Galactic, with Scratch
When most bands lose their lead singer, there's a mad dash to find a replacement. But for New Orleans-based funk/jazz/jam/trip-hop combo Galactic, it means something else: The All Instrumental Tour. Actually, the departure of vocalist Theryl "The Houseman" deClouet isn't all that earth-shattering, since Galactic's music is mostly without vocals anyway. What's interesting is that it comes on the heels of Ruckus, the band's most accomplished record yet. And that's largely due to the presence of über-producer Dan "The Automator" Nakamura. With him at the helm, Galactic has spiced up their serviceable funk and pared down their wandering noodlings into compact pieces, making for a more song- than solo-oriented effort. With Ruckus, Galactic points to an entirely new direction of melding styles, where a computer-built sequencer creates music best consumed along with an organically grown bong hit. Meridian booker Mark Dinerstein (a longtime Galactic fan who once worked as part of their street team) promises that this show will be a Halloween party blowout, complete with fire-eaters, special surprises and a costume contest for concertgoers. Space trippin', indeed. -- Bob Ruggiero
Saturday, October 30, at the Meridian, 1503 Chartres, 713-225-1717.
The Blood Brothers, with Daughters
Yes, the Blood Brothers singers Jordan Blilie and Johnny Whitney are capable of screams and screeches more grating than Godzilla's nails on a giant chalkboard, but it would be wrong to dismiss the group as a run-of-the-mill screamo or punk band. The Brothers cleverly appropriate rock styles that aren't so common in the hardcore realm. By the time Crimes, the band's latest, grinds to a halt, the fuzz-riffing of Black Sabbath, the throaty yelps and boogie-woogie of GNR, and the strangecore indie shuffling of Modest Mouse all have been mined and combined with the occasional soul jam or melodic vamp. Much like the Blood Brothers' previous release, Burn Piano Island, Burn, Crimes forcefully prepares listeners for a live show that is equal parts sweat, screams, joy and anger. -- Abigail Clouseau
Wednesday, November 3, at Mary Jane's Fat Cat, 4216 Washington, 713-869-JANE.
Death Cab for Cutie, with Pretty Girls Make Graves
Back in April, Death Cab for Cutie was scheduled to play at Numbers. The folks hired to do the lighting didn't coordinate with the yahoos hired to do the sound. Both teams patched into the same line of power on that stormy night, and the electricity in the building took a vacation. The show had to be canceled. Death Cab got paid their guarantee and left for the next town on their itinerary -- perhaps oblivious to all the ugly fingerpointing that went on here over the next few days. Well, everything's (excuse me) patched up now and Death Cab is once again set to bring their lush, hypnotic sound to our fair city. The success of their last album, Transatlanticism, has catapulted the band into the stratosphere at a time when they've never sounded more cohesive or mature, creating a perfect peak for a band that's helped revive decadent pop. Here's hoping they don't get swallowed whole by the OC universe that's helped create their crossover appeal. -- Brian McManus
Friday, October 29, at Numbers, 300 Westheimer, 713-526-6551.
Engine Down, with Ted Leo and Just a Fire
The interlude since the release of Engine Down's last record, 2002's blisteringly gorgeous Demure, has been eventful, to say the least. In the last two years, the group has signed to mega-indie Lookout Records, hit the road with huge bands such as Thursday and Sparta, and seen its side project, Denali, get superpopular and then abruptly break up. Just a few weeks ago, on their last swing through H-town, all of the band's equipment was stolen from a Northwest Freeway motel parking lot. Luckily, the Virginia quartet has something to take its mind off the tumult of recent months: the unveiling of its fourth, self-titled album, a stunning maturation of Engine Down's melodic post-hardcore formula. Like the gusts of a coming thunderstorm, the disc churns and rumbles with a moody disquietude, struggling for breath amid black swells of minor-key atmosphere and startlingly spiraled chord progressions. As adverse as life has been for the group lately, all the ups and downs have obviously honed the band's depth, substance and ability to write some majestically kick-ass songs. -- Jason Heller
Thursday, October 28, at the Ley Student Center at Rice University, 6100 Main, 713-666-5555.
Arlington's Tommy Alverson has been at this Texas music thing for nigh on 25 years now, and while he's written a jillion traditional honky-tonk songs, he's become known mostly for his humorous novelties like "Purty Boys," which roasts all the tight-jeaned Nashville hat acts, and "Having Fun Is Hard Work Sometimes," which laments the increasingly small world the working honky-tonk musician is confronted with these days. These and other Alverson standbys -- such as "Cowboy Mardi Gras," "Hill Country Here I Come" and "Not Tonight, I've Got a Heartache" -- have become standards in the Dallas-Fort Worth area among the Texicana crowd. Alverson, who recently produced Ed Burleson's new album, Cold Hard Truth, also has carved himself a niche in the highly rarefied air of chili cookoff entertainment, with such songs as "Una Mas Cerveza" and "Chilihead -- No Beans." -- William Michael Smith
Friday, October 29, at the Firehouse Saloon, 5930 Southwest Freeway, 713-977-1962.
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Take a look at the cover of The Dwarves Must Die, the Dwarves' latest album. It features a trio of nude women weeping around a cross on which is nailed a dwarf. That's a pretty good hint of what you're in for: one of the most blissfully vulgar, immoral and offensive albums you'll hear this year.
Yes, the notorious Dwarves are back. Bluntly stated, the band's goals are "corruption of the youth" and to "fight, fuck and destroy," and sonically, they succeed. What's more, the band continues to defy expectations (and piss off its punk fans) by delving further into industrial, hip-hop and, yes, even straight-up pop music. Believe it or not, singer Blag the Ripper can actually rhyme, and he delivers a hysterical tribute to rap diss songs on "Massacre." Elsewhere, "Queens of the Trust Fund" finds him doing a little dissing himself -- he relentlessly unleashes on bands like Good Charlotte over some pretty cool beats. "Runaway," the closest thing to a tender ballad these guys will ever unleash, could even be described as radio-friendly pop, if only the subject matter were not a graphic discussion of incest and bathroom coitus, and that's not even to mention the tune's bloody, perverted ending.
Pop and hip-hop forays aside, fans of earlier Dwarves albums such as Blood, Guts and Pussy will be glad to know the band hasn't completely gone off the deep end. There is still plenty of violent and ferocious punk rock to satisfy the diehards who wish the band still played naked and beat the hell out of the audience. -- Jason Gagnon
Saturday, October 30, at the Engine Room, 1515 Pease, 713-654-7846.