Show review: The Specials at Club Nokia; New music by RAD, Thorcraft Cobra, Act Rights

“Hi, I’m Terry and I’m manic depressive,” smiled the famously deadpan lead singer for The Specials during the spoken part of “Enjoy Yourself” at the end of Monday night’s return to Club Nokia. It was their second show there in 26 years–showing that the band didn’t just get heal up and get back together a few years ago but continue to actually enjoy themselves. Since the reformed band’s first stop in L.A. in 2010, the heavy parts during “International Jet Set,” “Stereotypes,” and “Man at C&A” got heavier and the light parts in between were just as light, with Terry Hall giving away tea bags and ginger from backstage (and making fun of American half & half) and Terry and guitarist Lynval Golding giving very conflicting reviews of Argo before playing “Concrete Jungle” (whether or not Ben Affleck is a “cunt”).

All the songs came from the band’s legendary first two albums (“Dawning of a New Era,” “Monkey Man,”  “Nite Klub,” “You’re Wondering Now“), except for “Ghost Town,” of course. The band was tighter than tight, and the sweaty, packed venue venue danced so hard that you can actually see the floor bounce in the videos I just linked. There was one somber moment when Lynval dedicated “Poor Little Rich Girl” to Amy Winehouse. More often, it was just plain fun, like when Terry and Lynval joked around with Neville’s spoken part of “Enjoy Yourself” because he is taking a break from touring. What a legendary band, what an amazingly fun show.

Take advantage of this rare appearance in the U.S. by the Two-Tone pioneers if you can. They’re currently moving up the West Coast with gigs in Pomona (tonight), Ventura, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver. All the shows will be great, but I doubt the horn player will wear a Sharks or Canucks T-shirt. He was sporting L.A. Kings gear at Club Nokia while the Stanley Cup champs were playing right across the street at Staples.


Sometimes I listen to newer bands, too…

RAD – Loud & Fast
Naturally, the Sacto thrash band’s first full-length LP delivers the goods as advertised, loud and fast. And how. But more than simply referencing an ass-kicking-but-overlooked style of music that rules, it actually improves on the circle pit-tested formula with decent musicianship and recording (inspired by Doug Moody bands but not chained to the lo-fi mentality), smart humor (“Geekonomics” or go home), and no filler (“We’ve been playing 15 minutes/Time to shut up and get with it”). This LP just plain rips. In its short existence, this hard-working crew has gone from being a musical coelacanth to becoming a mainstay in the fragmented scene that fills gaps between crusty political punks at basement shows and DRI reunion shows in Reno. [Sacramento Records/Phono Select]

Thorcraft Cobra – Count It In
With members of Redd Kross and Sparks pitching in, you just know that Thorcraft Cobra’s brand of ultra tight, irony free classic rock will be as smart as it is perfect with bulletproof riffs and hooks that last for days in your head. It’s interesting how it ends with a second version/radio edit of “Party Clock” (the song that features Russell Mael) because there’s just no place for music like this on the airwaves any more. Too classic for college radio and too new for classic rock stations, Thorcraft Cobra’s brand of meticulously crafted music and absolutely infectious songs are simply too good for the masses. It makes me wonder if it is better for the band to be completely respected yet unheard in the tradition of Big Star or Silver Sun or have a breakthrough hit like The Knack or Chumbawamba and be labeled a one-hit wonder? [Plaza Bowl Records]

Act Rights – Sweat Equity
The Austin, TX-based Act Rights plays soul-infused garage rock in the spirit of The Fleshtones, King Khan & The Shrines, or any of Greg Cartwright’s bands. Although the tunes are never super long, more often than not they dissolve into psychedelic jams where the crowd’s moving contributes to the vibe as the instrumentskinda like how a hardcore band breaks it down for the pit–and I swear I heard the chatter of voices and clatter of beer bottles in more than one song. Topics can be pretty funny (“Jamestown Jheri Curl,” “Sausage Mountain,” “Opossum’s Head”) but the songs are not jokes when it comes to sweaty grooving. This is good stuff that’s probably even better live. [Tonequake Records]