Few songwriters of the last decade possess such an innate tunefulness as the Loud Family’s Scott Miller–and fewer still have abused it so. In his previous band, Game Theory, and his current combo, Miller has run the savvy, irresistible pop of Big Star-era Alex Chilton through the wringer. Not content to fire a seemingly endless barrage of ultracatchy melodies at the listener, Miller obfuscates them with weird tempo shifts, complex song structures, obtuse lyrics, and wiggy instrumental flourishes. The Loud Family’s first two albums suggested that he was leaving his smart-aleck tendencies behind, but the sprawling new album Interbabe Concern (Alias) finds Miller making a glorious mess once again. The band nearly collapses beneath the weight of his ever-clever muse–song titles include “Screwed Over by Stylish Introverts” and “Where They Go Back to School but Get Depressed”–but Miller’s self-described “miserable whine” weaves effortlessly through the labyrinthine melodies, continually avoiding the potential traps. Scotland’s Long Fin Killie employs a much more delicate melodic touch, but it’s in service of the band’s manipulation of dynamics. The group’s new album, Valentino (Too Pure), recalls its live shows last year, in which it compressed the dizzying stylistic range of the debut album, allowing singer Luke Sutherland’s expressive and somewhat extravagant vocals to pierce the patter-to-a-roar attack. Although saxophone, violin, and bouzouki still lace Long Fin Killie’s music, on the new record the band spends more time investigating the nuances of each song than obsessing over how it’s constructed. Sutherland’s smart lyrics wittily address racism and sexism with a weightless grace, choosing narratives rather than sermons to convey his ideas. The Sugarplastic and Blackeyed Susans also perform; the Loud Family plays an in-store earlier at the Quaker Goes Deaf. Friday, 9 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 276-3600.


Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Loud Family photo by Photo Robert/Long Fin Killie photo by Alison Wonderland.