Another young god
Devendra Banhart may be the most interesting person you've never heard of. The eclectic musician/painter/poet sent rickety demos of his stream-of-consciousness songs, often made on broken four-track cassette recorders, to label execs and strangers alike. And he always enclosed stationery from the French Treasury Department and a marble with his low-fi creations.
Eventually, a demo made its way to Michael Gira, one-time frontman for gloom-rock legends the Swans and head of Young God Records. Gira was impressed by the then-20-year-old's ability to sing of both pain and whimsy, free from post-modern irony. On younggodgecords.com, he describes Banhart's voice on the original demo as "a quivering high-tension wire, [which] sounded like it could have been recorded 70 years ago."
Two acclaimed albums later -- 2002's "Oh My Oh My" and this year's "Rejoicing in the Hands" -- reviewers still comment on Banhart's Depression-era vocal qualities, and struggle to find more words to describe him. The art school dropout, who now tours internationally, has alternately been described as a "psychedelic folk" artist, a "wandering minstrel," an "androgynous starsailor" and a genius.
Saturday, June 12, 8 p.m.
The Women's Club of Minneapolis,
410 Oak Grove St.
$11. (651) 989-5151.
One of the great mysteries of life (to me) is that while I can usually understand what bands from Scotland are singing about in their songs, I can never ever understand what they're saying when they're just talking. It's like the whole country is peopled by fast-talking Ozzy Osbournes, which is why I bowed out of the chance to talk to Glasgow band Franz Ferdinand. (In the long run, I'm sure bands like Arab Strap, Camera Obscura and Franz Ferdinand will appreciate me not misunderstanding innocent conversations about music to be terrorist threats against Nebraska or China.)
Even though I can't interview them, though, I'm champing at the bit to see Franz Ferdinand perform selections from their self-titled debut LP. The rangy, arty, clipped and refined sound of this fine quartet makes for some fine dancing and drinking music, like something Devo and Gang of Four might have spawned if they'd decided to come together as one great big supergroup.
Friday, June 11, 8 p.m.
Fine Line Music Cafe, 318 1st Ave. N.
$12 advance, $13 at the door. 338-8100.
The perfect souffle
The best luxury of having a solid reputation as a musician is that you usually end up being surrounded by other pretty amazing musicians, people that'll come over and jam with you anytime you want.
This is how bands like The Damage Manual get started: A) Martin Atkins, ex-Ministry/Killing Joke/etc. producer/engineer/ percussionist on over 50 influential albums invites B) Jah Wobble, ex-PiL bassist extraordinaire to come and lay down some tracks in his studio in London and C) ex-Ministry/Revolting Cocks vocalist Chris Connelly and D) ex-Killing Joke guitarist Geordie Walker decide to come down for the weekend and hang out, too. This is a simplistic explanation of how the Damage Manual -- a band that didn't even have a name until most of the first EP was done -- got started, but it's pretty close to the truth.
The result? An amazing mishmash of sound that draws heavily on the musical histories of everyone involved; Geordie Walker's trademark guitar feedback winds in and out of their music like an amplified Slinky, while Wobble's basslines remind one of what once made PiL (a.k.a. Public Image Limited, with leadman Jonny Lyden of Sex Pistols fame) so great. Connelly finally gets to explore his range as a vocalist in this ensemble -- screaming, speaking and singing his gospel of damage, subversion and violence through a set list punctuated by Atkins' powerhouse drumming.
This should beat the hell out of any other Saturday afternoon jam session in the world.
Thursday, June 10, 8 p.m.
First avenue's 7th Street Entry, 701 1st Ave. N.
$8 advance, $10 at the door. 338-8388.
Holly Day can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.