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A punky night out with LCD and CSS

June 13, 2007|Margaret Wappler | Times Staff Writer

Fans of the burgeoning dance-punk movement, which is poised to soar by the end of the summer, were faced with a dilemma on Sunday night: Burnish cred at the El Rey with the hybrid genre's capital act, LCD Soundsystem, or wear your self-markered T-shirt to CSS at the Henry Fonda?

Then again, in this have-it-all age, why choose, when you could sprint out of LCD's spring-tight set across town to close with Brazil's tribe of reed-thin party girls and one chubby guy.

At the El Rey, the game-faced crowd was primed for a sold-out show by a rightfully hyped band known for throbbing, near-chaotic live performances.

LCD opened with "Us V Them," sounding like Brian Eno in the throes of Ecstasy, zooming down the Autobahn. They reveled in the Matrix-like loop of the lyrics and gnawed every bit of meat off the cold-locked rhythm.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday June 14, 2007 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 0 inches; 33 words Type of Material: Correction
LCD Soundsystem: A review of LCD Soundsystem in Wednesday's Calendar section said that John Cage had done a cover of the group's "All My Friends." It was John Cale who recorded that cover.

For the cultural-studies anthem "North American Scum," concertgoers bucked their hips and joined singer-keyboardist Nancy Whang in yelps against frontman James Murphy's straight-then-spastic vocals. Complete audience-band synthesis was reached with "All My Friends," which tightens around LCD's lost-at-the-party sadness.

In the soupy lights of the Henry Fonda later, the LCD show seemed, in retrospect, a bit stuffy. No one in the LCD audience adjusted huge fake eyelashes and flubbed the lyrics while hugging her best friend around the neck, as one did during CSS' show. The sextet pranced onstage, switched instruments, popped balloons and sucked out the helium, re-earning their fabulously weary name, Cansei de Ser Sexy, which translates to Tired of Being Sexy. CSS is over it, people, which is why they can have so much fun. LCD, meanwhile, is in it and, by God, they won't have anything else.

In a genre still twisting out from under indie rock's suffocating anti-frontman stance, LCD and CSS offer the most compelling leaders. On one hand, Murphy is more astute and sophisticated. He's the diplomat telling fascinating stories with perfectly snappish commentary. CSS' lead singer, Lovefoxxx, is the diplomat's beautiful wife. She says nothing until, suddenly, she throws a piece of cake at the wall. Forget about him -- what's going on in her head?

Everything that flies out of her twisty little mouth is mischievous, sexy: there's the Sao Paulo accent with the hard but elegant Rs, the Portuguese-to-English dictionary phrasing and the between-song banter that pokes fun at genre divisions while celebrating CSS' ransacking of any number of them. "This is our heavy-metal song," she said before crashing into the broken-down techno squat of "Artbitch." It's heavy-metal in spirit only, but that's the point.

The members of LCD Soundsystem want to be bona fide rock stars, with their rare records hanging above the record store's cash register in 30 years. As long as record stores still exist, they will get it. They've already got John Cage -- John Cage! -- blessing them with his own version of "All My Friends."

Perhaps it's more revealing of CSS' goals that the group covers L7's "Pretend We're Dead." The inescapable summer hit of 1992 was L7's moment in the sun, but it earned that group cache for being the only all-female band to rise to the forefront, if only momentarily, of the male-dominated grunge movement.

Peroxide-blond Donita Sparks joined the band onstage, stomped balloons and hissed "come on, come on, come on" alongside Lovefoxxx, who never stopped dancing and tossing her black hair. CSS just wants to dance to the rad party song of the summer. They hope it's their own. But if not, that's cool too.

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