FIREWATER 11/7, EMPTY BOTTLE Firewater’s upcoming covers album, Songs We Should Have Written (Jetset)–featuring obvious calls like “Folsom Prison Blues,” “Paint It Black,” and Tom Waits’s “Diamonds and Gold” as well as pleasant surprises like Robyn Hitchcock’s melancholy, nostalgic “I Often Dream of Trains”–is entertaining enough, but these New Yorkers never dig into the standards with the itchy irreverence they display on songs they did write. On last summer’s The Man on a Burning Tightrope their multiculti trash rock sounds like Peter Gunn getting his ass whupped in a dark alley by some Russian thugs. Except when it sounds like the aftermath–naked, bloody, and relieved to be alive. Front man Tod A. sneaks a smirk as he spits out a tooth. FROG HOLLER 11/7, HIDEOUT A lot of young folks nowadays are signing up to play country rock, folk rock, Americana, old-timey music, etc, and I can’t help but wonder if it’s partly for the same reason the new-jack-garage craze has taken off like it has: it sounds easy. It isn’t, of course–achieving graceful simplicity takes a lot of practice. Pennsylvania’s Frog Holler, corny name aside, is getting it down: on its fourth album, Railings (Record Cellar), the six-piece plays an arsenal of instruments very sparingly, creating a backdrop of mystery and tension for Darren Schlappich’s straightforward, prayerful songs. OH MY GOD 11/7, TOWER RECORDS ON CLARK; 11/8, METRO Unconventional instrumentation can be a blessing and a curse–it helps a band stand out from the crowd, but it can also draw focus away from the music. The local rock trio Oh My God doesn’t use any guitars (OK, producer Doug McBride adds one, once), but after listening to the new Interrogations and Confessions (NoVo) I can’t say I miss them. Pianist-organist Iguana (who’s worked as a sideman with some big blues names) provides all the heaviness and flash one could ask of a guitarist, and singer-bassist Billy O’Neill grabs any unclaimed attention with his passionate lyrics and delivery (“February 14th” is a standout–a tender song about love and recovery sung to, of all things, an ex). And as with all pop, as long as you’ve got a good drummer (this one’s named Bish), you’re solid. The Metro show is a release party. PELICAN 11/8, BOTTOM LOUNGE The popularity of metal is grounded in aesthetics, not sociology; to those who like it, it sounds good, and its sonic vocabulary has proven irresistible to aggressively avant minds from Glenn Branca to Keiji Haino. Locals Pelican have gotten a lot of impressive write-ups (the New York Times likes ’em) considering they’re just now putting out their first full-length. On Australasia (Hydra Head) the six long instrumental tracks unwind with a sense of lurking frenzy carefully controlled, the exhilarating harmonics unfolding over mighty riffing like a seabird skimming deep and stormy waters. It sounds very fucking good. Defender, Sweet Cobra, and No Funeral open. TWILIGHT SINGERS 11/8 & 9, DOUBLE DOOR This not-quite-solo project (former Afghan Whigs front man Greg Dulli and whomever he’s playing with just now) is touring behind its second album: The Twilight Singers Play Blackberry Belle (Birdman) is busy, bloozy cabaret pop, sugary but ironic, full of the poignant, terrible awareness that cruising the strip looking for love is exciting when you’re a teenager but downright depressing when you’re pushing 40, like Dulli. The electronic fills and chill-out-room trills help the ennui go down a little bit easier. Inconsequential, maybe, but not nearly as boring as the Afghan Whigs. Saturday’s show is sold out. BURIED AT SEA 11/12, DOUBLE DOOR A couple of weeks ago this Chicago band celebrated the release of Migrations (Original Sound Recordings), a 39-minute album that contains only three tracks–each a proggishly structured exercise in tension and full-body slam. Straddling the hard-to-draw line between stoner rock and doom metal, the songs turn unexpected corners, linger occasionally among the cobwebs, then lay the riffage down on your head just when you thought it was safe. Weedeater, Sixteen, and Gravitron open. +/- 11/13, SCHUBAS You Are Here (Teenbeat) is the second full-length from +/-; conceived as a side project by James Baluyut and Patrick Ramos of Versus (later joined by veterans of the Damnations and True Love Always), the group sounds every bit as comfy in its aesthetic as any bunch of full-timers. The new one’s more substantial than the debut: less coy, more tuneful and hooky, with chiming guitars and a blend of electronic and real beats. What this means is that despite the groovy post-post-rock leadoff to “She’s Got Your Eyes,” these guys sound more like Depeche Mode than ever before. With openers Written in the Sand and .22.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Paul Natkin, Photo Reserve.