Sound Checks

He's the founder of K Records, the Olympia, Wash., label that has released phenomenal work by, among many others, Beck, Built to Spill, Fifth Column, Heavenly, Fugazi, Nirvana, Lync, the Make-Up, Modest Mouse, the Pastels, Snuff and Johnson's old band Beat Happening. It's an impressive list of artists, all of whom are drawn to the defiant and musically diverse punk ideals of the K label and, by association, Johnson himself.

Johnson's current band is called the Dub Narcotic Sound System, and they cut a fantastic swath through R&B, dub and all things groove-based; put an indie-rock spin on it; and generate an energy that's, well, pretty great. You should check them out, if for no other reason than to witness Johnson's freakified dancing and posturing. It's funny, absurd and unpretentious.

Also on the bill is another phenomenal K band, icu; their record from last year, Chotto Matte a Moment!, mixes explosive drum & bass and hip-hop rhythms with guitar and voice, and the result is absolute inspiration in an electronic mix-and-match world that often lacks concrete energy. Their pores spew rhythm, and they should not be missed.

The others on the bill, Miranda July and K.G., I haven't heard. Sorry. The former has an album on the Kill Rock Stars label out of Olympia; the latter includes one Tae Won Yu, who, in addition to being a fantastic graphic artist, was the force behind Kicking Giant, whose performance at Cicero's basement about five years ago was one of the most transcendent and exciting I've ever seen.

As a whole, this show threatens to be a monster, and I can't imagine, given those participating, that it won't be. Crawl if you must, but by all means ... (RR)

Wednesday, March 24; Rocket Bar

The first time I heard Sarge, I didn't know what the hubbub was all about. Spin, Rolling Stone, the Village Voice, they all raved about this Champaign, Ill., band that has been playing at out-of-the-way places around St. Louis for the past few years to not much notice whatsoever. But I didn't hear it -- big whoop: guitar rock with hooks, harmonies and a general angry quirkiness. Like we need another one of those.

Then I popped the band's album on again a few months later, with lyrics in front of me, and got drawn into the whirlpool of their words, wonderfully crafted lines that circle around a subject to create genuine narrative progression. These narratives, at least on the most recent release, The Glass Intact (Mud), are written and sung by Elizabeth Elmore, who expresses a first-person sexual confusion that's rarely self-indulgent diary-entry secret talk. Rather, Elmore presents a situation with setting and telling details ("Late at night he kissed me one too many times"; "You slipped your hand underneath my dress so last night I took you driving"; "I met this girl at a Madison punk-rock show/She made fun of all the boys") and then tries to make sense of it. And it works. The music that surrounds these situations, though by no means revolutionary and occasionally somewhat generic, provides enough context to work magic. (RR)

Contributors: Daniel Durchholz, Dunkor Imani, Roy Kasten, Randall Roberts

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