We will not rock you

Sorry. Guess the D never bothered to show up, even though a hip-hop bill at the Distillery last Thursday promised Cleveland Steamers as a headliner.

Explainer: When you habitually scour through concert listings every week, you learn to keep an eye peeled for established bands playing secret shows under an alias. The D, as in Tenacious D, not only sells T-shirts with a “Cleveland Steamers” logo on the front, but in its 2006 stoner film Tenacious D and the Pick of Destiny, the duo broke into the Rock History Museum, supposedly right here in Sacramento, to retrieve a guitar pick fashioned from the devil’s missing incisor. Could it be?

Nevertheless, there were a couple of red flags: The resolutely rockist D on a hip-hop bill was a tip off, even though the Distillery typically is a rock venue. And the absence of such acts as the Dirty Sanchez and the Rusty Trombones from the evening’s card indicated that this might actually be a hip-hop act named Cleveland Steamers. So there I was, stupidly watching the Lakers nail the Kings in overtime while digging some vintage Sabbath on the iPod, and no Steamers: Boo to the hoo.

Speaking of resolutely anachronistic, Genre Peak has a new CD titled Ends of the Earth. Here, Genre Peak, the latest aural brand from Martin Birke (Casualty Park, Sandbox Trio) has fashioned a full-length foray into a style of music that makes you want to hop into a Volkswagen Cabriolet and jet down to Penguin’s for a frozen yogurt—extra sprinkles, please—with an old chum, earnestly discussing President Reagan’s shining city on a hill and the conservative opportunity society that America’s Great Communicator single-handedly created. Or perhaps it’ll motivate you to don specialist undergarments and take that cat o’nine tails to your surging religious guilt. Who knows?

The actual music ain’t bad, even if your name isn’t Alex P. Keaton. Once you get past the hyperactive beats and occasional Space Invaders synth swooshes, there are some sterling soundscapes, and this trio—Birke on vocals and electronic percussion, Daniel Panasenko on Chapman stick and electric bass, Stephen Sullivan on guitars and “guitar synthesizer”—is as true to carrying the 1980s ethos forward into our current decade as any hair-farming poodlehead metal-revivalist band ever was.

The songs themselves may not be flowering Bohemian rhapsodies, but their minimalist melodic clank is consistent with a certain English school of synth-pop, and “Point of No Return” is a particular standout. Also, toward the end of the CD, there are around 15 minutes of instrumental Teutronica that work quite well.

That said, Birke’s deadpan vocals sound like Cake’s John McCrea languidly getting his Dave Gahan on, with an undercurrent of Bryan Ferry’s dystopic croon. One slight problem with Birke’s vocals, at least from a fast-fashion standpoint, is that the singer probably neglected to insert a Nubby Stump butt plug before stepping up to the mic, and thus his phrasing lacks that requisite ’80s techno-yelp that made Depeche Mode’s records so special. Slightly too manly-man, lads.

That may read like a pan, but I actually admire this record, both for its counterintuitive instincts and for the music. And it won’t funky up your naked belly, either.