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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

Friday, August 27, at McGonigel's Mucky Duck, 2425 Norfolk. For information, call 713-528-5999.Phantom Planet

So why did Phantom Planet scotch their bubbly Weezer-esque power pop in favor of an over-Stroked garage sound whose 15 minutes are running out so quickly Dick Clark can be spotted in Times Square leading the countdown? Why did they bother recruiting Dave Fridmann -- the guy who produced some of the last few years' lushest, most beautiful music -- only to create an audio-compressed, fuzzed-out, oversaturated garage ruckus virtually identical to what's been emerging of late from thousands of American basements? After Fountains of Wayne's "Stacy's Mom" signaled that bouncy, ringing pop can make inroads on radio, again we must ask, Why?

Were they so embarrassed by their O.C. theme song, "California," that they had to cop a pose from the other coast to distance themselves from their earlier incarnation? Or was it that Phantom Planet or their label (Epic) figured people would be fooled into thinking this was a new band and not a trend-trading chameleon jumping someone else's train?

What can we expect from this show? Maybe the band will run through the stuff from their first two albums in Poindexter suits that they slowly shed while getting hammered. Gradually they will transform into what they are now: a slurring purveyor of boring, been-there gruel. -- Chris Parker

Friday, August 27, at the Engine Room, 1515 Pease. For information, call 713-654-7846.Tsunami Bomb and Audio Karate

Punk rock is largely a boys-only club, which makes Tsunami Bomb's sexy lead singer, Agent M, something of a novelty. But she's more than that. Though Tsunami Bomb's sound is based on that of the ubiquitous Cali-punk Descendents, the quartet also delivers bouncy ska-punk, Blondie-ish new wave, thundering hardcore and Black Flag-inspired old-school punk. And Agent M's powerful roar and scalding jets of verbiage hold it all together.

Joining them is Audio Karate, whose latest, Lady Melody, is sharper than a Ginsu knife and tight as a young Dean Martin at an open-bar wedding. Singer-guitarist Art Barrios's gruff vocals are two parts Blake Schwarzenbach growl and one part Tim Kasher groan, and that equals a plaintive howl that's too rough for pop-punk but not caterwauling enough for emo. As with Schwarzenbach's Jawbreaker, Audio Karate is unwilling to sacrifice melody on the altar of chunky ringing guitar textures and angular leads, and as with pop-punk, the production is supercrisp. Unlike pop-punk, though, the arrangements are clever enough to withstand repeated listens, and that makes all the difference. -- Chris Parker

Saturday, August 28, at Fitzgerald's, 2706 White Oak Drive. For information, call 713-862-3838.Thin Lizzy, with Deep Purple and Joe Satriani

Sure, the classic headbangers will turn out to see DP do "Smoke on the Water," as well as their entire 1972 classic disc Machine Head. And guitar geeks will wow at the fretwork of Satriani. But a surprisingly large number of the crowd might just be there for the middle act -- Thin Lizzy -- whose decades-old music has recently found new life and even hipster cachet. Why? Thank the Darkness. Guitarist Dan Hawkins of the insanely popular neo-arena rock band seems to sport nothing but Lizzy T-shirts on stage and in photo shoots, and he's always talking up one of rock's most underrated bands. And longtime fans of the group know that their catalog is much richer and deeper than just "Jailbreak" or the ubiquitous "The Boys Are Back in Town." Lizzy's twin guitars and hooky (but heavy) tunes and Phil Lynott's soulful vocals and sharp lyrics have always deserved more credit than they got on these shores. A recent double-disc anthology was just released overseas, but for U.S. fans, the Dedication compilation is the best starting point. Of course, the current touring Lizzy features no original members and only one (guitarist Scott Gorham) from the classic lineup, but the chance to hear Thin Lizzy tunes live should be worth checking out. -- Bob Ruggiero

Saturday, August 28, at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, 2025 Lake Robbins Drive. For information, call 281-363-3300.John Hiatt, with David Lindley

You can always tell when you've stumbled upon a great storyteller. It's not just the words but also how they convey the passionate punch of every thought and every syllable. John Hiatt is a great storyteller. The man has been lauded by some of the best in the business and has had his songs covered by Bonnie Raitt, B.B. King, Bob Dylan and Iggy Pop. But success has not come easily. Hiatt has endured a tough three decades in the music business, battling alcoholism, depression and his former record company to become the emancipated artist he is today. With 2000's Crossing Muddy Water, 2001's The Tiki Bar Is Open and last year's Beneath This Gruff Exterior, Hiatt seems to be hitting his stride. But it's best to let him tell that story, too. -- John Kreicbergs

Monday, August 30, at the Verizon Wireless Theater, 520 Texas. For information, call 713-230-1600.

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