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Pretty Girls Make Graves

By Jess Harvell | Posted 5/10/2006

WEDNESDAY: Now that it’s easier than ever for a basement band to sound slick, early indie rock sounds refreshingly raw. Vancouver’s long-running Mecca Normal, a duo of vocalist Jean Smith and guitarist David Lester, is deeply indebted to the shambolic nature of a band like the Raincoats, which turned limited means into a disarming interrogation of sexuality, romance, and politics. Tonight, the two bring their stripped-down and politicized aesthetic—marked by the haikulike brevity of Lester’s arrangements—to Charm City Space.

THURSDAY: Perpetually strung out for the last decade between chillingly cold-blooded murder music and generic thug rap, Mobb Deep still makes plenty of killer tracks, even if the duo of Prodigy and Havoc squirrels them away like misers on mixtapes rather than the group’s increasingly filler-packed albums. Expect many shouts to new paymaster 50 Cent tonight at Sonar, and maybe the iciness that once made the two the evil princes of New York.

FRIDAY: The joint venture of Armistead Burwell Smith IV—who sounds like he should be tromping around a jungle in a pith helmet—and Rob Crow, Pinback, has grown from a side project to one of indie rock’s most revered bands. Bass-heavy and dolorous, Pinback’s music is goth rock raised by the ocean, too breezy to be fully depressed, and if you want to sway and swoon along, it’s at Washington’s Black Cat.

SATURDAY: Boston’s Katt Hernandez plays the violin, focusing on the microtones—an attempt to extend the chromatic range of standard Western musical notation—of her mentor, jazz legend Joe Maneri, who adopted modern classical technique to the vernacular world of blues and jazz. It’s a slippery, queer sound that may not necessarily sound “right” at first, especially when fully improvised. Tonight she’s joined by Matt Weston on percussion at the Red Room at Normals Books and Records.

SUNDAY: For over a decade now, trumpeter Rob Mazurek has been expanding a vocabulary of post-bop moves that he picked up as a young jazz fan in Chicago. At this point, his work resembles postrock (he’s played on recordings by Stereolab, Tortoise, Gastr Del Sol, Sam Prekop, and more) or musique concrète as much as it does the Blue Note classics he grew up on. Tonight, his new group Mandarin Moves brings its murky, industrial fusion to the Talking Head, sounding a bit like ’70s Miles Davis recorded inside an oil drum. Only a crazy person or a committed partisan would claim Ice Cube’s best work is still ahead of him. The man born O’Shea Jackson has become so cuddly and atrophied as a rapper that it’s hard to imagine him ever making a Death Certificate again. But since rap is now as much a nostalgia industry as rock or jazz, we’ll see how well he acquits himself tonight at Washington’s 9:30 Club, hopefully going light on the new material. Bringing up the rear will be the iconic crack-rap of Clipse—how jealous must Pusha and Malice be of that Young Jeezy money?—who applique a knowing wink to Cube’s coldness, and the Dogg Pound, still hanging in there after all these years.

MONDAY: Pretty Girls Make Graves is the definition of a “solid” indie-rock band, the kind that will never change your life but provides a certain fix when nothing else will do, like McDonald’s french fries or an episode of Antiques Roadshow. The less kind could say that the band is a poor man’s Yeah Yeah Yeahs, but since Karen O has decided to become more Jewel than Joan Jett, someone’s gotta pick up the slack. Tonight at the Black Cat.

TUESDAY: Nearly two decades ago, British DJ duo Coldcut began chopping up popular culture into bite-sized, info-packed chunks somewhere between the Looney Tunes and the Juice Crew. Throughout the ’90s, Matt Black and Jonathan Moore experimented with video, multimedia, and animation, splicing together genres like the mad scientists their reviews invariably made reference to. Though Coldcut’s inputs have changed as genres have come and gone, its basic working methods remain the same tonight at Sonar—cutting up records to make dance music more suited to grinning and head-nodding than body-rocking.

WEDNESDAY: Stay at home and watch the American Idol results. Are they ever going to kick Taylor off?

IN THE WINGS: Al Jourgensen was a skinny Europhile who transformed his group Ministry from a pale Depeche Mode clone into a mix of disco and heavy metal that was sometimes awful, sometimes hilarious. It wasn’t always apparent which was which. Amazingly, Ministry is still going more than 20 years later, though more metal than disco and more awful than hilarious. But if a Wax Trax Black Box lurks somewhere in your closet and you want to relive your youthful days of thigh-high boots and medical reconstruction footage, the group is at Sonar June 20. (For more information call [410] 327-8333 or visit

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Catherine Pancake and Jai Brooks Capture a Slice of Black Baltimore Lesbian Life in Jay Dreams

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