Bayside, with Armor for Sleep, Fall Out Boy and Name Taken
The group of young, slightly geeky, self-hating emo kids from Long Island that make up Bayside pour their little hearts out on their debut, Sirens and Condolences, turning high school prom tragedies into magnificent rock songs. These kids worship at the altar of exalted Jawbreaker, whose front man, Blake Schwarzenbach, sang frank, almost embarrassing lyrics about depression, cigarettes, cute punk girls and bad parties. (And continues to do so with Jets to Brazil.) Fittingly, one of Bayside's first appearances was on the Jawbreaker tribute album Bad Scene, Everybody's Fault. On Sirens and Condolences, Bayside borrows the angst-ridden Schwarzenbach's muted bar chords, punchy choruses and despairing subject matter to craft songs that move the listener in a ticklish, goose-bumpy manner. "Poison in My Veins," one of many songs about getting dumped, adds the band's lovely harmonies to the Jawbreaker formula, along with a cathartic guitar solo, knockout hooks, a pleasurable bridge and no shortage of emotion. Some of the lyrics -- "Take this razor / Sign your name across my wrist / So everyone will know you left me," or maybe "Spend my days looking back / And I wonder if you're looking up / From underneath someone who is able to be everything I'm not" -- definitely fall in the wimpo, crybaby, oh-so-precious, I'm-a-dork-who's-way-too-into-Morrissey category. Still, the stirring music manages to make these sentiments seem less lame. This mix of adolescent self-loathing and upbeat, spirited punk rock is the recipe for most of Bayside's songs, and overall, it clicks. -- Adam Bregman
Tuesday, July 13, at the Engine Room, 1515 Pease, 713-654-7846.
Speaking of Morrissey (see above), that's who the high-pitched voice of Seattle singer-songwriter Coulter reminds you of -- as do his woe-is-me lyrics in songs with Morrissey-like titles such as "Adieu," "Diving Off the Wagon" and the title track of The End of Everything. Coulter's press kit describes him as heavily influenced by rockabilly, just like the depressive Brit. That influence is just as impossible to detect in Coulter's early Smiths-like music as it is in that of Morrissey, though both artists wear rockabilly hairstyles. And once again like Morrissey, Coulter also goes by his last name only and is definitely no fan of Dubya. In fact, the only thing keeping Coulter from being a Smiths/Morrissey tribute act is the fact that he writes his own songs. You could almost say that Coulter is actually living and breathing a continual episode of Morrissey fan fiction -- his is Morrissey's life as lived by a devoted aficionado. I mean, the dude named his backing band Girls in a Coma, fer cryin' out loud. And it's downright weird that his thousand-word bio doesn't make note of the pompadoured elephant in the room, because I've never seen any artist more obviously modeled on another than this one. Is Coulter hoping no one will notice? Is he in denial? Oh, what difference does it make? It makes none. -- John Nova Lomax
Thursday, July 8, at Rudyard's, 2010 Waugh Drive, 713-521-0521.
Diana Krall, with Ollabelle
Pre-Norah Jones, Canadian crooner Diana Krall nailed the sound of consenting adults luxuriating in a privileged mental space of svelte sophistication on her debut, The Look of Love, an easy-riding pop-jazz confection. Krall's new album, The Girl in the Other Room, nails something else: her attempts -- with new husband Elvis Costello -- to make music perfect for entertaining in their New York apartment. As such, it's a snooze. Half of Room's 12 tunes are Krall-Costello co-writes, including one called "Abandoned Masquerade," which we won't quote, out of respect for, well, lyrics as a concept; the title track is better, because Anthony Wilson's guitar shimmers like Chardonnay. But even the good stuff here lacks Love's breezy sensuality, the seductive sheen that made us miss the shit out of Banana Republic two years ago. Looks like Costello made off with more than Krall's party dress. -- Mikael Wood
Saturday, July 10, at Jones Hall, 615 Louisiana, 713-227-4SPA.
Dresden 45, with Hognose and Assnipple
Digging back through the annals of Houston hardcore, you'd be hard-pressed to find a more apt vehicle for Bayou City rage than D-45. During the latter half of the '80s these boys from Bellaire delivered hardcore with a severe dynamic. The band had unparalleled technical prowess, and their presence was embellished by the subversive melodies of the sometimes hoarse, always overexerted voice of Brumby Boylston. Their songs inspired sing-alongs as much as they sparked mosh pits, and in the days before rap-metal, D-45 was well documented as having experimented with such alloys. Thirteen years after calling it quits, they're playing together again, and even though this is a reunion gig by name, Dresden 45 is actually functioning as a working band. Original drummer Oscar Gray has been replaced by Jeff Chavez, and though Boylston now calls Cali home, D-45 is playing a few gigs each year. It should also be noted that you no longer have to whip out the vintage vinyl just to hear the boys. The band has recently issued an expanded and enhanced CD of their brilliant 1988 LP Paradise Lost, designed by Brumby and D-45 bassist/renowned poster artist Uncle Charlie. -- Lance Walker
Friday, July 9, at the Axiom, 2524 McKinney, 713-522-8443. Seven Mary Three
Advice for struggling musicians from Seven Mary Three: If you want your album to become an American standard, the kind of album that's featured on jukeboxes everywhere from soda fountains to truck stops, don't pussyfoot around with clever titles. Just call the fucking thing American Standard, as the band did its 1995 debut. It also helps to include songs about the typical American experience. Take, for example, "Water's Edge," a delightful ditty about the typically American tradition of witnessing a hit, then leaving the body to bloat by the edge of a creek. The band's post-American Standard years have been pocked with record-company battles, disjointed sounds and mediocre records, but Seven Mary Three's latest release, Dis/Location, could catapult it back out of obscurity. The album ain't made it to soda fountains yet, but the sound is a return to the fierce, hard rock that Seven Mary Three hasn't embraced in a decade. -- Ali Ryan
Sunday, July 11, at the Bud True Music Stage at Minute Maid Park, 300 Crawford.
The Bellamy Brothers
Howard and David Bellamy are not your average country music shit-kickers. As the Bellamy Brothers, they became one of the genre's most revered and successful acts. But the duo has always taken a slightly left-of-center approach to boot-scootin' boogie. The Charmin-soft radio staple "Let Your Love Flow" topped the U.S. pop charts in 1975 and helped popularize country rock. But the Brothers preferred serious-minded Euro audiences to rowdy American crowds and became a powerhouse in places like Switzerland and Germany. The Bellamys have issued a string of urban-cowboy anthems, including "Redneck Girl" and "If I Said You Had a Beautiful Body (Would You Hold It Against Me)," but the band also has incorporated new sounds, including heavy doses of reggae. Though the duo hasn't lit up the airwaves in eons, it remains a popular live act, delighting audiences with all those easygoing hits. -- Nathan Dinsdale
Friday, July 9, at Sam Houston Race Park, 7575 North Sam Houston Parkway, 281-807-8700.
Reel Big Fish, RX Bandits, Lucky Boys Confusion and Catch 22
Ska-punk is the Rasputin of pop music genres. Like the mad Russian monk of yore, it can be utterly compelling, and it simply will not die. You can shoot it, stab it, poison it, drop it in a lake of boiling hydrochloric acid, fire a laser-guided warhead right up its ass, and the most that will happen is that it'll act all crippled for a while. A few hipsters will become emboldened enough to glance around the room and whisper, "I think it's dead." Then you'll hear that chicka-chicka sound again, the shades and porkpie hat-wearing head will lift off the floor, and the pogoing will commence -- yet another wave is upon us all! Run!
Hell, a couple of months ago I was grilling an HSPVA sophomore about what the kids at her school were listening to, and she told me "ska-punk." Didn't we shoot a garlic-encrusted silver crucifix into that beast's heart in, like, 1999?
The Vans Warped Tour may be ska-free this year, but the bands are still out there, waiting for this slowly welling fourth-wave breaker to crash on the beach. Hence this show, which features four of the big names of the genre's 1990s third wave. Judging by the titles of each of these bands' recent albums, they all seem to know they're in a lean period. Reel Big Fish chose the path of resolute bliss, entitling their latest record Cheer Up!, while Lucky Boys Confusion and RX Bandits seem to be gritting their teeth and clinging on to dear life with (respectively) Commitment and The Resignation. Catch 22 admits that what they play are Dinosaur Sounds.
But unlike the T-Rex, it's doubtful that ska-punk will ever be extinct. -- John Nova Lomax
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Tuesday, July 13, at Club V at the Verizon Wireless Theater, 520 Texas Avenue, 713-230-1600.
Pepper, with Lola Ray
As if to prove the T-Rex line above, here's a ska-ish band that never even played the lower 48 until after their scene was said to be dead. While Hawaii might be best known as a cool place to film cop shows and Adam Sandler flicks, it's hardly rock music central. But Hawaii's isolation must have had something to do with the fact that Pepper was able to reach the mainland in 2000 with a sound that set it apart from the "Let's sound exactly like Sublime" ska-punk fraternity. Pepper offers up its bass-heavy tunes with style, accomplished playing and intriguing arrangements. Check out "Back Home," the opening cut of its sophomore CD release, In With The Old, and you'll find a skitterish mix of crunchy guitar, dub and reggae beats, some countrified pedal steel and tongue-in-cheek Spinal Tap metal riffs. Though they're still pretty young, their songs ooze the kind of worldliness that Fountains of Wayne parlayed into its 15 minutes of Buzzfest fame. Sure, Pepper may not be around as long as Hawaii Five-O reruns, but it's a damn fine thing to hear a group offering up summertime road-trip tunes with some real substance. -- Greg Barr
Wednesday, July 14, at the Engine Room, 1515 Pease, 713-654-7846.