DRIVE-BY TRUCKERS 10/6, FIRESIDE BOWL Goddamn, I wish half the bands who do the redneck shtick did it one-tenth as good as the Truckers on their new Alabama Ass Whuppin’ (Seventhheaven.com)–which was actually recorded in Georgia. I could try to break down their formula for hole-in-the-heart soul (three parts loud Neil Young, two parts Sabbath, extract of John Doe, one blazing version of “People Who Died”; simmer in bourbon), but of course the best cooks work by intuition. LES SAVY FAV 10/6, EMPTY BOTTLE Like many a great band before them, Les Savy Fav are a by-product of art school, and like most of those other thinky rockers, they steal baldly from their idols. But whereas, say, the Rolling Stones stole from old American bluesmen, this New York quartet steals from other schooled art rockers. Their latest release, an EP on Southern called Rome (Written Upside Down), reveals the influence of Wire, Gang of Four, and early Joy Division, nodding here and there to Naked Raygun as well. A great sound stolen still sounds great–but the songs meander in a way I’ve come to associate more with emocore. SHELLAC 10/6 & 8, CENTRUM HALL On its new third album, 1000 Hurts (Touch and Go), the antiheroic trio applies itself again to proving not only that the old Chicago squall can still be menacing but also that it must be captured properly in the studio, that the elusive art of “rocking” is also a science. Is a record given over to a purist array of mean and clattery guitar sounds and exaggeratedly focused drumming potentially as satisfying as one dedicated to songs? Sure–potentially. Nothing can make the freshness of a few years back sound dated as reliably as a horde of imitators, but Shellac stays ahead of its pack of pups, largely because no one else can get that sound to sound quite so good. Loraxx and the New Zealand trio High Dependency Unit open the first show; Baltimore’s Oxes, who play metallic math rock while standing on big black boxes, and Robbie Fulks (!) open the second. ATARI STAR 10/7, FIRESIDE Bowl Johann’s Face honcho Marc Ruvolo, who for more than a decade fronted the local hardcore band No Empathy, plays guitar and sings in this new quartet, whose stated points of reference include Pedro the Lion and Smog. I have a hard time hearing their debut EP, Moving in the Still Frame, without visualizing images like the decontextualized aged sepia photos that decorate the booklet–two sisters in roses, a clapboard church, an old car. I’m sure Ruvolo intended to evoke more than a rural estate auction, but his lyrics are not quite as poignantly precise as Bill Callahan’s, and his vocals are often buried punk-rock style in the mix, so it’s hard to tell. CANDYE KANE 10/7, FITZGERALD’S California-based singer Candye Kane gets a lot of mileage out of her background–she’s a former teenage welfare mom turned stripper and porn actress turned blazing blues singer. But it seems less a play for sympathy or publicity than a simple explanation of who this big woman with the big voice is, and she makes no apologies for her past. On her new The Toughest Girl Alive (Bullseye Blues & Jazz), which features Marcia Ball on piano and occasionally Dave Alvin on guitar, she treats unbridled lust as a state to be celebrated, announcing joyfully that the Lord doesn’t care who you love, warning a suave barfly that “There are some moves you haven’t tried / She was my baby last night,” and making “Let’s commit adultery” sound like a truly sexy come-on. Think Katie Webster handing out vibrators in a juke joint. SHUTDOWN 10/9, FIRESIDE Bowl Founded five years ago, before most of its members were done with puberty, this NYC hardcore quartet has toured with and learned from legends like Agnostic Front (whose Roger Miret produced its new Few and Far Between, on Victory) and the Cro-Mags. This music’s all about brute force and convincing positive passion, which these guys have got in spades–but listening to front man Mark Scondotto’s oddly placed high-pitched yelp I sometimes get the feeling he’d play metal if he could get away with it. INDIGENOUS 10/12, HOUSE OF BLUES Nurtured by a musical father at their home on the Yankton Reservation in South Dakota, this Nakota family act–three siblings and a cousin–shows a flawless facility with classic blues rock on their fifth album, Circle (Pachyderm). Guitarist Mato Nanji has an intelligent, fluid style, passionate but not wanky; the tunes are passably hooky; and the drum-heavy intro to “You Were the One” in some ways reminds me of Redbone’s unspeakably great first album (at least until the 90s vocalizing comes in). I wish the record had more of the letter-perfect southern-boogie choogle of the opener, “Little Time,” and less of that indistinct classic-rock album-track feel, but one great song and a slew of pretty good ones is a lot more than most bands in this genre can muster these days.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Beth Herzhaft.