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Israel has the potential to produce bands that could be stars on the international circuit. Take the veteran rock-group Rockfour and relative newcomers The Genders, both of whom have experienced success with English-language releases in the US, including a number of tours.
Upon the release of Memories of the Never-Happened|, their ninth album locally and sixth album released internationally, Rockfour is gearing up for a major summer of music starting with this Saturday night's show at Jerusalem's Yellow Submarine. The Tel Aviv trio has recently returned from a mini-tour of the US, including a performance at the huge South By Southwest festival in Austin, Texas. With a sound similar to the Byrds, Love, Wilco and, it has been said, Chicago on acid, the group's sound has been categorized as circa 1960s British. Their debut English album Supermarket was chosen by Rolling Stones critic Richie Unterberger as one of his top ten for 2000. Jim Diamond, who has also worked with the White Stripes, produced their 2004 album Nationwide. The band, which has opened for Dave Mathews in the past, will be opening for Blonde Redhead when they play Tel Aviv this July.
THE GENDERS are something else. The four Israelis that comprise this self-described "punk'n'roll" phenomenon eat, sleep and spit Hebrew but have always written their lyrics in English. It is a decided attempt to reach beyond the local market, and it is paying off. Following the release of their 2006 debut Rockin' in Ramallah - locally on the Tav Hashmini label and in North America on AMP records - the band took off for a major tour of the US promoting the tongue-in-cheek lyrics that range from crass to humorous.
With the recent release of their second album Virgin No. 72 - on Dead Sea Records - you get the continuation of the Genders' sound. They are not producing Israeli or Jewish music by point, just great punk-inspired rock and roll from a region that is too messed up to take itself lightly. Whether it is the exploits of an American immigrant who drives his tank in the West Bank among the hills on which he keeps a different woman on each in "Horatio," to "Long Island Princess," where the Jewess stereotype is told that her man in waiting can "put the ball in your matza ball soup," they write good satire set to some of the most rockin' tunes this side of the separation fence.
It should come as no surprise that The Genders give an awesome show. Being that this Wednesday's free show is their farewell one before heading back to tour the US, it should be a doozy. The Genders play non-stop sets, with split second intervals between songs, reminiscent of the Ramones, and sometimes, with some luck, with the Genderettes, scantily clad dancers who just seem to add to the rock'n'roll ambiance.
Tickets for Rockfour at the Yellow Submarine (13 Harechavim St., Talpiot industrial zone, Jerusalem) are between NIS 60-70 and can be ordered in advance by calling (02) 679-4040. The Genders are playing Sublime, located at 53 Salame Street on the corner of Abarbanel Street in south Tel Aviv. Doors open at 9 p.m. and the band is scheduled to take the stage an hour and a half later. Entrance is free.