The Shins, the Glands, Rogue Wave
For all the talk about the Darkness as the messiah of rock and roll, there is (and has been) an equally potent force at work right here in the States. Hailing from oft-overlooked Albuquerque, New Mexico, the Shins first began turning heads in 2001 with their debut release, Oh Inverted World (Sub Pop). It was a brilliant, subtle collection of pop songs that, though obviously influenced by other like-minded bands, still emanated a newness and an unfettered, sincere message that didn't feel overblown, calculated or as if it were trying too hard to prove anything.
Their newest album, Chutes Too Narrow, expands on all that but deviates brilliantly. While it doesn't completely abandon the warm acoustic guitars and somewhat spare percussion of World, you can't deny that the whole thing is a lot louder and bolder. Lead singer James Mercer also departs from the modest, dislodged candor of the first record and fires off some venom, and the vocals are much more aggressive overall, even while they retain the intimacy of World.
But still, it's the songs themselves that truly shine. Even though the Shins brandish an overt 1960s influence, they still manage to sidestep all of the bullshit that's come with it in recent years (read: Elephant 6). Instead, they strip everything down into brilliant narratives that tell stories you feel like you've heard before. And perhaps that's what's so unfathomable about the Shins' music: It reminds you of something, but you can't quite put your finger on what, and in the end, it's so good that you don't really care.
Support are Athens, Georgia's the Glands and former Houstonian and schrasj front man Gram Lebron, coming in from San Francisco with his new band Rogue Wave, which just got signed to Sub Pop. -- Lance Walker
Thursday, June 10, Engine Room, 1515 Pease, 713-654-7846.
Donald Glaude and Scarlett Etienne
Tacoma, Washington-born Seattle resident Donald Glaude is a DJ with a solid national reputation and a godlike status in the Pacific Northwest, where he's honed his skills behind the decks for nigh 20 years. Glaude's staying power is due in large part to his open musical mind. He's no genre snob and will play it if it's funky -- be it breakbeat, house or techno. In recent months, Glaude has started two record labels (Eden and Jacked) and eventually will release his own production work that is, as yet, still a secret.
Globetrotting 22-year-old DJ Scarlett Etienne won't be a secret for long. The black-haired, olive-skinned beauty was born into an American military family in Hong Kong and has yet to stop traveling. Two years ago Etienne, a classically trained musician as well as a first-call decknician, landed her first residency at New York's Sound Factory, and her tribal progressive sets have since won her others in clubs from San Francisco to Verona, Italy. As a matter of fact, Houston is one of the few places she hasn't played, so catch her here at her local debut. -- Tamara Palmer and John Nova Lomax
Saturday, June 12, M Bar, 402 Main, 713-222-1022.
Acid Mothers Temple
When it comes to rock, Japan is a fountainhead of extremes. As far as we know, there are no Rising Sun equivalents of Coldplay or Dave Matthews Band (thank Buddha for small mercies). Instead, Japan produces artists like Melt-Banana, Merzbow and Guitar Wolf -- all of whom represent an aesthetic so over the top, it verges on the cartoonish.
Like many within Japan's febrile underground-music scene, Kawabata Makoto is an astute historian of psychedelic music; he says that his mind was blown when he heard classical Indian tamboura drones at the age of ten. As leader of Acid Mothers Temple & the Melting Paraiso U.F.O., a hippielike collective of up to 30 members, he has explored the most mind-altering musicians with a cultish zeal. Through immersion in these transcendent artists' work -- and, Kawabata claims, transmissions beamed into his brain -- Acid Mothers Temple transforms its influences into outlandish homages that are at once reverent in spirit and mutational in practice. The band improvises and extrapolates on themes, weaving them into sprawling opuses that are the most effective way to travel outside your body and get out of your head this side of the Boredoms' back catalog. That, or taking lots and lots of illegal drugs.
"I constantly hear sounds in my head," Kawabata says. "I don't know whether they come from the cosmos or somewhere else, but I have heard them constantly since I was a child. All I do is become a human radio tuner in order to make these sounds audible to other people. So as long as I keep hearing these sounds, I will keep on making releases." -- Dave Segal
With Psychic Paramount, Sunday, June 13, Fat Cat's, 4216 Washington Avenue, 713-863-5263.
Legendary Pink Dots
Just as the words colour and color don't mean quite the same thing, there are no American analogs to Syd Barrett, XTC, Robyn Hitchcock, David Sylvian or theLegendary Pink Dots (acid reference almost certain). The Pink Dots emerged from England in 1980, moved to Amsterdam (legal cannabis influence almost certain) and began to release wild and weird album after album after album. Their music is post-prog experimental and offhandedly pop; the lyrics slink around corners like late-'60s English children's books (there's that doesn't-quite-translate thing again), and the songs have tellingly interior titles: "Personal Monster," "King of a Small World." With songs that are equal parts Yaz and Yes synth lines, Jethro Tull flute and Buzzcocks guitars, this is a band that's an anomaly, an artifact and a stalwart prediction of future sounds. They just probably won't be American sounds. -- Mike Warren
Sunday, June 13, Engine Room, 1515 Pease, 713-654-7846.
Califone, with Rebecca Gates
Appalachia meets electronica and takes her on a date to a Delta juke joint -- that's the music of Califone in a nutshell. Headed by former Red Red Meat purveyor Tim Rutili, Califone has a sound that's less raw and more sublime than the punky blues of his previous band. Live, the trio of multi-instrumentalists offers up slow-paced yet seriously compelling thrills, as ideal for riding out a heroin high as vintage Allman Brothers was 35 years ago. (Maybe Califone's new album, Heron King Blues, offers up a misspelled tribute to the drug their music feels like, or maybe not.) Quicksand / Cradlesnakes was one of the best roots-music releases to come down the pike last year, which brings us to some lyrics I misheard on that album. When the band performed the song "Mean Little Seed" at Fat Cat's last year, I expected a sprinkling of boos and jeers. After all, didn't Rutili sing "Texas looks like Hell to me"? Well, that's what I thought he said, anyway. What he really sang was "Texas looks like Galilee." And as it happens, that's kinda true. -- John Nova Lomax
Thursday, June 10, Rudyard's, 2010 Waugh Drive, 713-521-0521.
The Fiery Furnaces
The New New York Rock Scene needs the Fiery Furnaces for two reasons: 1) Singer-guitarist Eleanor Friedberger is a woman; and 2) she and her brother Matthew are as uncool as they are cool, which is very. The first fact is important because, despite the plentiful and deserved attention received by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' Karen O, the New New York Rock Scene floats on a cloud of testosterone sturdy enough for Fred Durst -- carefully disheveled guys in raggedy black clothing standing around reasserting the bullshit values of fatigued cynicism and bait-and-switch sensitivity into a community hardly capable of resisting what it's told is hip. When Friedberger gets on stage, she explodes that practiced pose, strangling her guitar and unleashing a torrent of surreal trash talk about her day. Her songs -- about staplers, doughnuts, asthma, tunnels, rubbing alcohol and running away to that warm, safe place where as a child she'd hide -- actually use the New New York Rock form to engage with life, rather than simply seducing females or impressing record-store clerks. That's why reason No. 2 is important. -- Mikael Wood
Saturday, June 12, Walter's on Washington, 4215 Washington Avenue, 713-864-2727.
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