It's a fat week at the Cat's Cradle. On Wednesday night, Talking Heads alumni Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth bring their band Tom Tom Club (pictured left) to the Cradle. The Good The Bad and The Funky, their first release in eight years, finds the band mining the same funk/world beat vein that made them a club fixture back in '82 with "Genius of Love" and "Wordy Rappinghood." Although Frantz and Weymouth claim to have coined the hip-hop terms "fresh" and "freestyle" back in '81, don't be looking for dope rhymes. Even with scratching turntables and hip guests (Toots Hibbert, Abdou M'Boup and Bernie Worrell, to name a few), the Tom Tom Club come off like art school (RISD) grads collecting grooves with the smugness of tourists on a Third World musical safari. Once described as "thinking man's dance music," the band has changed little over the years, while the genres they've borrowed from--hip-hop, world beat, dub--have exploded into whole new galaxies of expression. Nevertheless, whether you're reliving your early-'80s clubbin' days or discovering the band for the first time, expect a technically great show.
Besides being the voice behind many of The Band's biggest hits, you might know legendary drummer Levon Helm from his roles in Coal Miner's Daughter or The Right Stuff. Helm lays it down Thursday night at the Cradle with his blues/rock review, Levon Helm and the Barnburners. Featuring his daughter, Amy, on vocals, the group covers everything from Louis Jordan to Howlin' Wolf (no Band songs, though). Although Helm battled throat cancer last year, the incredibly influential former-Band timekeeper and Dylan sideman hasn't lost his chops. Soulful.
Soulful would be the last word to describe instrumental math-rock pioneers Don Cabellero, who play the Cradle Saturday, Nov. 11. Since their testicular, time signature-shifting '93 debut, For Respect, Don Cab continue to evolve. They've left one industrial city (Pittsburgh) for another (Chi-town), and are down to a trio these days, led by theorist/drummer Damon Che. Their latest, American Don, crosses the boundary into prog: The repetition, Fripp-like circular guitar patterns, ambient stretches and deft tempo changes initially sound like freeform jams until you realize these guys literally chart this stuff on a blackboard. More thematic than melodic, but impressive nonetheless.
Cat Power, the nom de performance of one Chan Marshall, plays the Carrboro ArtsCenter this Saturday. Marshall's most recent album, The Covers Record, has the doleful indie chanteuse ripping the innards out of classics by everyone from the Velvet Underground to the Rolling Stones. Light years beyond mere eccentricity, Marshall's performances are wild-card events where she may change the lyrics, tear at your heart with her lost-child vocals, or react weirdly to the audience. However odd it all seems, Marshall's schizophrenic songs of isolation and deliverance are a rare glimpse into one woman's dream-space. --Angie Carlson