Galaxy quest

GalaxyWith musical superstars heading this way, we look to the skies for answers

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

The gays are not without major music options as five big acts all head to town. From the mainstream pop of Kylie to the lesbi-rock of Brandi Carlile, and lots in between, it might be tough to navigate through the slew of music stars retrograding Dallas. Thus we searched for celestial advice on how to find our way through the asteroids and harmonies on which shows to consider.

The moon: Brandi Carlile

Although 2004 was the year Carlile broke into the music industry, it was her sophomore album that proved she’s no slump. For a newer artist, 2007’s The Story was like her Born to Run, featuring some big names behind it with T-Bone Burnett producing and a collab with the Indigo Girls. Carlile remained just as hot and 2009’s Give Up the Ghost did not disappoint. She worked with star producer Rick Rubin and offered another gay pairing with Elton John on “Caroline.”

With her show at the Granada, she’ll appear just as close as a full moon and likely shining as bright. Carlile has not made a career misstep so far and people are recognizing now how huge she could easily become. But the show is sold out so if you don’t have tickets already, make other plans. Your house is clearly not in her plane.

Appearing with Ivan an Alyosha.

Granada Theater, 3524 Greenville Ave. May 16 at 8 p.m. $29. GranadaTheater.com.

Mars alignment :
Bruno Mars and Janelle Monae

Despite the obvious, the celestial advisors have told us that Mars is the perfect place for these two. With eccentricity oozing out of their pores, they also have the talent to back it up, proving that on their Hooligans in Wondaland Tour.

Monae is probably the smaller of the two stars, but her Archandroid album was a brilliant musical high point and her energetic live performance is a spectacle beautiful to behold. Did you see her at the Granada with Of Montreal last November? Killer.

Bruno Mars is more of an anomaly. Although he’s doing the hipster throwback version of old soul acts, his songs from his debut Doo-Wops & Hooligans have minimal impact. The kid is talented and his multi-instrumentalism should be respected, but where Monae will likely leave you wanting more, Mars may too — more Monae.

Appearing with Patrick Stump.

Verizon Theatre, 1001 Performance Place, Grand Prairie. May 17 at 7 p.m. $35. Ticketmaster.com.

The sun:
Kylie Minogue with DJ Erik Thoresen

When this show was announced, there was a collective squeal from the gays. Minogue has never been Madonna or Britney, but she’s built a following that rivals both. Last year’s Aphrodite also took her to new heights musically. A solid package of pop and dance confections, Minogue reminds us that she is a star.

Her concerts have a reputation of being visual spectacles as well that apparently rival the likes of some Cirque du Soleil shows. That alone is worth the ticket.

Station 4 DJ Erik Thoresen was tapped to be the opening entertainment so this big pop-stravaganza also has big time local ties.  Without a doubt, this is the party of the week, if not the concert.

Verizon Theatre, 1001 Performance Place, Grand Prairie. May 18 at 8 p.m. $50–$125. Ticketmaster.com.

House of Uranus: Of Montreal

While Of Montreal is too smart to be considered a party band, their brand of indie dance music is something more than infectious. The high energy and trippy lyrics get into your soul and skin and turn you into a dancing monster.

Maybe Monae has moved on, but OM is perfect for the mid-sized venue. Imagine a packed house and sweaty dancing bodies. Singer Kevin Barnes should put on quite a physical show.  We love when he gets all sexy and dirty, but we’re just sorry he has to compete with Kylie for attention. That’s like Sophie’s choice. No fair.

Appearing with Painted Palms.

South Side Music Hall, 1135 S. Lamar St. May 18. Doors at 7:30 p.m. $20. GilleysMusic.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 13, 2011.

 

—  Kevin Thomas

Mixed messages: Britney, R.E.M. deliver shiny, happy CDs … but not without some dents

NOT YET OUT OF TIME | R.E.M. breaks its 15-year slump with the release of ‘Collapse Into Now.’

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

2011 has already been an impressive year for major music releases: Adele and Jennifer Hudson’s strong sophomore albums have impressed, and Lady Gaga’s third is on the horizon.

But these relative newcomers aren’t scaring off pop and rock veterans. R.E.M. just released its 15th studio album, Collapse Into Now, and Britney Spears is halfway along with her seventh, Femme Fatale. Ultimately, it’s the hard rockers who prove their metal, while the pop princess struggles.

 

Spears declared Fatale “a club album,” as if that’s her excuse for putting out drivel. So be it: Fatale praises dancing, cocktails and sex, making her the voice of a generation of aimless twinks everywhere. While the production behind it is top notch, the CD is held back musically by two things — bad lyrics and Spears.

Opening with her single “Till the World Ends,” she sets the dance tone with a strong beat, but the moment she sings I notice that you got it / You notice that I want it / You know that I can take it to the next level baby, you just can’t help but think, “Really?” Ke$ha, credited here as a co-writer, is new enough that she can get away with such dumb sentiments; Spears should be striving for more at this point. Brit has always been her own worst enemy, and her poor judgment shows.

Using a joke of a pickup line and turning it into a hit, her team of producers and writers are on top of dance music trends, creating radio-ready tracks like “Hold It Against Me” while keeping the Britney formula intact. Instead of competing with current pop-stars sounds, Spears adheres to her own, jacks it up with modern, fresh beats and sticks to her guns with sex kitten tunes. Perhaps we can never expect much substance from her, but she knows at least who she is.

With some flat out dance songs, the first half is stronger than the second; that’s when Fatale peters out. “How I Roll” is a hot mess of vocal effects and pedestrian “bum-de-dum” skatting while her collaboration with Black Eyed Peas’ will.i.am on “Big Fat Bass” is downright embarrassing, especially as she repeats I can be the treble, you can be the bass to a painful, idiotic degree.

There are moments that break from the pack. “Inside Out” delivers a surprisingly crisper voice. She’s not a great vocalist, but we get a glimpse of some actual prowess here that isn’t hard on the ears. The final track “Criminal” follows suit. We’re not pounded with the song; instead, it contains some nice intricacies and has the most narrative. Musically, it’s fresh with actual guitar touches. Is that a pan flute in there? I wish she’d take this direction more. It’s not so bad to hear an actual story.

Femme Fatale is a nice workout album, but Spears remains trapped by heavy production. We always hope she’s smarter than that, but Fatale doesn’t lend itself to brilliance, only to working up a sweat on the dancefloor.

 

R.E.M. rediscovers itself with Collapse. Gone is the overwrought tone of late, which has been in apparent search of recapturing Out of Time. Letting go of those expectations, R.E.M. is back to delivering the edge of their early days, And we feel fine.

The band launches the CD with the raucous and strong “Discoverer” and “All the Best.” The flat-out abandon Mike, Michael and Peter play with here is a harbinger of mostly good things to come. “UBerlin” suffers from some underproduction, but the fourth track, “Oh My Heart,” is a beautiful song of pain. I came home to a city half erased is a simple but devastating line, yet sung without sadness. The band doesn’t spend emotion needlessly here and still gets a point across.

What is funnily unnerving is Stipe’s voice. Most noticeable on “It Happened Today,” he sounds older, which will remind early fans they are getting older, too. But the wisdom behind it is comforting, like when your father first talks to you as a fellow adult, not as a child.

I can’t quite figure out what the message of “Mine Smell Like Honey” is, but with lyrics Climb a mountain, climb it steeper, steeper / Dig a hole, dig it deeper, deeper / Track a trail of honey through it all, I feel like my imagination is allowed free rein to interpret it. The energy is infectious but again, underproduction cuts into Stipe’s vocals. He sounds muffled, being swallowed by drums and guitars.

Initially I wanted to hate “Alligator Aviator Autopilot Antimatter” for it’s ridiculous title and it’s opening line I feel like an alligator, climbing up the escalator, but it recalls that vivaciousness of “It’s the End of the World As We Know It,” followed by the equally strong “That Someone Is You.”

Going for a slower finale with “Me Marlon Brando, Marlon Brando and I” and the spacey “Blue,” the album has a lackluster finish. After a rowdy ride, R.E.M. opts for a poignant, slower ending.

Collapse allows us to remember what R.E.M. can still do. With the help of friends like Eddie Vedder, Peaches and Hidden Cameras’ gay frontman Joel Gibb, the band has found its mojo. They probably didn’t think they lost it, but listeners had. That should likely change.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 1, 2011.

—  John Wright