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Supagroup and the Violent Femmes

Supagroup -- Devotees of New Orleans' Supagroup describe the band as the potential savior of full-on rock and roll. Well, yippee-fuckin'-skippie. Like we need another one of those. Who knows whether such prophetic visions will ever be fulfilled. In the here and now, however, Supagroup puts out some of the best original hard rock you're likely to hear this year.

The band formed four years ago as a punk outfit. But somewhere along the way it transformed into something more akin to AC/DC. Hell, one look at the Gibson guitars and skinny bare chests, not to mention the barroom racket Supagroup delivers, and you'd think the band was some sort of Bon Scott-era tribute act.

Yet what makes the words "original," "hard rock" and "AC/DC" all usable in a noncomedic sentence is the fact that these words apply naturally to Supagroup. It's not like the guys are standing up there trying to be rock heroes or anything. It just happens. The outfit is fronted by brothers Benji and Chris Lee, both on guitar and vocals, with Leif Robinson Swift on bass and Mark Brill on drums.

Revisiting the testosterone-addled musculature of '70s hard rock, Supagroup sells memories to those who remember the days of three chords and screamed lyrics.
Revisiting the testosterone-addled musculature of '70s hard rock, Supagroup sells memories to those who remember the days of three chords and screamed lyrics.

Between the sibling chemistry, doubtlessly groomed over years of premusical air guitar work, and the ability of all four to present songs such as "Rock and Roll Tried to Ruin My Life" and "Sugar and Spice" believably, Supagroup can hold a stage with just about anybody. Immediately before the current run with ex-Urge Overkill man Nash Kato, the band was out with Armored Saint, and both pairings made sense.

Sure, it's cock rock, but it's damn good cock rock. -- Les Mixer

Supagroup performs Wednesday, June 14, at Fitzgerald's, 2706 White Oak. For more information, call (713)862-7580.

Violent Femmes -- Packed with a mother lode of familiar '80s hits, the soundtrack to Grosse Point Blank, John Cusack's Gen-X take on The Big Chill, reintroduced one critical band to the always cynical masses. No number instantly brought to mind the coldness of the Reagan era better than "Blister in the Sun," with its immediately recognizable opening bass notes. A pure shot of minimalist pop-punk, the Violent Femmes' signature song cuts straight to the heart of what makes rock and roll so appealing to young'uns: rebellion. But while a lot of these soundtrack acts went the way of trickle-down economics (the Clash, Guns N' Roses, even a-ha), the band that has made Milwaukee famous since 1982 is still on the road, in the studio and kicking for the faithful.

The recently released Freak Magnet (Beyond), the Femmes' first studio effort in six years, picks up where the band left off: with a stripped-down, no-frills sound. Not surprisingly, most tracks clock in at under three minutes. Though there are more slower numbers here, Gordon Gano still sounds like a strangled chicken when singing, and Brian Ritchie's bass still thumps along mightily while the drums of newest Femme Guy Hoffman are bashed with abandon. Lyrically the band is still struggling with postadolescent angst, though not with the overt whininess of some grunge losers. The title track is pure anarchic fun, while "New Generation" and "Happiness Is" are solid rockers. The title of "Mosh Pit" gives you a pretty clear indication of its sonic approach, and the luxurious (by VF standards) five-minute "A Story," featuring French electronic experimentalist Pierre Henry, comes off as pleasantly quirky. There are a number of duds on the disc (the somber "When You Died" and the Christian, punk-fueled "Rejoice and Be Happy"), but the Femmes deliver what the people want.

Unlike a lot of their contemporaries, the guys in Violent Femmes never quite came off as snarling antiestablishment fiends. The band's music didn't necessarily appeal to the kid who got plastered and picked fights at parties, but to the nerd whose observations would be sought the next day just as surely as he'd be going home alone when the keg ran dry. Expect to hear a mixture of the past ("Kiss Off," "Gone Daddy Gone," "Old Mother Reagan" and, of course, "Blister in the Sun") and the present. The Violent Femmes perform Friday, June 9, at Aerial Theater at Bayou Place, 520 Texas Avenue. For more information, call (713)629-3700. -- Bob Ruggiero

 
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