Playbill

Big Head Todd & the Monsters, with Carbon Leaf

It’s pretty incredible that Big Head Todd & the Monsters are still around, considering that they emerged during the same H.O.R.D.E. era that gave the jam-rock world the Spin Doctors. But since their early-’90s heyday, they’ve become a reliable, sturdy three-piece, the kind of dependable live band that doesn’t warrant constant sellouts but rather the kind of “Yeah, I can dig this” vibe that long-term music careers are made of.

In the years since their initial hype ebbed, Big Head Todd & the Monsters have had ups (an appearance at last year’s Austin City Limits fest) and downs (one band member’s infamous hookup on an episode of MTV’s The Real World). Last year’s double-disc Live at the Fillmore finds them delivering a solid if perfunctory set of originals that display their roots in Southern rock, among them “Crazy Mary” (not the Victoria Williams song that Pearl Jam covers) and “Conquistador,” which flirts — albeit briefly — with a bit of melancholy. More than anything else, though, Live at the Fillmore proves that for Big Head Todd & the Monsters, diligence pays off — everything here sounds prouder, brighter and better than any studio album the group has recorded. Jeff Miller Thursday, March 10, at the Meridian, 1503 Chartres, 713-225-1717.

Big D and the Kids Table

Normally “ska-punk” and “pop-punk” give me the heebie-jeebies, but this horn-laden and huge (11-piece) Beantown ensemble won me over. Big D and the Kids Table can swing both fluid Specials-style ska — complete with killer keyboards, luxurious horns and ooh-aah female backing vocals — and anthemic, textured punk stompers. Their sprawling, 20-song, 80-minute opus How It Goes comes as close as close gets to a ska-punk symphony, an album that repegs the bar a few inches higher for all others in the field. Sure, the lyrics are hedonistic and insipid. Who gives a shit? This stuff is fun, pure and simple, and promises to be even more so on the big stage at Fitz’s. John Nova Lomax Thursday, March 10, at Fitzgerald’s, 2406 White Oak Drive, 713-862-3838.

Tom Russell

The latest CD from this Cali-reared former Brooklyn cowboy who now lives in El Paso is called Hotwalker, which refers to a person who walks racehorses to cool them off after a run. Despite its, ahem, interesting collage of spoken word, audio snippets and music that explores vanishing American bohemia, one wonders if Russell also needed a cool-down before he made it. As to how he’ll get such an overloaded steed to run in concert, who knows? But given Russell’s years on the club boards with six-string partner in crime Andrew Hardin, it’s a sure bet this country-folk vet won’t be able to help delivering a show well worth the ducats — especially when he transforms the Hotwalker trip into performance. Rob Patterson Thursday, March 10, at McGonigel’s Mucky Duck, 2425 Norfolk, 713-528-5999.

Electric Eel Shock, with the Thieves and Ronin Kin

The Gearhead Records brass must’ve racked up some serious frequent-flyer miles while wintering in Japan, as Electric Eel Shock is one of two (and maybe more) rising sons signed by the label recently. It hardly matters that thousands of miles separate Electric Eel Shock from Gearhead’s West Coast hooch haunts; the label’s sonic earmarks abound: brutally lacerated MC5 riffage, frantic pacing and endless proclamations of rock and roll’s life-saving properties. And therein lies the main charm of Electric Eel Shock’s upcoming U.S. debut, Electric Eel Shock Go U.S.!: the hilariously broken English lyrics. “I’m sorry I can’t speak English well, but I wanna sing this song for you guys!” “My God is early Black Sabbath. Every day, every night, I like Ramones!” “I never gonna give it up. I gonna eat it up!” In-friggin’-deed!

While not quite the exploding fuzz-storm of Japanese punk demolitionists that is Guitar Wolf (themselves in town next week), Electric Eel Shock exhibits the universal attributes of seemingly all Japanese rock bands: an ocean-deep reservoir of energy, a healthy respect for leaving extraneous electrical noise in the mix and a ridiculously manic, wall-bouncing live show. It’s not the catchiest stuff in the world, and it even gets numbing by disc’s end, but it’s a welcome departure from Gearhead’s sometimes rote hot-rod punk.

The Thieves are a trio of Englishmen — purveyors of straight-ahead hard-rock jams tinged with Pink Floyd psychedelia and T. Rex glam flourishes — who have been marooned in Southern California the past few years. The band’s White Line EP transcends a blah opening tune to end with the right-left combo punch of “Everynite” and “It Still Goes On.” These two roundhouse rockers showcase the band’s all-too-uncommon forte: a Zep-like ability to find a nice hypnotic riff, ride it out and build it up into a thunderous crescendo. Locals Ronin King open with a wall of noise that would make Phil Spector piss his pants. Eric Davidson and John Nova Lomax Thursday, March 10, at Super Happy Fun Land, 2610 Ashland, 713-880-2100.

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