By Chris Gray
By Corey Deiterman
By Jef With One F
By Chris Gray
By Rocks Off
By Rocks Off
Oh, and poseur alert! Did you know that just two years ago Endicott — who is now decked out in leather and a Morrissey-style pompadour — was the dreads-sporting leader of a ska band called Skabba the Hutt? — John Nova Lomax Monday, March 14, at the Engine Room, 1515 Pease, 713-654-7846.
VHS or Beta, with Ambulance LTD and Robbers on High Street
The always inquisitive VHS or Beta has a fresh query for its fans: Disco or new wave? After debuting with 2002’s Le Funk, which married house music’s throbbing metronome to the jam-band circuit’s organic improvisation, the Louisville quartet uncorked last year’s Night on Fire, which is starkly angular enough to chase away party guests. Among fans of its earlier grooves, this metamorphosis raised questions, such as “What’s with the English accent?” and “Why the maddeningly steady percussive pulse?” However, recent converts who discovered VHS or Beta through college radio or some contextual-recommendation system (“if you like Interpol/the Rapture/the Curiosa Tour in a theoretical, I’m-not-actually-buying-tickets way, try...”) dig the band’s ability to rescue sorrow-shipwrecked songs with buoyant bass lines. Split between these vastly different albums, VHS or Beta set lists generate flashbacks to 1991 school dances, at which tracks from the Cure’s Mixed Up might have segued into selections from C&C Music Factory. — Andrew Miller Tuesday, March 15, at the Meridian, 1503 Chartres, 713-225-1717.
Onetime violin prodigy Melissa Ferrick is used to playing second fiddle; even her fans call her “the other Melissa,” in deference to Ms. Etheridge. Signed to Atlantic in the early-’90s, Ferrick watched another girl-with-guitar hopeful on her label soar while her albums tanked, a scenario she skewered with “The Juliana Hatfield Song.” As a hard-touring independent artist with an aggressive acoustic approach, she then attracted endless comparisons to Ani DiFranco. While DiFranco now plays full-blown funk with a big brassy band, Ferrick still prefers stripped-down showcases, with only an occasional drummer or lap-steel player in tow. And none of the aforementioned artists has ever recorded a tune as deliciously tawdry as Ferrick’s “Drive,” an explicit ode to lesbian love that she sometimes segues with Prince’s “Darling Nikki.” — Andrew Miller Tuesday, March 15, at McGonigel’s Mucky Duck, 2425 Norfolk, 713-528-5999.
Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti
This one-man prog-disco-pop-beatboxing act releases records that sound like they were recorded one instrument at a time using two tape recorders, but from what I can make out, the songs seem fairly solid. If you like early Sebadoh and that shrimpy guy from the Moldy Peaches, you’ll probably have a tolerance for this. Plus, lo-fi acts almost always sound better live. — Scott Faingold Tuesday, March 15, at the Proletariat, 903 Richmond, 713-523-1199.
Kings of Leon, with Soundtrack of Our Lives and the Features
The Tennessee quartet Kings of Leon — three brothers and a cousin who share the last name Followill — have garnered a lot of ink for their backstory. The brothers are sons of an itinerant fundamentalist preacher father, and that Southern-gothic bio often has obscured the fact that this is one of the best new bands around, even if their home country doesn’t quite get them yet (as opposed to the UK, where they’re huge, bona fide double-platinum superstars). While their full-length debut was packed with up-tempo Southern-fried rockers, the just-released Aha Shake Heartbreak has a bleary-eyed world-weariness that hints strongly at too many nights with various body parts either pressed down to mirrored surfaces, wrapped around glass bottlenecks or inserted in various groupie orifices. In fact, groupie love seems to be the record’s overriding theme, as attested to by tracks such as “Taper Jean Girl,” the impossibly catchy “The Bucket” and “Slow Night, So Long” (“I hate her face / But I enjoy the company”). Vocalist Caleb’s recurring self-doubt (two songs mention his fear of growing bald) and morning-after recriminations make his partying tales sound more resigned than boastful. He knows last night was fun, but horribly sleazy (though we should all have such problems).
The band certainly has seen and done a lot in two years. The work of drummer Nathan and bassist Jared is mixed to the forefront, while the licks of lead guitarist Matthew are all over the map. While Caleb’s already trademark slurred vocals (“song” becomes “saaawwng”) are bound to frustrate those who try to decipher the lyrics, they are utterly unique, a sort of singing in tongues.
In interviews, the Kings talk about how they hope each record advances on the last and how they want to create distinctive periods à la the Rolling Stones. Though some of the slower material drags things down slightly, Aha certainly achieves that. Come to think of it, that template also worked for another little act called U2, who hand-picked the Kings to open the spring leg of their highly anticipated U.S. tour, which begins only a couple of weeks after this date. Hopefully, the boys won’t be swayed by the incessant preaching of that band’s messianic leader. — Bob Ruggiero Tuesday, March 15, at the Meridian, 1503 Chartres, 713-225-1717.