On their new album, Ain’t My Lookout (Sub Pop), Memphis’s Grifters deliver more of the straight-up rock grittiness they served in a smaller dose on last year’s Eureka EP–this time reconciling the divergent strains (hook-laden pop, mangled power chords, sonic collisions) that made their musical tension stand out initially. With three accomplished songwriters the band’s never been at a loss for ideas, but in the past any potential impact has been frequently blown away by sluggish sonic density and senseless chaos. Though chaos has been crucial to their MO, they’d often seemed to lose control of their songs before reeling them back in. It became a predictable game. With the new album the Grifters get down to business and scatter their appealing mess in less obvious ways. Though there’s nothing screaming a connection to the early output of Chuck Berry, Alex Chilton, Al Green, or Sun Records artists, a lineage exists through the band’s careful attention to dynamics and space. Within rough shards of soul, blues, country, and rock, the Grifters play on scale so beautifully that musical surprises are now genuine. Rex, whose terrific new EP, Waltz (Southern), comes close to suggesting what a good live band they are, open both gigs. Friday, 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 276-3600. Saturday, 8 PM, Fireside Bowl, 2646 W. Fullerton; 486-2700. PETER MARGASAK
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Daniel Ball.