By William Michael Smith
By Jef With One F
By Craig Hlavaty
By Jesse Sendejas Jr.
By Sonya Harvey
By Jesse Sendejas Jr.
By Nathan Smith
By Craig Hlavaty
Mixing two pre-existing products in an innovative way qualifies as inventive, regardless of how often they've been used in other combinations and contexts. When Reese's earned kudos (not the granola kind) for mixing peanut butter and chocolate, it didn't matter that peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches already existed or that George Washington Carver had paved the alternately creamy and chunky path.
In recent musical history, bands have revived '80s-era keyboards, '70s-style glam rock and '60s psychedelic garage, but few have attempted all at once. Kansas City's Golden Republic retains the essential ingredients of each period -- an arcadelike flurry of bleeps, a percussive pulse that occasionally slides into a discofied drumbeat, fuzzy feedback, cooing choruses -- while swirling them into an unrecognizable form. Listeners might not instantly identify the dish, but they'll taste familiar flavors.
People, the band's current CD, starts with a swaggering stomp and ends with an ethereal acoustic number. Though they share little in terms of mood or pace, these catchy tunes both highlight harmonic backing vocals. The Golden Republic establishes its distinct voice in these common threads between its stylistic experiments and the way it reinforces its melodies with the illusion of choral magnitude, keeping its riffs sharp and succinct.
Sondre Lerche possesses the type of adorable personality that makes Care Bears seem like juvenile delinquents. The Bergen, Norway, native's online journal expounds on the virtues of green papaya -- "Such a good fruit when eaten at the right time and place. Great for breakfast, maybe with a bagle [sic] and cream cheese" -- with the same enthusiasm he projects in a telephone interview. ("I asked you, 'How are you?' and then you asked me, 'How are you?' and I said, 'Good, how are you?' We could go on forever!" he exclaims after some particularly circuitous repartee.)
The troubadour backs up his sparkling disposition with a knack for equally lovely songwriting. After releasing 2001's Faces Down when he was merely a doe-eyed, mop-topped 18-year-old, Lerche returned this year with Two Way Monologue. A lush and fanciful album schooled in the orchestration of the Beatles and Burt Bacharach, Monologue is incredibly poised. "I wanted to make everything a bit more intimate, something that is a bit more homogenic in a way than the Faces Down record," he explains. "Where Faces Down was all kinds of colors, this is more different shades of one color." -- Andrew Miller and Annie Zaleski
Thursday, November 18, at the Rhythm Room, 1815 Washington Avenue, 713-863-0943.Saul Williams
Saul Williams is a busy man. He wrote and starred in the poetry film Slam. He has published three books of poetry, most recently Said the Shotgun to the Head. In 2001, he released his first spoken word album, Amethyst Rock Star, which he recited over hard-knocking hip-hop beats reminiscent of Rage Against the Machine.
For his latest, self-titled album, Williams says he "wanted something that was weird. And if it didn't sound weird, then I wanted my vocals to come off as unique. I was aiming for stuff I hadn't heard before." Which is, in this case, a melange of hip-hop, disco-punk dissonance and even gritty industrial tracks backing Williams's visceral, thought-provoking poetry, all of which Williams will present in a full-band setting for the first time in Houston. -- Travis Ritter
Wednesday, November 24, at the Engine Room, 1515 Pease, 713-654-7846.Earlimart
With vocals reminiscent of Elliott Smith (to whom new album Treble and Tremble is dedicated) and, at times, Radiohead's Thom Yorke, Earlimart songs are mixtures of electronic noise, guitars, lush orchestrations and straight-ahead pop. This is a band of serious musicians that makes serious songs for serious music lovers, and there are definitely worse things than that.
With Treble and Tremble, Earlimart has crafted one of the most easily accessible indie rock records of 2004. Lead singer Aaron Espinoza writes great songs -- "Sounds" could be my choice for song of the year, and on Treble and Tremble, he and his fellow Californians manage to cross genres and finally clothe Earlimart in much fresher gear than the tired Pixies cast-offs they had long been wearing. -- David A. Cobb
Friday, November 19, at Rudyard's, 2010 Waugh Drive, 713-521-0521.Big Sandy and His Fly-Rite Boys
Lightweight entertainers suffer from acid reflux (hey, Ashlee!), survive on a steady cocktail of water and lemon, and form far-too-dependent relationships with their personal trainers. Biggie-sized entertainers have more fun pound for pound. For this, the man at the center of Big Sandy and His Fly-Rite Boys is in good company with other famous big guys (Big Bopper, Notorious B.I.G., etc.). Sandy has crooned on more than 11 albums with his boys and sung on Late Night with Conan O'Brien. The band's sound is a buffet of genres, from rockabilly to country and western to swing, with all things Americana in between. What comes across is a sound all their own -- something that can be enjoyed equally by you and your parents. -- Terra Sullivan
Friday, November 19, at the Continental Club, 3700 Main, 713-529-9899.Hot Snakes
When it comes to San Diego rock alumni, Hot Snakes has the pedigree of a prize-winning show dog. The band is a beast birthed from the loins of SD groups such as Rocket from the Crypt, Drive Like Jehu, Tanner, Pitchfork and Clikitat Ikatowi. And whereas some of those bands are still kicking, Hot Snakes exists as the bastard child of a time when independent music was driving old Econoline vans, sleeping on floors and being pissed at the world but still optimistic enough to think a few chords and screams could make a difference. Deceptively simple, Hot Snakes is a chaotic mess of screaming and kicking, a punk-rock mash of piss and vitriol. -- Greg Franklin
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