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Fibbers Seem Ready for X's Mantle


In a bit of symbolic timing, the Geraldine Fibbers' tour-ending, homecoming concert at the El Rey Theatre on Friday took place the same week that X, the last great, definitive Los Angeles band, announced its breakup after nearly two decades.

If any current group seems primed to assume the challenge of chronicling the physical and psychic currents of the city, it's the Fibbers. While firmly establishing its own direction, the band's music builds on X's legacy of punk rock blended with deep strains of Americana, and in singer Carla Bozulich it has a central figure of bracing believability.

On Friday, Bozulich's weary-waif appearance and deep, raspy voice embodied and magnified the combination of sorrow and disorientation, dignity and determination that underlies the music. In songs from its debut album "Lost Somewhere Between the Earth and My Home," the band offers a gallery of characters who are tempted by inertia and torpor, but also driven by a raging need to feel and connect. Here, the smell of a dead skunk on the Pasadena Freeway is a treasured memory.

Repeated passages of cathartic cacophony captured that urgency--sparked by guest touring guitarist Nels Cline, whose avant-garde leanings meshed noisily with William Tutton, sawing and hammering his double bass, and fiddle player Jessy Greene--while slow, haunting interludes conveyed the seductive allure of reveries usually (but not necessarily) attained through drugs.

In fact, the album is largely an account of breaking free of that hold, and in concert the band found some striking links. It opened and closed the show with George Jones songs, with Bozulich nailing the emotional core of "If Drinkin' Don't Kill Me (the Memory Will)."

This link with traditional American music is a genetic bonding, not a superficial gesture. The Fibbers find that modal Appalachian rounds and Nashville laments provide the perfect vehicles for their curses, exorcisms and haunted dreams.

So why hasn't a band that combines Sonic Youth and the Carter Family, Courtney Love and Patsy Cline, galvanized the Los Angeles rock community? The Fibbers have a solid core following, and the album drew much critical acclaim, but even with all that, this concert was at a club with a modest 800 capacity.

Maybe it's because the drive for a consensus that animated the city's rock scene when X and its peers emerged in the late '70s has given way to fragmentation, with many factions--from ska to hard-core to power-pop--happily operating side by side but rarely interacting.

Maybe Bozulich, who pretty much stayed planted at her microphone playing rhythm guitar, needs to break up her casual, deadpan demeanor with a little more aggression. Maybe the band has to prove it's in it for the long haul, and that it has something to say after emerging from the turmoil it has documented so far.

In any case, the band clearly deserves as much loyalty as Concrete Blonde or Jane's Addiction ever got. Whatever they want beyond that is theirs for the taking.

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