at 2 p.m. Admission is free; call 831-1200. And that night at Light at 11:30 p.m. Call 474-3216 for ticket price.

Promising scantily clad go-go dancers, an instant-glamour booth, naughty film projections, rampant paparazzi, and the must-be-seen-to-be-delicious VIP room created by Blood and Butter Productions, "Glitz" will bring gorgeousness back to nightclubbing. As the glitter-and-confetti-festooned brainchild of local glam rockers Blue Period, "Glitz" will offer all sorts of luscious, overindulgent rock 'n' roll tremens. This week's event includes Blue Period (of course), Los Angeles' Magdalene, and local industrial languishers Cellophane Masses, whose frontman David Wayne has always been just this side of alternative radio fame -- first, with his band Lesson Seven, and later brushing creative elbows with Information Society, Jon Birdsong, and Stabbing Westward. Wayne has since settled in with a full-time band that includes former American Music Club drummer Lliam Heart and Andey Stephens of Black Dahlia and SubArachnoid Space, with whom he creates dark, industrial dance music with a lyrical penchant for the overblown and melodramatic. Ideal for "Glitz," which will be held on the last Saturday of every month, starting Jan. 27, at 9 p.m. at the Paradise Lounge. Tickets are $10; call 861-6906.

About The Author

Silke Tudor


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