By Jef With One F
By Rocks Off
By Chris Lane
By Angelica Leicht
By Corey Deiterman
By Angelica Leicht
By Corey Deiterman
In 1999, Himsa's eponymous debut EP hit an unsuspecting hardcore underground via Revelation Records. As bassist Derek Harn said back then, "Let's just think of [Himsa] as it pertains to me: 'core,' which means the central part of anything." But the Seattle band's record collections -- and worldviews -- eventually expanded.
After two more years and as many releases, Harn's ideas came into focus with the 2001 Revelation EP Death Is Infinite. Himsa had overhauled not only its lineup, but also its sloppier edges. Himsa Version 2 was a lean, muscular monster, powered by the gut-level urgency of hardcore and punk, but also burning with the finessed thrash and intense melancholia -- that is, the "core" values -- of the finest Swedish death metal.
Three years later, Himsa is miles ahead of the pack. While countless other ex-hardcore bands are just discovering At the Gates' death-metal landmark Slaughter of the Soul, Himsa's 2003 album for Prosthetic Records, Courting Tragedy and Disaster, packs the fretboard pyrotechnics and growling vocals of At the Gates, In Flames and other Gothenburg greats. But Himsa's songwriting chops and melodic prowess prove these guys also understand the deeper set of influences -- namely Slayer and Iron Maiden -- behind those Swedish meatballs. -- Aaron Burgess
Friday, July 30, at the Engine Room, 1515 Pease, 713-654-7846.
Jesse Malin, with the Damnwells
Last year I called New York-based roots rocker Jesse Malin a "solipsistic fuckface." (Actually, I only said he could come off like one, and only a lot of the time at that.) In the unlikely event that Malin read those words during a round of late-night self-Google, I'd like to offer my apology: That kind of name-calling benefits no one except seekers of cheap laughs, a constituency handily served by folks like Seann William Scott and Mary-Kate Olsen. Unfortunately, I'm also bound by duty to report that on his second solo album, The Heat, Malin again comes off like a solipsistic fuckface -- a little less this time, but still. Consider this line from "Swinging Man," a peppy rocker with a cool electric-piano hook: "I am a swinging man perpetually on the lam / Free as a bird or the girls in Amsterdam." Um, okay. Malin's problem is one shared by his pal and sideman Ryan Adams: In creating a world of cigarette-throated destitution as detailed and full-bodied as his, Malin traps us inside one of the dank, airless watering holes he evidently spends so much time in. Listening to him remains uncomfortably like listening to a barstool Barney you can't escape without a great excuse. -- Mikael Wood
Saturday, July 31, at Fat Cat's, 4216 Washington Avenue, 713-869-5263.
For those of us who came of age during rock's "classic" era (1966-1974), the jam band phenomenon is a bit of a conundrum. The emphasis on chops and playing music for music's sake is a welcome return to the values of that era. However, the missing element, and it's a crucial one, is quality songwriting. No Garcia/Hunter, Lowell George or Gregg Allman has emerged from this pack.
I'd like to tell you that New Monsoon, who plays Friday at Last Concert Cafe, has conquered this problem -- but I can't. I can, however, tell you that the San Francisco-based band is a compelling live act that blends genres like there's no tomorrow. During the course of an evening you're likely to hear the sounds of a didgeridoo, a banjo and a Dobro amid the core lineup of guitar, keyboards, Latin percussion, tabla, bass and drums. When New Monsoon gets revved up and running, they can hold their own with the best of the current crop of jammers. So if you've never been to a show at the Last Concert, this would be a good one to take in. The full cadre of dancers, hula hoopers and spinners will be in the house, the beer and frozen sangria will be cold and relatively cheap, and New Monsoon will deliver the groove, if not the songs. -- Greg Ellis
Friday, July 30, 1403 Nance, 713-226-8563.
Though this spankin'-new act has already been slapped with the "jam band supergroup" label, one listen to their debut release, Holy Happy Hour, shows that they've got far darker (and more rockish) tendencies than their prior bands and their trippy, noodlin', 45-minute-instrumental-break-playing contemporaries. Led by longtime friends Jerry Joseph -- who used to sing and play guitar in the Jackmormons -- and former Widespread Panic bassist Dave Schools, the Syndrome also includes former P-Funk and Les Claypool guitarist Eric McFadden, former Jackson Browne/David Lindley drummer Wally Ingram and keyboardist Danny Dziuk. While the record has the requisite funky grooves and buoyant bops, chief songwriter Joseph -- who, according to Schools, has a "heroin-death-Jesus complex" -- reaches deep into the abyss. There, he finds stuff like "Sack Full of Hearts," about the gruesome trophies of third-world child soldiers, "Empire One," which hits at American world-stage arrogance, and "American Fork," a stinging assault on our modern gluttony, politics and culture that even Michael Moore might step back from. Joseph's flat, often coldly hectoring vocal style makes it all the more sharp. But as seen on the soulful "Tight" and a cover of the Climax Blues Band's "Couldn't Get It Right," JJ can also party hearty. With the Panic and Jackmormons on hiatus, it's not clear what kind of longevity this new band will have, but it would be a shame if Holy Happy Hour were a one-shot supergroup. -- Bob Ruggiero