Soviet Army Chorus
Four guys huddled around a table full of gear, bobbing their heads and flashing penlights at the knobs they twiddle might not sound like an exciting Saturday night out, but Soviet Army Chorus has found a way to make it just that. Their sound is a melodic, heavy-on-the-bass brand of electronic music rooted in thick, buzzing synthesizers, under layers of a seemingly endless catalog of sounds. The constant contributions of the various members are ultimately what makes it feel like a live band -- and not like a bunch of guys with computers.
SAC echoes both the ambient, dancey electronic group Go Spread Your Wings and the room-clearing sound-abuse outfit the Sugar Beats. What evolves from those bipolar elements is something more rhythmic than the Sugar Beats, more melodic than Go Spread Your Wings, and more balanced than both.
Band member Ken Wiatrek explains the new sound by stressing that the group employs an array of diverse equipment, ranging from high-tech paraphernalia (such as KORG Electribes, Roland 307 and Mini Korg synths) on down to consumer-grade stuff and even souped-up kids' toys. "I think that the mixture of the types of gear is the most important part," he says. "It's pretty easy to make good electronic music with really great electronic gear, but it's more fun to make good songs using a combination of several types of gear in incorrect ways."
Rather than taking that unorthodox arrangement toward unscripted noise, SAC has instead crafted incredibly hooky electronic pieces that ebb and flow like good pop songs. Vocals are absent, but samples of spoken-word recordings fill some of the spaces left vacant, giving a stout, eloquent personality to each of the tracks. -- Lance Walker
Soviet Army Chorus appears at the Intoxicated Dance Party, Friday, May 21, at Helios, 411 Westheimer. The Studemont Project, Mystery Flavor, Dead Roses, DJs Witnes and Ceeplus are also on the bill. A majority of the proceeds benefit nonprofit radio in Houston. For information, call 713-526-4648.
No, Ronnie James has not found some long-lost kin and formed a new band. Instead, dios is the latest entry in "the gentle lads from the Golden State shoegazer sweepstakes." The band's hometown of Hawthorne, California, will always have its place on the musical geography tour as the spot where the Beach Boys first began to create their idyllic panorama of surf, sand, blue-eyed blonds in bikinis and little deuce coupes. But this is 2004, and the latest musical product of the city comprises five young Latinos: brothers Joel and Kevin Morales (sons of a mariachi singer), John Paul Caballero, Jimmy Cabez De Vaca and Jackie Monzon.
Their self-titled full-length debut is the fulfillment of their vision -- dreamy synth-pop, looping, repeated rhythms and lyrics, delicate harmonies and somnambulist traipsings. The mix brings to mind not only the Wilson brothers and company, but also Big Star, the psychedelic Beatles (albeit more "Free as a Bird" than "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds") and -- on several tracks -- eerie Harvest-era Neil Young (there's even a cover of his "Birds" here).
Together less than two years, dios recorded and mixed the record in one of their basements. The melodies and musical meanderings drop in and out with the casualness of 'shroom-addled residents at a beach bungalow chasing some cool brews and bitchin' waves. However, that laid-back vibe also feeds into the record's great weakness: The slow pace and close uniformity of songs makes for good background music, but it proves at times to be taxing as a concentrated listen.
Rolling Stone put dios's previous Los Arboles EP on their "Hot List" along with Modest Mouse and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, but it's safe to say that Karen O probably won't be duetting with this band anytime soon. She might beat them up, though. -- Bob Ruggiero
With Beulah, Friday, May 21, at Fat Cat's, 4216 Washington Avenue, 713-869-5263.
Your Enemies Friends and Midtown
Hanging out with a bunch of suburban high school kids at a smoke- and alcohol-free coffeehouse to the soundtrack of another wretched pop-punk band doesn't appeal? Go ahead and gas up the car and head north to Java Jazz in Old Town Spring this Sunday, when L.A.'s Your Enemies Friends play. Mixing the sounds of the Murder City Devils, Nirvana and My Bloody Valentine, their recent full-length debut, You Are Being Videotaped, has earned the gloomy quintet loads of praise. You could be a cynic and lay the hype at the feet of YEF's early champions, the influential Internet rock and roll terrorists at Buddyhead.com, but one listen to the disc will undoubtedly restore your faith in an indie rock scene whose innovation is waning. In short, if you dig current post-punk revivalists like the Faint, you don't want to miss this band. As for the rest of the bill, make plans to chaperone your little sister and her gal pals while mall punks Midtown suck the life out the show. But before that happens, be ready to shake your ass, and don't forget to bring YEF some dill pickles. They love 'em. -- Jason Gagnon
Sunday, May 23, 419 Gentry, Spring, 281-528-8129.
The Legendary Shack*Shakers
Feelin' that the right Reverend Horton has lost his heat? That Southern Culture really is on the skids? Lookin' for something new to grease your wheels? Then maybe it's time to introduce yourself to the Legendary Shack*Shakers. Hailing far from Music Row, this Nashville-based band bump-and-grinds out some delightfully twisted roots music. From their jokey affectations (like wink-wink use of "Legendary" in their band name), you might fear that these guys are dishing out some joke-a-billy hokum. But don't be fooled. The Shack*Shakers deliver roof-rattling rock and roll that's part rowdy juke-joint blues and part hopped-up rockabilly -- "jook-a-billy," to borrow a term from one of their own tunes.
The Shakers are fronted by "Colonel" J.D. Wilkes, a wild-eyed redhead known for his howling-at-the-moon vocals, his gritty blues harp blowing and his possessed stage performances. When he sings that "the devil's got me near insane," you really believe him. The devil, in fact, makes his presence felt throughout their 2003 disc, the wonderfully titled Cockadoodledon't. He's lurking in the shadows on the murder-soaked "Blood on the Bluegrass," and he's taking souls on "Devils Night Auction."
Assisting Wilkes in his fiendish plot to create a diabolical brand of Southern Gothic Americana are bassist Mark "the Duke" Robertson and drummer Paul Simmonz, who team up for a menacing rhythm section, as well as a recent convert, guitarist David Lee. The Shakers have garnered praise from such roots-rock royalty as Jason Ringenberg and Hank III, while the Nashville Scene crowned Wilkes the best front man in Music City. They recently have been cooped up making a new record, so the boys are itching to unleash some new gonzo tunes along with LSS standards such as "Help Me from My Brain" and "Hoptown Jailbreak." You have been warned. -- Michael Berick
Thursday, May 20, at Rudyard's, 2010 Waugh Drive, 713-521-0521.
David Allan Coe
David Allan Coe, unlike some of his peers, didn't have to manufacture outlaw cred to qualify for the outlaw-country movement of the 1970s. Coe essentially grew up incarcerated, first tangling with the system at age nine and then spending the next 20 years, more or less, behind bars. When he emerged, he had taught himself how to play music, developed a haunting lyrical gift and cultivated a strong desire to see his name in lights.
Despite his obvious talents, Coe and country radio never understood each other. His wild stage shows scared conservative Nashville -- for a while he appeared as the Mysterious Rhinestone Cowboy, donning a bejeweled suit, a big black hat and a Zorro mask, wielding a bottle of Jack and swearing at the audience. His warts-and-all songs and his "If that ain't country, I'll kiss your ass" attitude -- that's a real lyric from a song of the same name -- didn't help him commercially, either. His decision to release several racially and sexually rank, X-rated underground albums put yet another black feather in his cap.
Despite these self-inflicted wounds, Coe did find success as a songwriter, virtually launching the career of Tanya Tucker in 1973 when the 13-year-old covered his "Would You Lay with Me" and took it to the top spot on the country charts. A laundry list of top country musicians covered his work, and he wrote such classics as "Please Come to Boston," "Longhaired Redneck" and "Take This Job and Shove It" (popularized by Johnny Paycheck).
In some ways, Coe's style of boasting presaged the megalomania of gangsta rap. Not surprising, then, that Kid Rock, a white-boy rapper known for considerable braggadocio, gave the fading rebel props in the song "American Badass" and later had Coe open for him on tour.
The longhaired redneck has released several new albums over the past year: Tennessee Waltz, a live compilation, and a two-CD audio book of his life titled Whoopsy Daisy. He also has taken on another live persona, often wearing long beads in his wildly colored beard and blond dreadlocks, and looking less like a cowboy and more like something out of Mad Max. Who better to perform at Biker Night at Sam Houston Race Park? -- Jonathan Bond
Saturday, May 22, 7575 North Sam Houston Parkway West, 281-807-RACE.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene with music features, additional online music listings and show picks. We'll also send special ticket offers and music promotions available only to our Music Newsletter subscribers.