Reverberations: Amplified Heat, Born Liars, Black Black Gold and The Contrast

Amplified Heat
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The Westheimer Block Party is this Saturday.

Here’s the line-up

. Be there. Then, Sunday morning, drag yourself out of your stupor and over to Rice for the

KTRU Outdoor Festival


Is there much “garage rock” at either of these events? Not really, but if you can’t have music-related fun at some point this weekend, it’s probably time to shave off your sideburns and donate your records. If you feel the need to skip the festivals and toe the genre line, there’s no excuse for missing Amplified Heat at Rudyard’s on Saturday night.

Interested in starting the proper-week off with some muscle? Get to Boondocks next Monday, April 14, where Born Liars and Black Black Gold will help ensure your Tuesday morning hangover is sufficiently vicious. Though the locals will have stiff competition, with The Boss holding court downtown.

And speaking of Springsteen, his E Street sideman Steven Van Zandt’s “Underground Garage” brand will be featured on a fancy end-cap at FYE stores. This is excellent for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that one of the featured releases will be last year’s stellar Len Price 3 release on Wicked Cool Records.

Meanwhile, here’s some fine noise from the UK, also brought to us by Wicked Cool:

The Contrast, Perfect Disguise: Introducing the Contrast (Wicked Cool Records)

This guitar-worshipping quartet released their first full-length on Rainbow Quartz in 2000, a year or so after forming, and have studiously submitted four albums since then. Perfect Disguise culls from the first four and adds a few new and unreleased tracks for good measure.

The Contrast are not a group likely to make you sell all of your worldly possessions and pursue the RocknRoll Life, but they will serve to remind you that there’s a lot of good music that goes years without getting any sort of the attention it deserves.

If you don’t like big guitars, this band is not yours. There are driving leads (“Mask”) and rhythm growls straight out of Fables of the Reconstruction (“Can’t Stand the Light”) and the melodies soar, even when melancholia takes the wheel. Towering choruses are the modus operandi, but nothing ever seems to eclipse David Reid’s lyrics. While it would be unfair to compare Reid to Peter Case or Paul Westerberg – they are three distinct writers with distinct gifts – his lyrics tend to recall a less bitter Westerberg, conveying the same palpable disgust of the teenage wasteland and all of its perpetrators.

No single territory of Reid’s vocal range goes unexplored, and his tone is clean without sounding trained, which is emblematic of the band itself. The Contrast are unabashed pop-smiths, not as calculated as Spoon and closer to REM than Big Star (the REM comparison is obvious but unavoidable) with a more an adequate tutelage of Plimsouls style. They have the sound they want, lean into it all the way, and their refined instincts keep the canvas from wearing thin. They may not blow your mind, but they’ll serve as a reminder that rocking pop music is always scratching at the dismal surface of the mainstream.

The Contrast could be the first great 21st century power-pop band, and with any luck, this compilation will help them reach the audience who are going to feel a little cheated when they find that the great new music they’ve been waiting for has been waiting for them since the turn of the millennium. – Chris Henderson

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