If the Dandy Warhols' music doesn't fly in Houston, it won't be for a lack of good ideas. Back in their home of Portland, Oregon, where the local music scene is divided between earnest post-grunge bands and an earnestly eclectic collection of longtime folkies, the Dandy Warhols' affectedness must smell peppermint fresh. There's the pop-artsy name and lots of really self-conscious song titles such as "Grunge Betty" and "Nothing (Lifestyle of a Tortured Artist for Sale)" and "(Tony, This Song Is Called) Lou Weed" and "The Coffee and Tea Wrecks" -- all of which may be found on Dandys Rule OK, the band's debut CD.
The Dandy Warhols have received fairly glowing press from around the country, so somebody is taking their shtick seriously. Granted, the Dandys -- Courtney Taylor (that's a boy) on guitar and lead vocal, Zia McCabe (that's a girl) on bass and guys Eric Hedford and Peter Holmstrom on drums and guitar, respectively -- don't have a whole lot to work with besides a decent drummer, chiming, strummed guitars, a mod fetish and an attitude. But they try mightily on Dandys Rule OK to flesh that out with guest appearances on Jew's harp, lap steel, harmonica, mandolin, sitar, conga and flute.
The band's live reputation has been helped along by word-of-mouth holding that Taylor is a shamelessly charismatic frontman -- and striking stage presence has redeemed many bands. But really, whether or not the Dandys fly in Houston goes back to attitude, and they open the door to judgment in "Genius," when Taylor sings, "It doesn't take a genius to figure it out, don't have to be fucking brilliant to see, I'm not as smart as I seem to be" in the midst of a Velvety Underground mood-o-sphere. Self-deprecation? Irony? Or embarrassingly unnecessary admission? You'll have to see the band on-stage to find out. -- Brad Tyer
The Dandy Warhols open for Love and Rockets Thursday, March 28, at Numbers, 300 Westheimer. Tickets are $15. Doors open at 8 p.m. 526-6551.
No Doubt -- Bolstered by the MTV-ready hit "Just a Girl," No Doubt distinguishes itself from the pack by making music the old-fashioned way: stealing it. This eclectic, female-fronted unit can write songs -- shamelessly hook-oriented pop songs -- and their ability to come up with so many potential hits outright should make even the most successful of the post-grunge Top 40 bands take notice. The best tracks on No Doubt's major-label debut, Tragic Kingdom, exhibit a blatant brand of petty theft that's clever and fun, melding elements of ska, punk, pop, rock and disco. No Doubt also deserves credit for keeping its methods relatively untrendy, one of Tragic Kingdom's most welcome traits being the number of songs about drinking, drugging and screwing (zero); songs with obscenity (zero); and songs about low-impact love and understanding (14). Ever since the beginning of time, it seems, legitimate musical innovators have had their acts co-opted and resold by shrewd imitators. No Doubt pulls a similar trick on the B-52s, Oingo Boingo and Liz Phair, but they pull it off with enough taste, humor and skill to make it feel fresh, offering rehashed good times minus the preconceived notions. At The Summit with the Goo Goo Dolls and Bush at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, March 31. Tickets are $19.50 and $22.50. 629-3700. (Gerard Choucroun)
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James McMurtry -- There are two schools of thought regarding singer/songwriter James McMurtry. The first holds that he's the slightly spoiled, unnecessarily mysterious and tiresomely deadpan son of novelist Larry "Lonesome Dove" McMurtry, whose hovering ancestral presence has influenced everything from the acquisition of his son's original recording deal to James' reputation as a lyrical storyteller. The second pretty much agrees with the first, but doesn't hold it against the guy because, hey, it's rough having a famous dad, and besides, some measurable talent is better than none at all. McMurtry's latest release, Where'd You Hide the Body, reads like a collection of dense short stories. His characters are down-and-outers, like Raymond Carver characters with three degrees less pathos, or Andre Dubus protagonists without the Catholicism. His settings are lonely rooms and emotional crossroads, and in keeping with McMurtry's underdog sympathies, his scenes usually make the wrong turn or go nowhere at all. And when his characters speak, they sound like they wish they knew Cormac McCarthy. Like his often subdued studio output and terse conversations with the press, McMurtry's shows can be awkward -- at times, sullen -- affairs. So it's advisable to allow yourself the breadth of imagination to find some shelter, for a while, within the performer's bleak surroundings. At Rockefeller's, 3620 Washington Avenue, at 8 p.m. Thursday, March 28. Tickets are $15.50. Shake Russell opens. 869-8427. (