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Li'l Cap'n Travis

With its flippant, pokin'-fun-at-the-Texas-music-thing lyrics and its psychedelic garage-band-with-killer-steel-guitar-player sound, on record the trippy Austin band Li'l Cap'n Travis seems like a dream substitute for all those sound-alike crap-ass pretty-boy bands pouring their hearts out on after-midnight MTV. Travis's latest album, ...In All Our Splendor, is packed with bleary-eyed, after-hours stoner barroom ditties and garish slacker portraits that are as far removed from "George's Bar" and "Sangria Wine" as it gets in this genre. The band features four distinct voices as well as a proletarian anyone-can-contribute-a-song ethic that insulates it from the fatal they-all-sound-alike kiss of death affecting so many ensembles that focus on a single spotlight-hog. In the final analysis, Cap'n Travis's droll, slacker delivery and punch-drunk arrangements mask a deceptively smart concept, one where the sum is considerably greater than the parts. Hardly surprising from a band hip enough to pen a beer stein full of wonderful faux-emo observations like "Everybody needs a partner 'cause this world can be so cruel / But it ain't in my nature to nurture a natural fool." And if you've just got to have your Texas music anthem, you could do a lot worse than the instantly memorable, waitress-worshiping "(She's Got A) Bar Full of Fans," with its put-her-on-a-pedestal line, sung in innocently jaded three-part harmony: "This ain't her first rodeo so watch your language, watch your hands." Call me when MTV starts playing this stuff. Until then, I'll be watching Celebrity Poker. -- William Michael Smith

Thursday, August 26, at the Meridian, 1503 Chartres. For information, call 713-225-1717.Black Dice, with Animal Collective

When drummer Hisham Bharoocha left Black Dice, its remaining members decided to replace him with computers, and surprisingly, they abandoned the dancey electroclash sound they flirted with on 2003's Cone Toasterin favor of Eno-inspired avant-noise. What are these guys thinking? The world was their oyster after signing to the über-hip DFA label. They could've rolled out the disco beats and hit the road with labelmates the Rapture and become gods to the kids with crooked haircuts and boners for the '80s era. Instead they've decided to, ahem, roll the dice on a different type of wave -- "no" rather than the much more popular and crossoverable "new." Have they crapped out or hit their number? Depends on who you ask. Some might admire the journey they've chosen on the road less traveled, while others just find that road full of potholes. Either camp would be wise to pop in on the band's show and see just how they pull off the ambient, dance-divorced, jungle-noise loops of their latest effort, Creature Comforts, in a live setting. -- Brian McManus

Wednesday, September 1, at the Proletariat, 903 Richmond. For information, call 713-523-1199.

HTX Soundclash No. 1

Ickoo is not a hater, you understand. The musician and front man for his band/label Briokids is just tired of the cliques in Houston's music scene. "If you're not exactly like the DJs or indie bands in this town, you're cast aside," he says. Ickoo's answer: HTX Soundclash. "We're gonna have multiple musical genres together every month," he says. "Hip-hop, Dirty South, hardcore, electronic, breakcore, indie. It'll be a safe haven where all these different people can play." If all this genre mixing works out, Ickoo hopes to make Soundclash an actual festival. "You know, kinda like Lollapalooza," he says, "before it got fucked over by Ticketmaster." -- Steven Devadanam

Saturday, August 28, at the Oxblood Warehouse, 2023 Semmes.Finch

The California quintet hasn't released an album since 2002's What It Is to Burn, but that doesn't mean the band has been sitting on its ass. Last summer Finch skipped the festival circuit -- including a prominent invitation from Warped -- to continue touring on the strength of Burn's popularity. The group also promised to go and write some new songs, but the results have yet to materialize. Like Groundhog Day writ large, the group is doing the exact same thing this summer: skipping Warped to tour on its own, all the while ignoring those pleas for a new record. -- Geoff Harkness

Monday, August 30, at the Engine Room, 1515 Pease. For information, call 713-654-7846.

Junior Brown

Even though he owes a tremendous debt to Ernest Tubb, one-man genre Junior Brown has a style so distinctive, he paradoxically feels utterly different while sounding much the same. His deep-voiced baritone, dapper dress and trademark smokin' "guit-steel" playing easily traverse blues, honky-tonk, light jazz, crooning and rock terrain. He is surely a unique talent, so why does his newest release and first for the Telarc label, Down Home Chrome, seem so listless? It's simple. Every Brown record -- and there are great ones (12 Shades of Brown, Long Walk) -- is a carbon copy of the last, and as with Southern Culture on the Skids, Brown's formula has gone flat. As on every other Brown platter, you've got your country weepers and spoken/sung tearjerkers, your gearhead rave-ups ("Little Rivi-Airhead"), your bad pun ditties ("Two Rons Don't Make It Right") and a disaster song, but they're all rusty on Chrome. Sparkling exceptions include "Hill Country Hot Rod Man" and the duet (with wife/rhythm guitarist Lovely Miss Tanya Rae) "Let's Go Back." And Brown's solo smokes on his obligatory classic rock cover of "Foxy Lady." Still, he's just spinning his wheels. Luckily, a solid back catalog and fiery, if predictable, live show will make up for the record's drawbacks. -- Bob Ruggiero

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