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MUSIC & DANCE | POP MUSIC REVIEW

Juliette Lewis and band pump up the attitude

October 17, 2003|Lina Lecaro | Special to The Times

"So, I work part time in the movie industry," coyly commented a sweat-damp Juliette Lewis halfway through her rock band's show at the Knitting Factory on Wednesday. She went on to explain that everybody always thinks she's really crazy after seeing her performance as a mayhem-loving teenager in Oliver Stone's "Natural Born Killers."

"You know why?" she said. "Because I'm so [expletive] good."

Indeed, the actress-turned-rocker brought the same kind of unpredictable intensity that makes her film roles so memorable to her new music project, Juliette & the Licks, writhing, posing and mugging like a cross between Iggy Pop and Steven Tyler. Her voice may have limited range and occasionally went flat, but its gritty texture, not to mention Lewis' attitude-packed execution, nearly made up for any lack of vocal skill.

Dressed in a skintight, Pat Benatar-like jumpsuit, Lewis evoked a definite '80s vibe, though her songs -- anchored by the rumbling rhythms of drummer Patty Schemel (formerly of Hole) and a cast of other musicians from bands including the Dwarves and Psychotica -- borrowed more from '70s-era art punk and garage such as Patti Smith and the MC5. The highlight of the set was a version of the Pointer Sisters' "Fire" that, in Lewis' dramatic rendering, was both a sultry soul jam and a throbbing rock slam.

There was more of the latter when opening act the Shocker, featuring former L7 member Jennifer Finch, warmed things up with a swift set of metallic punk showcasing Finch's spirited, shoulder-shaking guitar style and bold, rebel-yell vocals. The band may not have the impact or wit that L7 did, but like Lewis' project, it didn't lack for energy or female fortitude.

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