Keane, the Redwalls and the Zutons

Relentlessly melodic and aggressively catchy, Keane brings pure, unadulterated piano pop into the 21st century. Tom Chaplin's strong, clear voice -- at times eerily reminiscent of Freddie Mercury -- soars over dominant piano and authoritative drums, making for a mix that's utterly familiar and yet not annoyingly derivative. The British trio's debut album, Hopes and Fears, is a thoughtful, well-produced Cadbury egg of a pop album that, while not profound, is memorable and fun. "Somewhere Only We Know," "This Is the Last Time" and "Bend and Break" offer irresistible hooks and lyrics about concluding relationships and changing friendships.

Two potential show-stealers lurk on the undercard. First, there's Liverpool's blues-infused Zutons (see Rotation, January 13). And then there's the Redwalls, who sound an awful lot like Liverpool's most famous sons, the Beatles. Every article written about this suburban Chicago quartet will contain some permutation of the above statement, and those articles are not completely wrong. But since most bands "kinda, sorta" sound like the Beatles anyway, what's the big deal? The boys in the Redwalls weren't even alive when John Lennon was shot, but they've nailed the rootsy, reverb-heavy sound of early rock and roll. Consider the multiple transatlantic ironies: The Beatles learned about twang from Carl Perkins and Everly Brothers records in the '60s, and in 2004 some Midwestern teens have inherited the same sound, only filtered through four Liverpudlians. Meanwhile, young Liverpudlians are still soaking up the sounds of the American South and re-exporting them back to America. -- Kate Richardson and Christian Schaeffer

Wednesday, January 26, at the Meridian, 1503 Chartres, 713-225-1717.

Landfall, the Oots, Sound Theory and Belville

Good young power-pop bands are hard to find. Too often, youthful musicians try so hard to cram the whole world into every note of every song that they forget about the audience. The twin-guitar power trio Landfall doesn't make that mistake -- pleasant songs come before grand, sweeping statements, and clever arrangements win out over virtuosity in their clattery, hook-packed Weezer-like pop. They don't want you to feel their pain, they just want you to have fun. If Landfall's a sunny-Saturday-afternoon-in-the-park of a band, then Belville is an after-hours-at-the-hole-in-the-wall-bar type of group, as menacing and boozy as Landfall is engaging and caffeinated. Sound Theory -- whose members are acolytes at the My Bloody Valentine/Jason Pierce/Jesus and Mary Chain temple -- is also on the bill, as are the Oots, an alternately droning and crackling indie rock band with occasional roots-rock guitar flourishes. Between them, these four bands promise to constitute a big part of Houston's underground rock scene for the second half of the first decade of the 21st century, so a ticket to this show is akin to a quick gander into the scene's crystal ball. -- John Nova Lomax

Friday, January 21, at Super Happy Fun Land, 2610 Ashland, 713-880-2100.

Long Beach Shortbus, with Los Skarnales

Comprising former members of Sublime -- whose singer Bradley Nowell died of a heroin overdose in 1996 -- and its spin-off band Long Beach Dub All Stars, Long Beach Shortbus has alienated a few of the old-school fans of those bands by updating the patented Sublime sound. Singer Ras 1 recently took on the haters on the LB Shortbus message board, the ones who accused him and his band of playing too much "gay rock" and not enough "punk/reggae/hip-hop combinations." "You know, to tell you the truth, I love that shit. I loved it back in the old days, and I still love it," he wrote, referring to the Sublime sound. "I guess it would be 'SAFER' to put out a more 'Sublime'-style record. Hell, that would keep all of the record executives happy, and everyone who is afraid of a little goddamned pesky 'CHANGE.' Well, to tell you the truth, I wouldn't be able to live with myself if I just beat myself to death, and ran my friend, Bradley Nowell's, beautiful style of music into the fucking ground trying to please everybody else that can't fucking take a risk and listen to something else." All right then, just what is this "something else" that's got the haters quaking and the record execs so peeved? From that "gay rock" crack, you'd expect it to sound like Erasure or the Scissor Sisters or something, but no, it sounds to me more like the same old hard-nosed ska-punk of yore, albeit a variant doused in Red Hot Chili Pepper sauce. Ras 1 is a vocal dead ringer for Anthony Kiedis, and Long Beach Shortbus has the same sort of stewed and tattooed rough-and-tumble streets of blue-collar L.A. appeal the Chili Peppers, and hell, Sublime too, once cornered the market on. Imagine "Under the Bridge" with a ska beat. If that prospect doesn't fill you with dread, you'll dig this show. -- John Nova Lomax

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