ADD N TO (X) 7/20, EMPTY BOTTLE Add Insult to Injury (Mute), the third album from this trio of British vintage-synth fetishists, is another shimmering, slightly sinister slice of back-to-the-future-shock pop: Moogs and Korgs and Arps burble and warble, theremins sizzle, and the High Llamas’ Rob Allum smacks the skins with varying degrees of humanity. A total guilty pleasure, but I’ll be really interested to hear the results of their current project: they’re erecting a “Buckminster Fuller-inspired” dome in Bourges, France, inside of which a population of finches will unknowingly operate a theremin. IAN MOORE ACTION COMPANY 7/20, MARTYRS’; 7/21, FITZGERALD’S He was playing in Joe Ely’s band by age 18, and by 20 was a full-fledged guitar godling, sporting hair like a Harlequin hero and touring as a warm-up act for the Stones and ZZ Top. His last few records, however, have revealed him to be not just another son of Stevie but an actual songwriter in the sort of bluesy prog mode that once constituted the backbone of what wasn’t yet called AOR but is rarely produced with any conviction these days. Now 31 and more attractively shorn, he has a new band, Action Company, and a new jammy but soulful live album, Via Satellite (Hablador). It’s half Jeff Buckley, half the sound of a million white country boys hearing Hendrix for the first time and wishing they, too, were a voodoo chile. Q-BURNS ABSTRACT MESSAGE 7/20, SMART BAR Hicksville expatriate Michael Donaldson has come a long way from northern Louisiana, working as producer or remixer with everyone from Fatboy Slim to Faith No More to Jim White to Britney Spears. For Invisible Airline (Astralwerks), his second album under his own nom de tweak, he told Billboard, “I tried to capture the hazy, euphoric feeling you get when you fly.” Well, speak for yourself, ’cause when I fly the adjectives range from “terrified” to “claustrophobic”–I’d have to take some pretty good pills to hear anything this pleasant in my head. Donaldson’s enlisted help from a diverse handful of vocalists–Canadian house singer Lisa Shaw, Fat Possum bluesman Elmo Williams, and Orlando MC Swamburger–and the results sound as much like trip-hop as any of the more aggressive dance styles. RED MONKEY 7/21, EMPTY BOTTLE The problem with the punk “revival” is that too many of the participants seem to think that punk equals crude simplicity, when in fact there’s a fine line between stoopid and stupid. So let’s hear it for what I guess is the postpunk revival, still largely unnoticed by the mainstream: bands who avoid the whole bleedin’ issue by being unabashedly smart, showing off lyrical finesse within unorthodox musical structures. There are plenty of these in the U.S. underground lately, but if you’re the least bit enamored of the Ex or old Gang of Four you’ll have an extra-soft spot for Red Monkey, a British trio that bears certain similarities to both those bands as well as to contemporaneous outfits (in particular the Dischord girl group Slant 6, also formed in 1992) on its new Difficult Is Easy (Troubleman Unlimited). Guitarist-vocalist Pete and bassist-vocalist Rachel ran the now defunct collectivist label Slampt Records, home to other cult favorites like Yummy Fur and International Strikeforce. Sweep the Leg Johnny headlines. PETE YORN 7/22 & 7/23, SCHUBAS; 7/23 VIRGIN MEGASTORE Been wondering whatever happened to Brad Wood? The guy who made Liz Phair sound like something special turns out to have coproduced and contributed to the Columbia Records debut of this vaguely rootsy singer-songwriter, Musicforthemorningafter. The morning after what? I wonder mildly, and as I drift off at the keyboard, I see an army of good-looking, guitar-bearing, self-absorbed college-rock zombies, awakened by the talismanic sound of a late-period Replacements record. They’re poking their arms through every window, their rotten fingers through every hole in the wall, muttering “I made the record I wanted to make.” We try to ward them off with our Arab on Radar seven inches, but it’s hopeless…soon every generation will be subjected to its own version of the Drive…whoa. Sorry, but the morning after a nightmare like that, I need something a little stronger. The Schubas shows are sold-out; the Virgin Megastore appearance is free. SAVES THE DAY 7/23 & 7/24, METRO; 7/25 & 7/26, HOUSE OF BLUES These New Jersey guys play the sort of pop punk that’s utterly unapologetic about its boyishness. Of course the further away they get from actual adolescence–Stay What You Are (Vagrant) is their third album since 1997, and they’re all solidly in their 20s now–the trickier this is going to get, but hey, they won’t be the first to parlay arrested development into artistic success. Meanwhile they confront terrifying and grand notions about death, love, betrayal, and failure as earnestly as any teenager can; singer Chris Conley’s cracked, awkward passion on “Firefly” gives me great optimism that the upcoming generation can indeed transcend abstinence-only sex ed. The two bills at Metro, with Vagrant labelmates the Get Up Kids, Hot Rod Circuit (Monday only), the Alkaline Trio (Tuesday only), and Dashboard Confessional, are sold-out. At press time a limited number of tickets was still available for the second House of Blues show, with the Get Up Kids, Dashboard Confessional, and Hey Mercedes. SPIRIT CARAVAN 7/26, DOUBLE DOOR In the mid-80s, when Saint Vitus started making records for SST, savvier punks and metalheads were just coming to realize that their musics had more in common than either wanted to admit–and the band, an unholy blend of fish and fowl, suffered in obscurity while everyone else took their time coming to the same conclusion. Nowadays that territory in between has a name, “stoner rock,” and players like latter-day Saint Vitus guitarist Scott “Wino” Weinrich, who now leads this lumbering, shuddering, grinding, chugging trio, at last have a niche to call home. Spirit Caravan’s latest, Elusive Truth, came out last year on Tolotta, the label run by Fugazi bassist Joe Lally.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Todd V. Wolfson.