Music & clubs

Multiple choice: Music top picks for September

Sleaford Mods or Muse? Amanda Palmer or Laura Jane Grace? September is fraught with agonising double bookings, here's a guide to help you make your choice.

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Photo by Jeff Forney. Muse performs at the Mercedes Benz Arena on Sep 10.

On any given day of the week, Berlin is spoiled with options for live music. But every so often, a particular calendar date poses concertgoers with a true chin-stroking dilemma. In fact, this month brings several such dates, so no matter what you decide on, the FOMO factor may linger. In these cases, it’s usually best to stay home and read a book, but if you insist on going out, perhaps this column can point you in the right direction.

If you’ve got the Brexit blues, it’s either Sleaford Mods or Muse. Both their latest albums react to the political climate in the U.K., albeit in aesthetically different ways. Muse’s Simulation Theory goes back to the Thatcher era, stylizing their stadium rock with a synthesised sheen, cover art by the illustrator of the Stranger Things posters, and Ghostbusters references in their music videos. To the working-class Mods, though, that’s probably a bunch of big-budget bollocks. The electro-punk duo have packaged the anti-austerity anger and punch-packing beats of Eton Alive beneath a blurry photo of themselves, stamped with a handwritten logo.

There’s not exactly a surplus of Asian indie-rock bands touring Germany, but here we are with Say Sue Me and The Hormones playing on the same night. The former are from the southeast coast of South Korea, which is perhaps why their pleasantly poppy tunes – endorsed by Elton John – have a certain surf-rock tinge. The latter hail from landlocked China, their songs venturing deeper and darker into the sonic abyss, thanks in part to production by Tim DeWit of Gang Gang Dance.

Amanda Palmer gained recognition with cabaret-punk duo The Dresden Dolls and earlier this year released her third solo album, There Will Be No Intermission. Laura Jane Grace is known primarily as the singer of punk band Against Me! and released her first solo album, Bought to Rot, in 2018. What they have in common is that cathartic balance of heartfelt and hardcore. So, let the deciding factor be your preferred instrument: piano by Palmer, or guitar by Grace.

In July, Wilco announced their return to touring after a two-and-a-half-year hiatus along with their forthcoming 11th album, Ode to Joy, due in October. Over their history, they’ve adroitly evolved from college rock to dad rock, retaining traces of alt-country from their predecessor, Uncle Tupelo. Meanwhile, fresh off his appearance on the Grand Ole Opry Sam Outlaw may not be as “wanted” as those Chicago veterans, but country purists will find his music more rewarding.

Remember Jay Electronica? The rapper still hasn’t released the official follow-up to Act 1, released in 2007, but new (old?) tracks have been trickling out lately, regenerating interest. Performing on the same night is Stephen Malkmus, and while he’s certainly not direct competition, he might as well change his last name to Electronica: his recent synth-heavy album Groove Denied is a far cry from the indie-rock band that made him famous. If you can’t afford a ticket to Primavera Sound next summer for the Pavement reunion, this is the next best thing.

Amanda Palmer Sep 6, 18:00, Admiralspalast, Mitte | Laura Jane Grace &The Devouring Mothers Sep 6, 20:00, SO36, Kreuzberg | Muse Sep 10, 20:00, Mercedes Benz Arena, Friedrichshain | Sleaford Mods Sep 10, 21:00, Festsaal Kreuzberg, Alt-Treptow | Sam Outlaw Sep 12, 20:00, Frannz Club, Prenzlauer Berg | Wilco Sep 12, 20:00, Tempodrom, Kreuzberg | The Hormones Sep 16, 20:00, Kantine am Berghain, Friedrichshain | Say Sue Me Sep 16, 20:00, Berliner Badehaus, Friedrichshain | Jay Electronica Sep 26, 21:30, Gretchen, Kreuzberg | Stephen Malkmus Sep 26, 20:00, Burg Schnabel, Kreuzberg