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Gira's quieter moments with Swans or the Angels of Light are probably the closest touchstones for Xiu Xiu, and live, the band sounds both cringe-worthy and beautiful. Though not for most, Xiu Xiu offers true catharsis through extreme expression. -- Erik Alan Carson

Thursday, August 19, at Fat Cat's, 4216 Washington. For information, call 713-869-5263.Gary U.S. Bonds

Gary U.S. Bonds first hit the charts in 1960 with the lively "New Orleans." Over the next few years, he recorded some more good-timing tunes, most notably the party anthem "Quarter to Three." Like many early-'60s American pop singers, Bonds faded away with the arrival of the Beatles and the rest of the British Invasion. However, unlike most other artists, he unexpectedly made a comeback in the early 1980s thanks to a longtime fan named Bruce Springsteen.

Now two decades further down the road, Bonds returns with a surprisingly impressive studio effort, the aptly titled Back In 20. Although there's isn't anything as radio-friendly as his 1981 hit "This Little Girl," the disc delivers gritty rockin' soul that compares favorably to Delbert McClinton. In fact, Bonds covers the McClinton staple "Every Time I Roll The Dice" and performed with him at this year's South by Southwest. On the new record, Bonds also puts his stamp on Otis Redding's "I've Got Dreams To Remember," Keb Mo's "She Just Wants To Dance" and the blues standard "Fannie Mae." He also offers some memorable originals, particularly the rollicking "Can't Teach an Old Dog New Tricks" (featuring that Springsteen fellow) and the blues rocker "Murder In The First Degree," which kick off the album with an energetic one-two punch. Now well into his 60s, Bonds might not be able to party until a quarter to three anymore, but he still knows how to rock and roll. -- Michael Berick

Saturday, August 21, at the Sands, 9350 Westheimer. For information, call 713-550-1214.Craig Dillingham

You may not have heard of Brownwood-native Craig Dillingham, but 20 years ago, as a young Nashville turk, he damn near made the big time. Like Hank Williams, the young Ray Price protégé was signed by MCA Records and jumped from the fabled Louisiana Hayride to Nashville, where he cut five nationally released singles between 1983 and 1986. In 1983, the smooth-voiced Dillingham was nominated by the Academy of Country Music as Best New Vocalist and seemed on the verge of being another one of those Texas phenoms who take Nashville by storm. But after finishing his first album, Dillingham's ride to stardom collided with label politics, which left the young singer stalled at the side of the mainstream road.

Years later his career was revived by a chance meeting with Houstonian Frank Liddell, the Nashville maverick who produced the first Chris Knight album and wife Lee Ann Womack's 2001 multiple Grammy winner "I Hope You Dance," and whose current stable of songwriters includes Bruce Robison and Houston's Mando Saenz. Almost Yesterday will be the first release on Liddell's new Carnival Records label, and despite being recorded in the canyons of Nashville, it is essentially a danceable and hardcore Texas honky-tonk record that should remind people of singing cowboy Red Steagall, the Bob Wills-influenced Panhandle singer who was huge in Nashville in the early '70s. Produced by guitar virtuoso Joe Manuel, the album is full of Texas steel-and-fiddle barroom shuffles with titles like "Call Me Sometime When You've Been Drinking," "She'll Be Breakin' Someone's Heart in San Antone" and "I Wonder Who's Missing You Now." The first single from the album is the 1956 George Jones classic "Just One More" with the great chorus: "Just one more drink of wine / Then if you're still on my mind / One drink, one more, and then another." Sounds about as far from NashVegas and focus groups as country music gets these days. -- William Michael Smith

Thursday, August 19, at the Continental Club, 3700 Main. For information, call 713-529-9899.Bad Boys of Metal tour, featuring Jani Lane, Adler's Appetite and Bang Tango

With alternative acts from the '80s such as Mission of Burma and the Pixies touring this year, who would think it necessary to rekindle the cigarette lighter of fame for former hair-metal bands like Warrant, Guns N' Roses and Bang Tango? But with Axl seemingly out of the way for good and Ozzy years past his prime, some promoter apparently considered it worth his time and booked the inaugural Bad Boys of Metal tour. The Houston show features Jani Lane (formerly of Warrant, whose repertoire consisted of "Down Boys," "Heaven" and the infamous "Cherry Pie"), Adler's Appetite (featuring Steven Adler, the original drummer for GNR fired for excessive drug abuse -- yeah, that joke practically writes itself) and Bang Tango, on their first national tour in ten years.

A tour like this begs the question: Was Vince Neil not available? I mean, back in the '80s he was convicted of vehicular manslaughter, and what's badder than that? -- David A. Cobb Thursday, August 19, at Forgetta'bout It, 13245 Jones Road. For information, call 281-807-4116.Soulfly, with Crisis and Ill Niño

Hailing from a corner of the globe better known for the breezy sounds of samba and the bossa nova, Brazilian speed-metal sensation Max Cavalera logged plenty of hard miles fronting Sepultura for 12 years. But following the mysterious death of his beloved stepson Dana Wells in 1996, the dreadlocked showman once described as the Bob Marley of metal decided to pursue a more worldly sound with Soulfly. Although his headbanging hybrid showcases heavy riffs and pulverizing vocals, Cavalera isn't afraid to stretch the boundaries of the mosh pit to include decidedly non-traditional instrumentation: South African and Caribbean percussion, aboriginal didgeridoo, nylon-stringed mariachi and flamenco guitars, and ancient Moroccan bagpipes made from sheepskin. On its fourth full-length, Prophecy, Soulfly even enlists Serbian gypsies and a full-blown horn section to flesh out Cavalera's more spiritual side. A self-described "soldier of God" and "born-again anarchist," Mad Max manages to explore sociopolitical themes and world music without compromising his sonic brutality. Go figure. -- John La Briola

Tuesday, August 24, at the Meridian, 1503 Chartres. For information, call 713-225-1717.

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