The San Francisco group sounds like about 20 people playing every instrument imaginable, throwing a freaky, funky dance party. When I discovered they're actually a trio, well, it bent the mind. Surely, the production of Peanut Butter Wolf--who saw the band perform live and sought them out, eventually producing his first non-hip-hop album for them--deserves much of the credit for what Super (Electrical) Recordings sounds like, which is a dense mishmash of postmodern pastiche, all intended to get your ass a-movin'.
Take the organic funk of Parliament; add a healthy dose of electro-funk à la Daft Punk; and sprinkle liberally with nonsensical (or at least silly) chant-along choruses that resemble The Go! Team (or high school cheerleaders), horn sections, various random samples floating from speaker to speaker, traditional funk guitar stabs and a mighty heavy bottom end. Hit frappe on that blender, and you've got yourself something approximating the Chow Nasty experience.
I have no idea about the ethnic origin of the band's members, but this is white-boy funk taken to such pomo extremes that no one would ever compare them to the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The group takes traditional funk tropes and fucks with them, adding as many sounds as possible on top of it all, until you're left with some of the busiest, most cacophonous, funky dance music you'll ever hear.
Take the first single, the trad-funk "Ungawa," for a spin, and a minute or two in, if you're not chanting, "Unh! Ungawa! Baby's got the powah!" along with what sounds like a choir of a dozen ... well, then you might want to check your vitals. "Floor Is Bouncin'" is minimal electro-funk that reminds me of the sound of Christian indie rappers Soul-Junk and is abetted by a guest rap by Hieroglyphics' Pep Love.
A line from "A Tale of Two Titties"--"I dig you baby, but your sister's just so damn cute!"--of course recalls Beck's "Debra," from Midnite Vultures, and come to think of it, he's not a bad touchstone for what Chow Nasty do all over Super (Electrical) Recordings: something like if Midnite Vultures had the piles of samples and sonic density of Odelay. By the end of "A Tale of Two Titties," the song has morphed into a mess of heavy percussion, whistles, vintage synth and chants of, "Come on in and get this party started"--and you can still dance to it.
"Lazy Eyes" starts with programmed beats, minimal guitar and analog synth before the singer starts cataloging what he likes in his women--"lazy eyes," "extra toes" and "gap in their teeth, so I can see their tonsils when they're smiling at me"--then delves into the Daft Punk playbook, complete with vocoder. Elsewhere, one song plays that old-school funk trick of the fake fadeout; after the silence, it fades back in, continuing where it left off. And "Hot Sticky Nikki" pays homage to '50s rock 'n' roll and doo-wop, and the girl-groups of the '60s, even while including blasts of blues harp.
How three dudes are going to pull all of this off live should be interesting, but according to a review by James Hudson we ran after their last show in town, they do it with aplomb: "Vaudeville's opener was San Francisco's Chow Nasty, a hip, funky dance outfit that in retrospect should have headlined. A singer/guitarist's mic stand on the dance floor signaled the crowd participation that was to follow, which included the distribution of tambourines, cowbells and homemade beer-can shakers during the marathon tunes, one of which had the DJ/singer performing atop the bar." Sounds like one hell of a dance party.
Chow Nasty headlines a show at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St., on Tuesday, Feb. 19. Opening the show at 9:30 p.m. is 21 Pump Street, followed by the Lemon Drop Gang. Admission is only $6. Call 798-1298 for more information.
From a veteran local act to a local pack of newbies ...
Less Than Famous began life as a quintet--Matthew Barrios (guitar, keyboards), Jared Zezima (drums), Jesse Echeandia (bass), Josh Echeandia (guitar) and Christian Polley (guitar)--before adding female vocalist Tora Worten to the mix. The band plays that radio-friendly mix of melodic-emo-meets-screamo, a sound ubiquitous in trendy mall shops everywhere.
The addition of Worten, of course, allows for a perfect combination: Worten's melodic verses sung over subdued guitars and an able rhythm section, and the throat-shredding choruses rendered over crunchy guitar riffs. It's a model dating all the way back to Generation Y, but Less Than Famous do it as well as just about anyone, and here's the key: They write songs you can hum along with. There's simply no substitute for a good hook, no matter what genre you're performing, and Less Than Famous have got 'em.
Less Than Famous celebrate the release of their debut CD with a performance at The Rock, 136 N. Park Ave. Doors open at 7 p.m. for this all-ages show, which also includes sets by Santa Barbara, Calif.'s Them Terribles and locals The Funeral March, Broken End Stereo and Sindicut. Advance tix are available for $7 at all Zia locations and online at missiontix.com. For more info call 629-9211 or 690-3126.
The distinction between the two eras was so pronounced, it was almost as if there were two different Hearts. Well, both of them will be appearing this week for a performance at Desert Diamond Casino, 1100 W. Pima Mine Road. The show starts at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 20, and advance tickets are available for $35 to $65 at the venue's box office, all Ticketmaster locations, online at desertdiamondcasino.com or by calling 321-1000.
If you were planning on attending this week's Sia show, at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St., on Saturday, Feb. 16, (with special guest Har Mar Superstar--one of the more inspired double bills we've seen in some time), unless you've currently got a ticket in your wallet or purse, don't bother. The show is sold out. If it's any consolation, check back next week for a review of what you missed.
Elsewhere around town, on Friday, Feb. 15, Congress plays host to the Zsa Zsas' Valentine Finale, with special guest ...music video?; Cobra Starship headlines a show at The Rock, 136 N. Park Ave., on Monday, Feb. 18, that also includes Metro Station, We the Kings and The Cab; WC of Westside Connection will be at Congress on Tuesday, Feb. 19; and saxophonist Everette Harp will perform at the Arizona Kiva Ballroom at Loews Ventana Canyon Resort, 7000 N. Resort Drive, on Saturday, Feb. 16.