Micachu and the Shapes: Bite your lip, get up and Dance.



The Precocious, multi-instrumentality of Micachu and the Shapes is like camping on an English moor full of howling wolves as you dance to a Kraftwerk album with Gavin Friday, Marke E. Smith and Guggi.  You’ll need a tour-guide in for this moor party because it’s a bafflingly intricate, yet uneasy place. Walking at night, you feel your feet sink into the moor, tin pans crash, an acoustic guitar rants and a shock of Roux-like hair bounces in and out of the frame. Just aloft you spy Colin Newman stoking a sonic campfire as he types on his iphone.  The fire crackles repetitively with a  waffle and snap.  You are at a zeitgeist sleepover, a tempiscore melding of sense datum.   Yes, you are overloaded but in a playful dreamlike state, these things are expected!   In fact it feels downright amazing, the music in the background has a restless energy,   a crack, a pop.   Set against a nefarious groan or the heaving low hum of soft machines, this eclectic pop is tamed by a warm and yet  distinctive androgynous voice.    That is the sound of Micachu and the Shapes, and it’s not a dream.  Micachu (Mica Levi) is tangible! and in a club somewhere tonight playing a vacuum cleaner.

Mica sits staccato, with an unexpected and painterly face. Her voice and  demeanor  project an element of confident-uneasiness. a careless androgyne, tall with a complex grin,  she is an ‘artiste de artist,’  one  bringing sounds useful to Dee jays, club-goers and the lucky and hard working denizens of Rough Trade, San Francisco.  So far everyone fron Bjork to Beck are calling her one of their “influences.”  or at at least “the most un-classifiable pop experimental music existing today.”   That’s pretty good when the avant-garde of the uber popular alternative are calling you “one of the lovely bones with which we are collectively building this thing we call popular music”.

Straddling many genres of music at one time, Michachu has got the concept cornered. How does someone play front instruments, sing,  and add the sound of a vacuum cleaner along with pops and clacks purposfully (and perfectly) set in time to a thick bumping background track? In my humble opinion the only contemporary rock band able to cross this boundary and do well with so many genres was  The White Stripes.  Jack White did whatever he wanted, and Meg was the co-ideator / conspirator in those avant experiments that turned into great songs.   The only constant was his voice as the music always surprised, swelled and dipped as he wailed and groaned in new and different ways.   Experimental, though, it was not.    It was exploratory. In Micachu and the Shapes’  type of ‘experimental’,   there’s  an element of  “I don’t care, I do what I want, what feels right at the time, and by the way… to hell with this ‘image thing”.   It seems  Levi and company do not ascribe to any specific assemblage of their art, it simply is… “what it is.”

Micachu and The Shapes’ songs arent’ about punching other girls in bars, thanks Lilly, we’ve had enough of that.  It was fun in the begining, but now we have to see other people.   The female role in new music must get some plaster and lathe ready and quick, because Micachu just ripped that house a hole in the wall.

As Micachu swoons into a neutral plastic bounce, “Golden Phone,”  seems to reference her ‘style,’ that is, if she could be categorized…

How could they even care it’s a nonsense sound
This sound is everywhere but it can’t be found
Find Nancy fool around and the noise went white
It built the warmth back and there was light

Crimes everywhere yeah, but I don’t want that
Love’s all around yeah, but I don’t want that
Gold in my hair yeah, but I don’t want that
Bring me that nonsense sound and I’ll be back

Well, crushed up bit of stuff, can you pull their ear?
Their legs are far too stiff and they can’t get near
I’ll make this call back to you in a year
Mongrels, this nonsense sound won’t disappear

The song ‘Lips’ explores grime and punk crossover sounds.  Not unlike the likes of early Gang of Four, or Wire, Mica and the Shapes sharp and staccato dithering make you wanna get up and dance.

Die, die, die, your lips  a big lie

You lie all the time, but you still get by.

You bite your tongue but you don’t comply

Dry your tears away with your tie

You drive that truck but you’re still let by

Drop, drop, drop, your lips a big lie

In ‘Sweetheart’ and ‘Eat your Teeth’ Mica samples and manipulates every squeal and stray breath.  She and The Shapes, processes them into pop staccato explosions.  In contrast,  ‘Golden Phone’ is a dirty punk song, breathless and beguiling.

This is the Golden phone, can you ring me back?

Ten mongrels home alone bring the panic back

Sound traveled in the air then they blew it back

The took out all the noise and it all went black

How could they even care it’s a nonsense sound

This sound is everywhere but it can’t be found

Find Nancy fool around and the noise went white

It built the warmth back and there was light

‘Worst Bastard’ is pure punk brilliance; whilst “Vultures” may have the same basic background as Glen Branca’s, “The Ascension” Lesson No. 1″  I could be wrong though.  Branca’s wall of sound is exactly  the intricacy Micachu uses in their swirling and full soundscapes, and especially on this song.   The new Shapes’ album “Jewellery” is on track for album British Album of the year and I’m not surprised.  It may have to fight with La Roux’s signature album “La Roux” but they really are different territory.

In “Curly teeth”, Micachu uses a squeaky sound as a background layer and a dissonence that actually works under her defined and short shap vocals. “Curly teeth” does not dissapoint in fact as with other Shapes’ songs, it surprises once again.

I stumbled upon Micachu and the Shapes about 3 months ago via my favorite performance artiste chanteuse Bjork, and in my humble opinion, this unclassfiable band headed up by Mica Levi  is  channeling the best of electronica, rough wire, punk, avant-garde, pop, and dance. This stateside inhabitant will be sure to see them when they turn up at any venue within 40 miles of me.  Even if you just go to see someone use a vacuum cleaner onstage, don’t miss them when they come to town.

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La ROUX!! Listen up statesiders… change is in the hair.


Elly Jackson of La Roux

Don’t call her “Techno Lady Gaga”  or  “young  Annie Lennox” unless you would like a sneer and a few explatives, but Elly Jackson feels the critics encircling…literally chanting… with ever increasing volume:  “Elly Jackson is The new face of Electronic Music!”   Go see her  in the clubs before Madonna, Jay-Z or some such music mogul accosts her and makes her choose whether or not to sell her soul to the devil.    Jackson, along with bandmate and co-writer, co-producer Ben Langmaid,  meld together wild pulses,  fluttery beats and popping thick synth drums.   Capturing sound like  bolts of sassy lightening stuffed into a tesla coil, Elly croons …’We can fight our desires
Ohhhh but when we start making fires… We get ever so hot… Ohhhhh whether we like it or not….
They say we can love who we trust… Ohhhh but what is love without lust?

The red-haired one”

In late 1995, Happening upon a baby naming book, Elly figured “La Roux” was as good a name as any as it fit the shocking scarlet hue of her hair.  Consequently  the masculine form of “Roux” was prescient as she realized “Rousee” could’ve been seen as conversationally opposite of her persona as it did not fit her obvious androgyny.  Later hybridizing her amazing coiffe  into a Bowie-esque/ Mike Score do, La Roux / Elly Jackson the stage persona was born.     Beginning her musical journey on seventies Nick Drake and Carole King amongst other gritty songsters, early in life Elly developed the  love of a well crafted song.

A shock of Stardust colored hair, on-stage intensity, and andro-lustful poses to match,  Jackson  conjures  the soulful thick electronic sound of Depeche Mode, The poppy playfulness of Yazoo, and the stylistic croon of Allison Moyet.    La Roux has managed a completely new sound from the ashes of the best in eighties electronica.  Ahem….’New Wave’ as some of us remember.

“Quicksand”

With their Freshman effort  released by Parisian label Kitsuné, in 2008, La Roux later tapped  producer “Lifelike” for the remix of  “In For The Kill !” which  debuted at number 11 in the UK Singles Chart.  Finally signed to Polydor Records, La Roux released their debut album, uncerimoniously called “La Roux.”


The same effort yielded “Buletproof” which was released as a single in June of ’09.  It debuted at # 1 in the UK Singles Chart.. In the U.S. it topped the Dance/Club Play chart the week of September 17. I’m Not Your Toy was released to the baded breath of house / techno devotees on September 29th of this year.

Joining Lily Allen’s UK tour in March of ‘o9, La Roux began a long touring commitment that included the NME Radar Tour, The Glastonbury, Oxegen, Reading and Leeds outings.  Finally placating almost rabid dance fans in the U.S., La Roux toured North America in July and August of 2009.   Canadian venues were supported as was The Jimmy Kimmel show in addition to the historic Troubadour in Hollywood / West L.A. Lucky San Franciscans attended “Popscene”  (The Club NME series),  and enjoyed an amazing show even if a playful yet  snarky Jackson taunted “Which one of you is gonna have this up on YouTube tomorrow?

Planning to pen their sophmore effort sometime after  their very busy tour is done, but with no specific date in mind, La Roux isn’t gonna push.  You can’t rush art.  Their  beats are born of collaboration,  they aren’t aimless, or repetitive,  and are not without rhyme or reason.  They’ve got originality, substance and direction.  That’s what makes them so palatable to a very musically-hungry-stateside-beast.

We’re still digesting La Roux, discovering it’s nuances, and incredibly buoyant at this very British “discovery”. In closing, whatever is rolled up into the collective conscience of La Roux does not really matter, for quite simplistically, all any music lover needs to know is that  La Roux bounces like the devil and how lucky we are to be in the room.

We can fight our desires
Ouuhh but when we start making fires
We get ever so hot
Ouuhh whether we like it or not.
They say we can love who we trust
Ouuhh but what is love without lust?
Two hearts with accurate devotions
Ouuhh and what are feelings without emotions?

~Chrissylong

Sounds West: Paul Plagens, Patria Jacobs, Greg Franco and more…


PlagensThe best music in Los Angeles right now…

There’s an electric feeling that shivers right up your spine when a singer nails your head and heart at the same time. Whether that song radiates from the artist’s illium, Sacrum or the “I’ve been to the depths of my personal hell, and I’m back to tell you about it!”   You just know when it’s the real deal.   When someone unearths an uncanny knack for finding your bruises and putting a thumb to them, it makes you take notice. Such is the case with John Doe and Exene of “X”, John Prine,  and Alex Chilton, in my humble estimation anyway.  These folks might hail from different times and places within the rock music continuum,  but in my book,they all aged artistically, and experienced new stages of life.  They are still-expanding musical nebulae.  For John Doe,  Moving deep into the California mountains, gave him the ability  to focus on his land, his community and on the tools of songwriting.  The result was the birth of  his  album, “A Year In The Wilderness.”  Far from he and Exene’s 1987 release “See How We are,”  Doe became less plaintive on depicting the visuals for his songs and instead embedded them adeptly into the sounds and song structures that seem to identify ‘The New Americana”  Doe still uses his  lyrics to “tell” the listener what to “see”but  his writing became more complex and compelling for sure.
Not since John Prine have I seen songwriting this affecting and visual. In John Prine we saw a man in “some deep kind of  funk”,  longing or loving,  whether it was for a woman or his own child, Prine’s songs,sometimes sweet, alot of times funny, share two common links with the writers I mentioned earlier,  irony and brazen honesty.  Mr. Prine kept it country and nailed our funny bone just when we needed it most.

Giving me shivers up my spine as a college kid, not only for his looks, but for the mere sound of his voice,  Alex Chilton’s incandescent, “Big Star”  paired deep suffering growls, poppy eclectic grooves with desirous falsettos. Chilton made me melt and best of all I could see a  creative process at work.    It’s that “well thought out” lyrical muscle that was flexed by some and now seems frighteningly flabby in most writers nowadays.  What about that  lyrical twist? Where are the words that make you think?

I decided to wrestle my dial from NPR just for a brief moment this morning as I was feeling a bit  “song-sick.”  I needed  an anthem for the day.  I often seek out something specifically intended to swirl around in my head for the rest of  the day.  All I found was a “sea of nauseatiatingly common method songwriting” or songs wantonly layered with a multitude of trance tracks with  “Akon-like vocal overlays” that simply use alliteration in efforts to qualify as “the new hybrid rap.”

Even though mainstream top 40 charts seem to have lately produced  a world of “word-weary copy-cats”, the musical landscape does reveal shimmers of placer.  At the urging of a friend  I gave a listen to the very English “Duffy” and immediately downloaded her entire album. Her voice was at once very “antique” yet freshly familiar. “A Fine Frenzy” (one Allison Sudol , apparently enamoured with the imagery of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”),  offers a finely tuned sweet and athletic voice.   Her deft lyrics are organic, lively and refreshing and surprising in structure.  Sudol’s Fine Frenzy is guilty of keeping one or two songs in my head for several days now.   If you ever followed Amy Farris  (how we’ll miss that lady…), whether it’s was Dave Alvin’s Guilty Women or a Brian Wilson record, you would again,found that soulful straightforward style, this time with a Viola or a violin.

While bright spots like Duffy, A Fine Frenzy and others are capturing the hearts and minds of listeners nationwide,  “The singer-songwriter genre,” is alive and tangible in our clubs. A trip into Los Angeles reveals the likes of some of the current autuers:  Paul Plagens, Patria Jacobs, Greg Franco of Rough Church and his “big in New Zealand” solo project:  “Greg Franco’s Wandering Bear.” Also sharing a multi-directional inspired genius is Suki Ewers who brings her swirling  personally lyrical songs that take off where Mazzy Star left off.

The great American art of  songwriting didn’t end with Robert Zimmerman, Arlo or Woody, it’s alive and well and it’s here for the listening.

1. Paul Plagens

The”perfect mix” of all the aspects that make a songsmith shine.  Not unlike a contemporary John Prine, Plagens just cannot be missed. I was invited to 2nd St. Jazz for my birthday back in June of this year,  where Patria Jacobs Tex-Pate and former leader of “RubyFish”  consistently hammers  out one after another “Patriaworld”  experiences.  The lean and cool  Plagens played songs such as:  Lovesick Car and others.  That night Paul stood out with his soulful songs and uncommon humor. He’s been a member of the rock / alt band “Greta”, and done tons of studio work for ‘more than famous folks.  In addition to his own projects Plagens “sings honest” affecting well-crafted alliterative stories of real life interspersed  with unexpected hilarity.   He’s a treat to see and experience and in my opinion seems to inhabit that fruitful web of  artists in the vein of Prine, Doe, and Chilton.  Not yet  having garnered the movement that the luxury of time provides, I believe he’s poised to be “that next great singer-songwriter.  Obviously you should not miss Paul Plagens!

2. Patria Jacobs

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“Tex-pate” (L.A. transplant or many years now) and Chanteuse of American indie pop,  Patria’s swooning visceral songs define anyone’s emotional landscape.  Her deft and oceanic songs are not to be missed.  On her new release “Poison of the Sea” Patria’s smoky growl will have you enraptured. From her time as the co-conspirator behind “RubyFish” with Russ Chaput, to the eclectic forary into the pop/electronic visage that is her single “Do the Pink,”  Patria is a purveyor of fine music of Los Angeles often found hammering out another “Patriaworld” where she spotlights great singer-songwriters and multi-member local bands. Always a great host and performer  herself, she is expanding and changing the L.A. music scene.

3. Greg Franco

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The L.A. Weekly called Greg Franco “An Iconic Auteur,” who began his stay on the Los Angeles scene in the very early eighties with the seminal low brow band, The Blashpemous Yellow.   B.Y., sported some type of pounding and often times sweet bleating “grunky” (Grungy-Punk) type of thing… picture the musical love-child resulting from some  operatic tryst between “The Minute and Men” and “Gang of Four” then you might have an idea of the sound.  Crooning about the barrios of Chavez Ravine, and  the dusty in-betweens of San Fernando road, Franco et. al., haunted all the venues that would have them.  Venues such as  The Anti-Club, the Lhasa, The Music Machine, Madame Wong’s, Al’s Bar and many others.   Later the front-man for “Ferdinand”, a  four piece including Laura Smith and David Guerrero of  Third Grade Teacher, shook Silverlake and other venues up and down the coast with crunch alternative rock and roll that you had to eat with a fork.   Franco’s current troupe, Rough Church, is a “states-living but New Zealand famous” quartet. As if Rough Church wasn’t enough, Franco must believe he’s got  more hands than the Hindu god Vishnu herself, as he’s also working on his flagship personal project, “Greg Franco’s wandering bear.”  You can’t keep a good man down.

I can’t wait for these interviews, and videos, which are coming soon.  However, pictures are below.  But come back soon and we’ll finish the gig.

Below are: Patria Jacobs, Paul Plagens and Greg Franco.


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Some celebrities are blessed to have their “looks” (whether natural or manufactured,or a combination of both) for a long time. Some are not. Some hold on to hairstyles that are frighteningly obvious nods to their past glory.  Take Nick Nolte’s blonde slightly wavy early 90’s tresses, that he  had to cooley brush away as he crouched against the fender of a car whilst he slowly grabbing for his gun to take sniperly aim at some nefarious character.  Those tresses are still being rocked!  And now…they’re only food for papparazi. The vermin that creeps along our city streets stalking celebrities just minding their own business (ruthless and innane hairstlyes or not), seems to parallel the massive increase in Celebrity Worship Syndrome.   A man not helping the situation is one Donald Trump!  Maybe his inspiration for the super-wide girth of the comb-over that he mashes down every AM with some type of sheening potion, was the inspired result of his attendance at a “Player” concert back in 1977? (Remember Player’s “Baby Come Back?)….On the original album cover, Check the guy to extreme the left of the lead singer-the bassist Ron Moss.  The Donald must’ve fancied himself as au’ courant as brother Moss. Obviously vulnerable  to the smallest chinook, these folks have got to know how un-daily life-friendly their coiffes actually are, but still they can’t wrangle themselves from the visual ties to their past. Whether it’s the oft heard, “Hey!  it’s trendy again! mantra,…IT’S JUST FOOD FOR THE PAPARAZZI!!   Public complaints from these  waning nebulai about those predatory plebians falls at least on my deaf ears, as these grumps wait with baded breath to get the holy grail of bad hair shots. For example one Mr. Trump, saunters across Las Vegas Boulebard one breezy afternoon (possibly 12 bodyguards in tow),  a soft chinook sweeps across the stinky cigarette and piss soaked Las Vegas Boulevard and  circles up the belly of The Donald, where it devilishly lifts up Mr. Trump’s rug! OOPS!  SNAP!!!  CLICK!!! Literally taking flight (un-Falcon-Heene-like), the “combie” seems to actually wave back at the photog!  Not unlike catching a senegalese tiger in the depths of India in some natural act ‘never before captured on camera,’ the photog is eccstatic! What a snap, what a day!  ‘I don’t have to work for three months!’  I can drive my daughter to Kindercare in the mornings! My wife can dance later at Spearamint Rhino tonight!

..The Donald’s “faux-woven” (new word alert: “Fauxven”) was merely  hanging on by a few fine strands.  More appropriate for a sail than a toupee, Mr. Trump will have gained lift by the time the wind dies down.  Calling for his “boy” to come and re-coiffe his appendage.  The Donald  quickly re-gains swagger and returns on this path to the limo.   Donald, Mr. Nolte, Ms. Lohan and others REALLY ARE good for the economy.  Lessening depression as they wallow in their own, giving people a laugh and helping papparazi and the entire supply chain that goes with those magazines keep their children in Lucky Brand Jeans.  It’s a rough job, but someone’s gotta do it.Picture 23
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