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Louis XIV reigns with killer riffs, big hooks

They may have named themselves after a knicker-clad French king, but what the members of Louis XIV really are is a bunch of nattily dressed thieves from San Diego. Onstage Wednesday night, strutting their stuff (and some other people's too), they shook their shag haircuts and winked through their eyeliner and spiky guitar riffs at the titans of glam's golden age: Bolan, Bowie, and, of course, Mott the Hoople. But there was something else going on too, at once older and newer: early Kinks perhaps? Buzzcocks?

Somehow, an American band's cheeky pilfering of the coolest chunks of British rock past -- some of it sly, some of it brazen -- seemed like cosmic payback for all those years Europe sold our rock and blues back to us. Besides, those reference points are what make the group's lusciously lecherous major label debut, ''The Best Little Secrets Are Kept," so fun, and it's what gave the lads' Paradise performance its charisma. Some of pop's biggest thrills are stolen ideas, or reimagined ones, after all. A great sneer is a great sneer, and if you've got a killer guitar hook (even if it once belonged to Mick Ronson or Angus Young), why not use it again? Louis XIV had a surplus of sneers, hooks, and looks, and it dispensed them to the eager crowd as if throwing lighter fluid on a bonfire.

The group crashed first into ''Paper Doll," with rooster 'do-ed frontman Brian Karscig doing his best Iggy leer and the line ''I'll show you mine if you show me yours" taking on a libidinous swagger far removed from schoolyard show-and-tell. Like its Australian analog Jet, Louis XIV likes to sing about sex and candy -- only with more sex, candy, and cleverness wrapped inside its bump-and-grind grooves.

The band's saucy smash single, ''Finding Out True Love Is Blind," an ode to perpetual lust and potential conquests, came appropriately late in the set like delayed gratification. Although the blatant T. Rextasy of ''Letter to Dominique" veered perilously close to plagiarism, thanks to multi-instrumentalist Jason Hill's gnome-like trill of a voice, and the rattlesnake rumble of ''Illegal Tender" was basically a rewrite of Bowie's ''Jean Genie," no one really seemed to mind. They were too busy shaking their hips.

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