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House Of Tudor 

French Troublemakers, nihilistic novelists, and melancholic-altbluegrass purveyors

Wednesday, Aug 15 2001
Rising from the sun-drenched industrial seaport of Marseilles, the Troublemakers create sepia-toned downtempo montages infused with the sort of subtle humor, cool pessimism, and blatant sexiness once prevalent in French New Wave cinema but sorely lacking in electronic music prior to "French Touch" artists like St. Germain and Air. The French production trio weaves dexterous spoken-word samples (the paranoid, liquor-store rant of "Street Preacher," the suggestive double-entendres of "Hum Hum," the venomous monologue of Taxi Driver's Travis Bickle in "Black City") into a grainy foreground of careening saxophone, funk-driven bass, skulking violin, flamenco guitar, spy jazz melodies, porn soundtracks, and futuristic beats. The Troublemakers' debut, Doubts and Convictions, is like an old beanbag chair: You sink in, and before you know it, your eyes are closed, your toes are wiggling, your shoulders are rolling, and a little smile is teasing the corners of your mouth. There's no pressure to submit, but you do anyway. The Troublemakers perform on Thursday, Aug. 16, at the DNA with Mr. C of London's "The End" opening; DJs Oliver Gross (Cosmic Flux), Tom Thump (Groove Merchant), Franky Boissey (Naked Music), and Chris Haycock ("Joypad") spin upstairs at 9 p.m. Tickets are $15-20; call 789-7690.

Story has it that when young San Francisco author Jason Flores-Williams heard that the U.K. publisher that discovered Irvine Welsh and a slew of similarly gritty "outsider" writers was interested in his novel, The Last Stand of Mr. America, Flores-Williams moved to Scotland to stoke the imprint's interest personally. The brash tactic worked; Canongate/Rebel Inc. will rerelease his once self-published novel in November. In the meantime, the "Caligula of American letters" is returning to the scene of the crime to share his nihilistic views of sex, gender politics, American apathy, and the abyss in the very city that nourished his sadistic little work of (de)moralizing erotica.

While Flores-Williams' grim, graphic, and heavy-handed style may appeal most to those purposefully bankrupt readers who thought Welsh's Filth was a frolicking good time, there is no denying Flores-Williams' gift for prodding shadows with a cold, unwavering Maglite. In his San Francisco, sex club sadists are reduced to overgrown Dungeons & Dragons fanatics; kind, unpretentious transvestites slip in the cracks between natural-born femaleness and tranny affectation; women chase their fear by chasing casual sex; men chase their fear with lists, fists, liquor, Nietzsche, and the perfect balance of muscle tone and beer gut; and none but the dead are redeemed. In the eyes of Mr. America, everyone is corrupt or corruptible. Even for the innocents heard whimpering behind the walls, it's only a matter of time before they too are besmirched. Jason Flores-Williams reads on Saturday, Aug. 18, at the Edinburgh Castle with former SF Weekly writer Jack Boulware and Alan Black opening at 10 p.m. Admission is free and includes complimentary milk and candy; call 885-4074.

With more than a tender nod to the Louvin Brothers, Split Lip Rayfield's third record, Never Make It Home, is harmony-rich and gentle on the ears -- even while the bluegrass plucking of mandolin player Wayne Gottstine and banjo wiz Eric Madris reaches breakneck speeds. The band's penchant for minor keys, which conjure the natural melancholy of dust bowls and famine, adds to the wistful nature of Never Make It Home, even while its lyrics wander through the car wrecks and record stores of a modern age. Still, there is no denying the Wichita, Kan., group's punk rearing: Unlike the Louvins, the four vocalists in Split Lip Rayfield are clearly untrained (although guitarist Kirk Rundstrom reaches stirring depths). Likewise, Jeff Eaton storms across his gas-tank bass and kazoo like a flame-haired hooligan. But, unlike so many records of a similar nature and even unlike the act's previous offerings, Never Make It Home is nearly devoid of the ironic winks that make bluegrass "cool" -- a change that's very nice indeed. Split Lip Rayfield performs as part of Nadine's Wild Weekend on Sunday, Aug. 19, at Bottom of the Hill with Joaquina, Virgil Shaw, and M. Ward opening at 5:30 p.m. Tickets are $7 and include an all-you-can-eat barbecue; call 621-4455.

About The Author

Silke Tudor


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