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Bad Motocaster

Motocaster is rock. Not grunge-rock, not alterna-rock, not surf-rock, math-rock, nor any of the other hyphenates occupying an increasing percentage of the bins at your local record shop. Just plain rock, in the way that everyone rocked once -- in the stone(d) age -- when everything good and loud and fast came from Detroit, cars and bands alike. Back in the days before Ted Nugent lost track of the pure political gut-pumping power of guitar -- lost it in a haze of right-wing rhetoric and poorly smoked venison jerky -- bands like Motocaster roamed the earth in packs, leaving entire towns cowering in their wake.

They're mostly gone now, beaten back to isolated pockets of resistance, just one or two left in every mid-sized city in America. Motocaster is Raleigh, North Carolina's entrant to the gene pool, a stock three-piece with decidedly non-stock components -- among 'em a drummer who looks and plays like Keith Moon and a singer/guitarist, Bo Taylor, who wears his songs like a leash around his neck. Taylor stretches them to breaking, soloing out well beyond UL-approved limits, running ever-tighter circles around his bandmates until the whole damn thing collapses headfirst into noise and it's time to pick up, untangle, begin again.

It's a shameless display of nasty, unchecked ego, and it works because Taylor makes it work, because he writes simple songs with uncommonly catchy hooks -- the better to hang his nasty sneer all over. This is rock the old-school way: Motocaster caters to every filthy, self-indulgent rock-star whim, and they still get to keep their AM radio pop-music fetishes, because they don't know any better. They don't yet know that rock and roll doesn't spin the world, and it won't make you fly. And like Wile E. Coyote, they'll keep floating up there in midair, oblivious, till someone's brave or stupid enough to walk out and tell them otherwise.

It's a balancing act you've got to see to make sense of; don't waste your time on the band's limp Interscope debut, Stay Loaded. The CD could never have worked; trying to cram the band's sheer, stupid balls-out noise onto a 5-inch disc makes about as much sense as trying to catch a bullet in a paper bag. Get up, thread that Kiss belt-buckle onto the front of your jeans, and put your cruising face on. Leave your soft, sensitive, self-aware indie-pop at home; that shit's made for weak, over-educated dumplings to listen to in the daytime.

But the night? The night was made for big, dumb rock.
-- Ross Grady

Motocaster plays at 8 p.m. Saturday, October 22 at the Urban Art Bar. Tickets cost $5 in advance, $7 day of show. Call 526-2344 for info.

Crit Picks:

Michael Hedges -- Hedges is an annoying tie-dyed hippie wanker with a penchant for new-age brain rot and reverential spiels about how great music's spiritual vibe used to be back in the days when Crosby, Stills and Nash were still feeding on the flora. For better or worse, he can also pull sounds out of a tricked-up acoustic six string like no one else on the planet. Is it a fair trade? Depends on your tolerance for evidence that God handed out the talent to the dim bulbs. At Fitzgerald's, Thursday, October 20. (Brad Tyer)

Joshua Redman -- Among the dozen or so names grasped at by jazz writers looking to attach some scrap of popular relevancy to the contemporary jazz world, Redman's is the one most often invoked. There's something to that, as evidenced by sales of the saxophonist's first two discs (approaching 200,000 -- astronomical by contemporary jazz standards), and most especially by the music itself. Mood Swing (Warner Brothers) is the Joshua Redman Quartet's newest and third offering, and its 11 Redman-penned tunes encompass everything from jazz balladry to funk with an authority that belies the man's mere three years on the scene. Solidly lyrical sax work and an accomplished band earn this one a spot on the shelf, even if the man's just making jazz, not saving it. At the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, Friday, October 21. (B.T.)

Live, Weezer and Fatima Mansions -- I'm recommending this one on the fleeting strengths of Weezer, whose Ric Ocasek-produced eponymous debut (DGC) of earlier this year contained one really great bouncy guitar-rock song reinforced with bigtime airplay ("Undone -- the Sweater Song") and a bunch of not-quite-theres. Unpretentious, un-ugly, unaffected power pop that probably shouldn't carry all the blame if every young white guitar-rock band in North America sounds more than a little derivative at this point. Nice boys, but if you care, catch 'em before the fresh date expires. At Numbers, Saturday, October 22. (B.T.)

The Mavericks -- You've got Cuban-born Raul Malo writing and singing the songs in a country band formed in a Miami dominated by Luke Records' soft-core rap and cheesy hard-rock bar bands and they turn out to -- what else? -- save institutionalized country music one more time from its own taste for glam. What a Crying Shame (MCA Nashville) is the latest honky-tonk-inspired evidence, and the case looks good. At the Texas Longhorn Saloon, Sunday, October 23. (

 
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