Jon Brion
w/Harvey Danger, Racetrack
Crocodile Cafe, Sat Dec 18, 9 pm, $12.

Is it any wonder that singer/producer/ composer Jon Brion is still regarded as a boy wonder--even well into his 30s and entrenched in indie-tinged Hollywood filmmaking? He's all-boy--witness the scene this fall at Largo, where Brion fills tables and flits between instruments with ease every Friday, improvising each night's set with metronomic regularity.

In a buzzing supper club packed with youngish, low-key music-industry types, Brion bursts silently from the kitchen to climb a stage littered with instruments and plop himself in front of a disemboweled standup piano, its guts and a string of small bells reflected in a mirror above his head.

After taking some requests, Brion commenced to loop and accompany himself on drums, bass, keyboard, and guitar to a mashed-up "Walk This Way" and "Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now"--by "the Aerosmiths." The jaded crowd laughed in wonder, amazed that they hadn't thought of that unexpected '80s genre-collision before. "Anyone have any speed I can shoot?" Brion joked. "I just have the poor man's speedball--Guinness and a coffee."

Speed and a certain nimble grace are the operative words for this musical polymath specializing in short-attention-span theater. Brion has famously worked with and produced everyone from Aimee Mann and Fiona Apple to David Byrne and Rufus Wainwright and has scored nearly every Paul Thomas Anderson film--most memorably crafting the gorgeous sonic complement to the fallible human symphony of Magnolia. He was recently nominated for a Grammy for his score for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, but his latest and greatest achievement, the soundtrack for I * Huckabees, hints at the most fitting guise for this effortlessly morphable performer--as the composer of heavenly pocket pop symphonies. The recording teases out Beatlesque melodies (and Elliott Smith-like tropes, appropriate since Brion was initially tapped to produce the late songwriter's From a Basement on a Hill) and layered vocal lines, as well as sublime reworkings of '70s AM radio pop and TV-show themes--and in the process injects a fresh sense of wonder into David O. Russell's pretentious yet humanist take on our heavily malled Middle American reality.