Laurels and Darts

The Grove, Anaheim
Friday, Oct. 24

The Grove was only two-fifths full two Fridays ago—and a sparse two-fifths at that. A singular note, Also Sprach Zarathustra-like in its bombastic length and zoom, greeted fans as they entered the venue. An obnoxious Riverside pendejo wooed some disgusted ladies by boasting, “I'm very fucking holy—that's quite an oxymoron, isn't it?” But when Columbian superduo Aterciopelados finally appeared, the world became right for the next hour and a half, despite some disturbing deficiencies.

The years have seen Aterciopelados' head chanteuse, Andrea Echeverri, transform from a coked-out punk goddess into some sort of hippie pixie. As a result, the band's sound—once as roughly beautiful as a golden machete—is now considerably tamer, leaning more toward trip-hop muddles than the tropical-heavy punk that caused an artistic riot across Latin America nearly a decade ago.

Aterciopelados performances are now soothingly familiar—and that was the problem Friday night. Present were the same faces that constitute the Aterciopelados audience at every show, the same people who sing the same lyrics and scream at the same opening bubbles of “Baracuntana” any time the band visits Southern California. Echeverri spent most of this night gliding across the stage, wearing a cotton blouse-and-pants outfit and indigenous pigtails, the same peasant-princess shtick she has hawked the past five years. Even the Frisbee throwing at the end of the set and the techno-fied encore of their 1995 hard-edge classic “Florecita Rockera” was a rehash of their spring House of Blues show. Aterciopelados no longer seem interested in blazing paths; revival sets will do.

But creative laziness or not, no one can deny the absolute pleasure of Aterciopelados' craft. They opened the foggy Friday with “La Pipa de la Paz,” the ballad's organs as muddy as the Orinoco River; ripped through a conga-heavy version of the apocalyptic “Caribe Atmico”; and touched upon all the highlights of their artistic life. Best was the electronic dirge “Rompecabezas,” Echeverri laying prone on the ground as she sang of heartbreak, a corpse of love as wonderful as has ever perished.

And even the most hardened critic turns into fainting fan upon hearing one note of Echeverri's voice, so smoky God must've twirled it on a rotisserie for a good millennium. Aterciopelados might rest on their laurels nowadays—but what laurels! (Gustavo Arellano)


So what are we to make of hot-OC-band-of-the-moment Something Corporate? Well, they're popular: their new album, North, debuted at No. 24 on last week's Billboard album chart (that's 24th biggest-selling album in the country). And for this CD signing/in-store performance marking its release (actually held outside in the Tower parking lot as flakes of toxic wildfire ash fluttered down on everyone —paint your own metaphor here), some 500 kids—mostly starstruck trucker-hatted teenage girls in need of jilling-off material, from what we could tell (and the same 50-ish guy who used to come in to the old Brea Music Plus we worked at 15 years ago and carry on conversations with the CDs)—were lined up as early as 6 a.m. for the 2 p.m. gig.

Naturally, “popular” doesn't always equal “good.” (Rich Kane) The five Dana Point youngsters who make up Something Corporate (the worst name for a rising OC band since . . . well, ever) are all great musicians and everything, and we're certainly tickled that any band could make a go of it by using a piano as its sonic centerpiece like these boys do. Yet that's really as far as our fawning goes, for the truth is that Something Corporate are a band that's as shallow and lightweight as music gets. Evidence? How about sterile, emasculated, climate-controlled mall rock from a band so desperate to be liked that they've painted HI, WE ARE YOUR FRIENDS on the side of their piano? How about yet another serving of whiny-voiced, self-indulgent, “sensitive” lyrics about girls, girls and girls? How about a band ridiculously being marketed to all the Hot Topic punk kids who fell for the practical joke of Good Charlotte, when in fact there's absolutely nothing remotely “punk” about them? (No, really—close your eyes, and they're Bruce Hornsby N the Range! You know how weird it is to see flocks of teenage girls in 2003 getting all hot 'n' horny for tunes Bruce Hornsby could've done?!?) During their best moments, we thought that maybe Something Corporate were managing to pull off some halfway decent rip-offs of old Squeeze or Material Issue riffs, but our opinions were firmly jerked back into place by the elderly woman who lives across the street from Tower who asked us what band was playing. “A local one called Something Corporate,” we told her. “Well, they aren't bad, not at all!” she enthused as their 40 minutes wrapped (and when octogenarians dig your band, you really aren't punk). And mediocrity triumphs again.

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