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Bobby Conn serves up Serge Gainsbourg by way of Motörhead, all while chastising Dubya

Wednesday, Mar 3 2004
Realizing that Armageddon had not come to pass with the new millennium, as Bobby Conn had prophesied and premeditated in 1998's apocalyptic space opera Rise Up!, Chicago's self-identified Antichrist found himself artistically adrift in 2000. He considered writing his own album-length requiem, but that seemed rash. So he tried to make the best of the un-ending of the world as we know it, settling on a Prince-hued, Motörhead-ish collection of Serge Gainsbourg-style ballads called The Golden Age. The one-time underlord's powers of persuasion made schizophrenic genre-splicing feel as comfortable as a pair of well-worn velvet trousers, but Conn was ill-suited to the sentimental turn his songs had taken. So he sat back and waited for things to get better -- er, worse. Thankfully, George W. Bush's presidential term has provided plenty of grist and gristle on which a man like Conn might masticate. Returning to epic themes and diabolical schemes, Bobby Conn & the Glass Gypsies tackle the wicked world of politics on The Homeland, a glam-rock rendering of current events delivered in Conn's signature falsetto. "We are your friends; we come in peace/ We brought out guns to set you free," he trills on the opening song amidst a joyous backing chorus and a swirling morass of mod guitar. On the bionic glam epic "We're Taking Over the World," Conn confirms the nefarious plots hatched by the Freemasons, the Illuminati, Clear Channel, and pagan gods from outer space. "Relax" is a disco sendup of a coke party with the Texas prince of lies. "I didn't need to be elected/ When I was born I was selected," sings Conn over a running hiccup of Polymoog and Fender Rhodes. "Home Sweet Home" delves into the more intimate realm of the survivalist lullaby: "You know, ironic distance isn't very far/ This rifle has a range of 2,000 yards." As usual, Conn's style is anything flashy, but he does it well. In fact, with the immediacy of the material and the inspired presence of field recording interludes, he may do it better here than he ever has. Unfortunately, The Homeland will not have the timeless appeal of Rise Up! because anything shy of the Apocalypse is just fucking the pooch. Bobby Conn performs on Wednesday, March 3, at the Hemlock with Dynasty Handbag opening at 9 and 11 p.m. Tickets are $10; call 923-0923 or visit And on Saturday, March 6, at the Liminal Gallery (2000 Myrtle between 18 and 20th streets, Oakland) with Deerhoof and Numbers; call (510) 465-6009 for more info.

Even without a listen, the governing influences on the Polysics' voltaic world are patent. From the group's Devo jumpsuits and impenetrable sunglasses to the title of its most recent U.S. release, Neu (an homage, no doubt, to the oft-overlooked krautrock duo of the same name created by Michael Rother and Klaus Dinger after they split from Kraftwerk), it is clear that the mainline to the Polysics' electro-pneumatic heart is synthesized proto-punk of an early '70s vintage. Unsurprising, then, to find this album rife with vocoder detachment, video-arcade bundles and bleeps, and ultramod song titles like "S.V.O.," "Ms-17," and "Cy/CB." What might be more surprising is the rampaging energy behind the electro bias: the strangled vocals, crashing cymbals, and grinding guitars; the way the angular urgency of a seemingly innocent synth-pop intro detonates into punk-style catharsis, leaving peculiar shrapnel in its wake, like the barely discernable lyrics, "Cut a tooth, and miss a tooth/ Choose fish or choose chicken, oh!/ Where's your manner?/ Here you go," or "You stole my luck away/ You stole my stock option/ You stole my tomato/ You stole my secret video/ You stole my bandages and crutches." Like peppermint eyedrops, $25 oranges, or stationery that reads "Events falling around me like comical sketches, I don't understand why," the Polysics are unmistakably Japanese, a fact that is never more apparent than during songs like "Each Life Each End" and "Black Out Fall Out," when the dominant twee-ness of vocalist Kayo will make Ex-Girl fans breath heavy. Still, quirky cuteness and bubble-up pop definitely play sidecar to the rock barrage. In fact, the Polysics have become a bit notorious in Japan, where their safety-orange "P" emblem appears on telephone poles and bus stops heralding their arrival, and their frenetic performances and dutiful dress code drive fans to propel themselves off speakers into frenzied pits of pogoing droids. "Special thanks to DEVO," reads the back of Neu. Indeed. The Polysics perform in conjunction with the S.F. International Asian American Film Festival on Friday, March 5, at Cafe Du Nord with Dealership, Dengue Fever, Julie Plug, and Clarendon Hills opening at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10; call 861-5016 or visit And on Saturday, March 6, at Amoeba Music at 2 p.m. Admission is free; call 831-1200 or visit

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Silke Tudor


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