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Usher, with Kanye West

Here's what I don't get about this ongoing national obsession with Usher: Everybody's giving him props for revealing all this personal stuff on Confessions, an assemblage of sensitive lyrical riffs about how much of a coochie-feenin' freakazoid he's been in the past.

But, if you had listened to all his earlier stuff, you would've already known the boy was a slut. Come on, y'all remember "You Make Me Wanna," his first big hit back in '97, where he sang in the chorus, "You make me wanna leave the one I'm with / Start a new relationship with you / This is what you do." Yep, Mr. Chesty Man told you he was gonna cheat on your ass back then, so this album ain't exactly breaking new ground. But now, since he's a little older and probably realized you can't be a ho forever (and you can't -- just ask Millie Jackson), he decided to go on wax with an album-long atonement. And now, all of a sudden, he's brilliant! Well, I guess I should respect his personal and emotional growth as an artist, a performer and a human being. But he should slow his roll and not beat this whole confessing thing into the ground. Remember, the line between in-depth personal revelation and bitchy whining is mighty thin! -- Craig D. Lindsey

Friday, August 13, at the Toyota Center, 1510 Polk, 1-866-4HOUTIX.Ozomatli

It's hard to talk about Ozomatli without coming off like some chai-drinking, dashiki-wearing boho hipster. To wit: Street Signs' socially conscious, knock-you-on-your-ass party grooves are a blend of hip-hop, funk and Latin and Middle Eastern flavors that compels earnest white people like myself to use words such as "global block party." With an inspired cameo from Latin jazz visionary Eddie Palmieri, samples from Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and wailing Santana-style guitar solos, the title track alone demonstrates the sheer force Ozomatli can conjure. Opening with a sweet salsa keyboard motif, the song builds on a sick syncopated rhythm, then modulates into a synthesized snare beat, then segues effortlessly into sparse, bass- and scratch-heavy old-school crunk. Still, the MCs rhyme, "There's more to this track than a kick and a snare." Damn straight. There are soaring vocals, fluid rhymes and a barrage of brass and percussion that, despite all the ingredients, manages to avoid sounding as if there're too many cooks in the kitchen. Now fetch me my dashiki. -- Rachel Devitt

With Kinky and Plastillina Mosh, Saturday, August 14, at the Verizon Wireless Theater, 520 Texas, 713-230-1600.Terry Allen

He may not wear a Stetson, and he may live in Santa Fe, New Mexico, these days, but I'm willin' to bet, son, that Terry Allen's as big a Texan as you are. While music never has been what puts the biscuits on Allen's table -- that would be sculpture, theater and his truly captivating multimedia installations, such as Dugout -- it has always been part and parcel of Allen, the many-faceted artist. Over the years, his albums haven't sold squat, but Lubbock (On Everything), Smokin' the Dummyand Salivation have been hailed as rugged, iconoclastic masterpieces by critics and musicians alike. Allen, who has written with the likes of Talking Head David Byrne and old Texas head Guy Clark, has had songs covered by everyone -- from Robert Earl Keen to Little Feat, from Cracker to eccentric San Franciscan Virgil Shaw -- and there isn't a frat party in Texas that would be complete without a hell-for-leather rendition of Allen's "Hard Amarillo Highway." As the Lubbock native's reputation has grown (New York's Museum of Modern Art has called Allen one of the three most important artists living today), his touring has been reduced to a trickle, so an up-close-and-in-your-face show, like the one the panhandlin', manhandlin', postholin', high-rollin' daddy will perform at the Mucky Duck with his famed Panhandle Mystery Band this weekend, is a rare opportunity not be missed. -- William Michael Smith

Saturday, August 14, at the Mucky Duck, 2425 Norfolk, 713-528-5999.Oneida

You love natural disasters, admit it. If you could, you'd stand in the eye of a hurricane, six-pack and bong in hand. You'd walk on stilts along the San Andreas fault during an 8.6 quake. You'd fry wieners in the midst of a raging five-alarm fire. You'd be there when the shit went down, if only you weren't so chickenshit.

All of the above explains why Oneida is for you. Oneida is the kind of natural disaster you can survive (but just barely). Oneida will make your ears ring, your organs shudder and your blood rush to your groin. You will hear the voice of God -- even if you don't believe in him. Oneida plays loud and heavy rock and roll: repetitive, unwieldy and overwhelming, like a monster truck ramming into you, again and again. Organ, guitar, drums and a few chanted vocals -- that's all the New York trio needs to pummel you into submission. Then you will know what it means to have the Guess Who and Can rule the elements, to hear Godzilla turn his amp up to 11, and to surf a 100-foot tsunami smack into an erupting volcano. -- Dan Strachota

Thursday, August 12, at Fat Cat's, 4216 Washington Avenue, 713-869-5263.Interpol, on the Curiosa Tour with the Cure and others

When Turn on the Bright Lights came out in 2002, an unsuspecting music public was surprised by a New York act that dressed in suits and turned out to be not just another Gang of Four tribute band. Interpol's Antics retains the gloomy-energetic feel of Bright Lights, and though the arrangements aren't necessarily more developed, the songwriting is, at least from a musical standpoint. Still present are the sweeping passages where all of the music drops out, save for a repetitive guitar riff that leads into the next movement of the song. But even so, the tone feels a lot more mature.

As do Paul Banks's vocals, which have graduated from Ian Curtis Elementary to Richard Butler Junior High, but even though how he sings has developed tenfold, what he sings is still an unfortunate weak point. Most of Banks's lyrics are passable, but others are terrible.

Ultimately, it's not the strength of his words that matters -- it's where and how he uses them. Banks's forte is the ability to take incredibly simple lines and plant them into the songs just so, as he does on "Public Pervert," probably the best song on the album in the way its parts play back and forth with one another.

That same music public which loved Bright Lights is going to kick and scream because they're not hearing the same songs over again, but realistically, the same musical elements are completely intact. As much as some might finger Interpol for retracing the steps of their peers, at least they didn't try to retrace their own. -- Lance Walker

Sunday, August 15, at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, 2025 Lake Robbins Drive, The Woodlands, 713-639-3700.Stiff Little Fingers and Throw Rag

Belfast's Stiff Little Fingers are a legendary band, a punk classic (despite the oxymoron) whose mixture of politics and smart songwriting has brought much critical acclaim. But fast-forward 25 years and a couple of reunion tours and records later: Like the Buzzcocks, Stiff Little Fingers are playing new material (with Jam bass player Bruce Foxton) that doesn't come close to their original stuff. Still, hearing songs like "Suspect Device" and "Alternative Ulster" played live could be fun. And one of the opening bands really makes going to the show worthwhile. Throw Rag is from Salton Sea, the toxic-waste-infested dead sea of Southern California, and it shows. The band's nautical-themed, raucous punk (with a washboard player!) is catchy as all get-out, and they put on a super-high-energy show. -- Wez Lundry

With the God Awfuls, Saturday, August 14, at the Engine Room, 1515 Pease, 713-654-7846.

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