Mary McBride, with Hacienda Brothers
Mary McBride, one of the gutsiest female singers in the alt-country genre, has avoided the female folksinger ghetto. No sensitive wilting flower, McBride has huge pipes, writes a mean song, counts Fred Eaglesmith as one of her most ardent supporters and comes with a band that's rock-ready. The Lafayette, Louisiana, native was raised in Washington, D.C., and now calls Brooklyn home. Her ripped-and-torn, roots-rocker, party-girl style has inspired comparisons to the likes of Bonnie Raitt and Lucinda Williams. McBride's 2002 debut, Everything Seemed Alright, which opened with a smart cover of Eaglesmith's "Rev It Up," had the usual twang-and-bang of any Lou Whitney production and snagged her opening gigs with Delbert McClinton and the Reverend Horton Heat. So far in her career, McBride seems to be in co-writing mode, and it works; tracks such as "If You Lived in My Town," "Half Gone" and the vicious put-down "That Was Then, This Is Now" are as good as anything around. She teams with Eaglesmith on the rock-solid title track, which catches the humorous side of personal disintegration ("Everything seemed alright / then the goddamned bottom fell out"). And on "Old Lea Johnson," she mines the same vein Lucinda Williams found with her classic "2 Cool 2 Be 4 Gotten" -- only McBride may have snagged a catchier, pure Americana hook: "Old Lea Johnson don't serve riff raff, he don't run a honky tonk." McBride's roadhouse sensibilities and let-it-rock attitude should make a great fit with the Continental Club stage. -- William Michael Smith
Saturday, October 16, at the Continental Club, 3700 Main, 713-529-9899.
Macha, with Soviet Army Chorus and the Mercury Program
After a cursory listen to the first half of Macha's Forget Tomorrow, the group's first full-length since 1999's See It Another Way, it might appear the band has forsaken its MO of intermingling droning indie rock and various Asian folk elements; the title song/opener is so 1982: gloomy yet danceable, full of sleek synthesizer lines and ennui-saturated (wannabe) British vocals. Happily, the remainder of Forget Tomorrow finds Macha further refining and improving upon its unique synthesis. While previous offerings were more pleasantly novel than memorable, Tomorrow more fully integrates minimalist and Pacific Rim elements into engaging songs. With its languid, gauzy vocals, haunting minor-key melody, restrained guitar feedback and trancelike percussion, "C'mon C'mon Oblivion" suggests a cross between Wish You Were Here-era Pink Floyd and Millions Now Living Tortoise. And the undulating "No Surprise Party" shimmers with wraithlike voices, flickering vibraphone, a cyclic, prog-y pulse and an enigmatic wail (violin? a traditional Asian instrument?). Though inconsistent, Forget Tomorrow holds enough mysterious splendor to rate a thumbs-up. -- Mark Keresman
Friday, October 15, at Mary Jane's Fat Cat, 4216 Washington Avenue, 713-869-JANE.
The Thrills, with the Killers and the Pixies
With help from producer Dave Sardy, the Thrills trade in some of the Laurel Canyon loveliness of their debut, last year's So Much for the City, for the swagger of Sunset Boulevard. Which is just about as good a place as any to wonder "Whatever Happened to Corey Haim?" The answer, of course, is a variety of white powders and an unfortunate alliance with the other Corey, though this isn't really addressed in the song, the band's first single from the album. "Corey Haim," instead, does two things for the Thrills: It reaffirms their love for L.A. nostalgia of all stripes and makes them a perfect fit with Brian Wilson collaborator Van Dyke Parks and his wall-to-wall carpet of violins. The song serves as the perfect entry point to this second album, where it's after the gold rush and on to the next one for these Irish lads, where "You Can't Fool Old Friends with Limousines," but you can still try. The extra year under their collective belt gives Bohemia a sense of regret and resolve, providing a punch that didn't really need to be thrown on So Much for the City. It's a fiercer, fuller effort for it, the layers of strings (guitar and otherwise), keys and harmonies urging Conor Deasy's cracking croon back into the fray instead of giving it a shoulder to cry on. The Thrills may have changed neighborhoods, but let's hope they don't leave the city behind anytime soon. -- Zac Crain
Sunday, October 17, at Reliant Arena, One Reliant Park, 832-667-1400.
Dead Moon main man Fred Cole doesn't go for also-ran bitch rants. Musicians who whine about how the industry screwed them should remember that they offered up their ass in the first place and would probably do it again. Cole learned his lesson early, turned around and never looked back. His first two bands, the Lollipop Shoppe and Zipper, flirted with major labels through the late 1960s and early '70s, but his unique, warbling vocals and assumption that he's going to do things his way doomed any chance at stardom. Galvanized by the spirit of the late-'70s punk scene, he formed the Rats, which soon mutated into one of the most inspirational bands on the indie scene, Dead Moon.
Cole, wife Toody and drumming pal Loomis took to the hills of Oregon, bought their own vinyl-record press and have self-released more than 15 albums on their Tombstone label since 1988, with no signs of stopping. Aside from the admirably self-sufficient lifestyle and the fact that the band members are spying 60 while still gladly playing dank bars, the music is incredibly and oddly infectious. Here's three geezers in torn black tees and leather pants that look like they haven't been removed in decades, long, grimy hair waving way down over their faces, stomping out '60s garage slop-ups of AC/DC. Yet it all turns into an arm-in-arm hoedown every time. Their records, including the recently released Dead Ahead, are always reliable trash-rock classics, clogged with desperate tales of broken hearts and the toilet flush of Western civilization, all codified with take-it-or-leave-it mono production. Simply put, there is no other band like them. -- Eric Davidson
Thursday, October 14, at Rudyard's, 2010 Waugh Drive, 713-521-0521.
Gomez, with Augie March
England's Gomez is a band in the midst of an identity crisis. Are they Britpop? Neo-psychedelic? Grungy? Carnival musicians? As seen on the group's fourth CD, Split the Difference, the answer is that they are all of that, and the list doesn't end there. From the crunchy power of "These 3 Sins" to the gospel-like sound of "Meet Me in the City" to the pastoral gentleness of "Sweet Virginia," they're all over the genre-spinning dial. Sure, this eclecticism makes for sometimes confusing listening, but at least it's always interesting. Multilayered instruments and multiple-singer vocal lines from the quintet (led by childhood friends guitarist-vocalist Ian Ball and drummer Olly Peacock) make them a band that stoners, folkies and Seattle rockers alike can agree on. And yes, vocalist- guitarist Tom Gray does sound like Eddie Vedder. -- Bob Ruggiero
Friday, October 15, at the Meridian, 1503 Chartres, 713-225-1717.
Rye Coalition, with Your Enemies Friends and the Kinison
After rocking for close to a decade, Jersey natives Rye Coalition were beginning to make a name for themselves. Shows were well attended, and records were well received by audiences and critics alike. They were succeeding in all the areas budding young indie groups dream about, and doing it so well that they were being courted by majors. But for a band with so much invested in the indie scene, the leap to the big leagues isn't as easy as one might think. The band had worked with superproducer Steve Albini and had no doubt heard of the perils of major-label limbo: Most bands' albums never see the light of day, and the musicians often end up having to reimburse the label for recording, travel and production costs. What a deal!
Rye Coalition decided to ignore their misgivings and roll the dice. Dreamworks signed the band and secured Foo Fighter and longtime fan Dave Grohl to produce. But shortly after the album was completed, Dreamworks was sold to Interscope, and the album ended up on the desk of label boss Jimmy Iovine. He gave it a listen and declared -- in his infinite label-boss wisdom -- that it had no viable "hit." He wanted Rye to scrap it and start from scratch. Grohl, in no mood to play label politics and busy with his own affairs, opted out.
In short, Rye Coalition was fucked. Iovine's involvement must have made the whole thing an even more bitter experience. Can you imagine the guy who made Fred Durst label VP and who personally signed the sonic but utterly hitless Trail of Dead telling you the album you just recorded with one of this era's great hit producers didn't cut the mustard? Michael Jackson got it wrong: Tommy Mottola isn't the devil, Iovine is. Meet at the Engine Room with your signs that say so. -- Brian McManus
Saturday, October 16, at the Engine Room, 1515 Pease, 713-654-7846.
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