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Herky-jerky chaos

Oakland trio Preening are wild, weird, and noisy fun

In all their confrontationally strange cacophony, Preening becomes oddly compelling. Photo credit:

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I've written before about bands that can seem antagonistic or confrontational toward their audience. Sometimes, this can make for a frustrating, distancing listen, pitting the band against the listener in a way that come off as more of a turn-off than a challenge. Other times, for reasons I don't quite know, I find something alluring about a band that seemingly has no desire to make anything close to palatable, refusing to meet me halfway, drawing me into their turbulent orbit of strangeness.

Let's consider Oakland trio Preening. The group recently released their debut LP Gang Laughter -- a dizzying 10-song collection that clocks in at around 18 minutes -- along with a series of unattributed quotes that serve as wryly backhanded compliments ("an interesting listen," "I can't tell if it's a gag," "there's a charm," and "as irritating as anything else in Preening's discography" being among my favorites). Preening's self-effacement comes off like a preemptive strike against those who are bound to find them to be almost aggressively experimental.

The trio consists of Max Nordile on saxophone and vocals, Alejandra Alcala on bass and vocals, and Sam Lefebvre on drums. No guitar is present, and none is needed, as that might be one layer of sonic confusion too many. As it stands, Preening make a cacophony with the materials at hand, approaching punk and no-wave through a distinctly jazz-inflected direction. Squealing sax, unhinged vocals, and off-kilter rhythms become the defining sounds of Preening, at times recalling the similarly rough-edged chaos of Captain Beefheart, and other early mavericks of art-rock.

On Gang Laughter, there's nothing to grab onto with which to steady yourself, no edge of the pool to reach for when your arms get tired of flailing. Amid all of the restless, herky-jerky motion, Preening provides one moment of (still somewhat unnerving) relief that breaks through the hermetically sealed weirdness: the only voices on "Red Tape" are those of a studio audience laughing hysterically atop a bed of musical madness. Is the unheard joke on us, on the band, or on the feverish lunacy of everything? As far as provocations go, Preening's got my attention.

PREENING, w/ The Moving Pictures, Dyed, Phony, 10 p.m., Thursday, April 4, Le Voyeur, 404 Fourth Ave. E., Olympia, donations suggested, 360.943.5710,


Boston-based artist Jittery Jack draws on the invigorating sounds of ‘50s rock and roll and rockabilly, sounding every bit the spittin' image of those early rockers made the guitar king and stepped up the tempo just a bit. There's a joyousness to Jittery Jack's music, and he comes off as the consummate showman to really get across the wild party vibes of this music. And speaking of guitars, Jittery Jack's collaborator and lead guitarist Amy Griffin will be coming along for the ride, bringing with her some impeccably hot licks to get the whole crowd moving.

JITTERY JACK, w/ Wildcat Rose, 8 p.m., Friday, The Valley, 1206 Puyallup Ave., Tacoma, donations suggested, 253.248.4265,

The next night, on Saturday, Real Art will be having a show that, frankly, sounds like one hell of a blast. Seattle's only all-female Ramones cover band, the Dee Dees, will be headlining, providing a healthy serving of those brilliantly economical, timeless punk classics. The music of the Ramones is so tight and robust that their power could likely survive a nuclear blast, and the Dee Dees do them full justice. Joining the Dee Dees is the catchy, incisively funny punk of the Ram Rams; the wiry, two-piece assault of Mud on my Bra; and the alternately silly and pointed pop-punk of Shower Scum. Any of these bands could be the highlight of a bill, so assembling them all together makes for a next-level night of raucous reveling.

THE DEE DEES, w/ the Ram Rams, Mud on my Bra, Shower Scum, 7 p.m., Saturday, Real Art Tacoma, all ages, 5412 S. Tacoma Way, Tacoma, $10,

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