Ultimate Fakebook singer/guitarist Bill McShane wears big black spectacles, and not just to advertise his myopia. He's aligning himself with other -- for lack of a better term -- "nerd rockers," from Weezer's Rivers Cuomo and MU330's Dan Potthast to New Wavers Elvis Costello and Joe Jackson, and even all the way back to Buddy Holly. (Okay, Jackson technically didn't wear glasses, but he probably had contacts.) But what sets this corn-fed Kansas trio apart from other emos is that they're just as likely to name-check anomalies like '80s pop headbangers Cinderella as the de rigueur Replacements.
From their inside-joke name to the monsters of rawk poses they strike on the cover of their third record, Open Up and Say Awesome, the Ultimate Fakebook guys have obviously spent a lot of time in their bedroom mirrors waiting for their musical close-ups. On the heels of the minor success of This Will Be Laughing Week, they're now concentrating on the "power" part of power pop. The band straddles the line between KISS dreams like "Forever, Forever" and the angst of geeky youth, as on the revenge fantasy "Inside Me." "I'm a reject in this town, my ears ache from the sound," McShane sings on "When I'm with You, I'm OK."
But the Fakers don't really take themselves as seriously as that. Given a choice between lyrical satire and emotional outpouring, they'll usually opt for the former, as on "Girl, Here's Another Lie," Open Up's catchiest tune. The narrator gives his big break-up speech -- with the qualification that he'd love to keep things as they are for the two months until he leaves town. He just wants to get the messy part out of the way early, thank you very much.
Ultimate Fakebook with Duvall and Pop Unknown
Mary Jane's, 4216 Washington Avenue
Friday, March 29; 713-869-JANE
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After touring in support of bands like At the Drive In, Nada Surf and Dashboard Confessional, Ultimate Fakebook seemed poised to establish its own place in the increasingly crowded landscape of overly earnest modern pop acts. Not likely; this trio seems just as likely to bare their asses as their souls.