Minister of silly walks

Saturday was a good day for walking around downtown. I’d been meaning to get some eartime with the second Lookyloos album, You’re Looking Very Beautiful Man, and the canopy of bare trees underneath a cool azure winter sky provided the perfect canvas for a nice ramble through the blocks of our changing burg.

There’s something quite gratifying about popping in a set of iPod earbuds, dialing a bunch of ethereal tunes and then walking around about a foot or two off the ground. It’s almost like being in love. And for those of us who don’t want to mess with the lottery of ingesting chemicals that will either turn our surroundings into the coolest Dragnet episode ever or plummet us into some kind of Ralph Steadman nightmare populated by giant bloodthirsty lizards, music probably is the better way to induce a psychedelic experience.

Not that the Lookyloos are psychedelic; the band—essentially a vehicle for songwriter Eric Janssen—plays piquantly dreamy music, a straightforward guitar-based rock with unadorned Fender guitars out of the surf-music tradition, occasionally buttressed by violas and cellos. It’s a clean, elegant sound, with a lineage that runs through Brian Wilson, the Velvet Underground, the Chills and Brian Eno’s poppier forays, with maybe a little imaginary Kraftwerk for seasoning.

Ergo, a pretty darn irresistible experience walking around Midtown listening to songs like “Confidante,” with its “he’s a confidante of supermodels” chorus, while gliding by yet another once-cool independent business that’s been turned into yet another salon, or another sushi restaurant. Can’t the city of Sacramento place a moratorium on new high-tone salons or sushi bars for a few years?

Normally, the sight of the heinous salon-and-sushi monster stamping around my town would elicit bilious kvetching from me about the disappearance of beloved cheap-eats places replaced by groovy new overpriced hors d’oeuvres joints so the suburban Hummer-and-starter-castle set can have yet another venue where they can go all Arnold on the hapless wait staff. But earphoning gauzy tracks like “Three Years” provided virtual bong hits that made even the most egregious defiling of our erstwhile dead-on-the-weekends state worker paradise go down like chocolate cake.

Beautiful Man is even sweeter than the Loos’ 2002 debut, Perhaps the Most Satisfying Joy Left to Us in an Age So Limited and Vulgar as Our Own. I mean, how can you slag a record with a song (“Nobody Sends Black Flowers”) that champions the movie Harold and Maude? Or one (“Double Feature”) that namechecks Jim Jarmusch, Harvey Keitel and John Lurie? The playing, by guitarist Janssen, bassist Dave Thompson and drummer Paul Takushi, is tensile and tantalizing, with the fifth and last of the album’s 10 songs much quieter numbers, just like an old classic album.

The Lookyloos make nicely cinematic walking music. I wish they played more. Last summer, on the night we found out Erik Kleven had died, Janssen told me his band was dead, too. If true, that would be a shame.

Speaking of stars, Natalie Gordon’s shockingly brilliant performance Saturday night at the Speakeasy, in her duo Agent Ribbons, was a Lana Turner on a Schwab’s fountain-stool moment. Mercy.