GET UP KIDS, SUPERCHUNK 7/12, METRO; 7/13 & 7/14, HOUSE OF BLUES In the bio accompanying the Get Up Kids' new On a Wire (Vagrant), front man Matthew Pryor makes a lot of excuses for the lack of new releases over the last two years or so, laying most of the blame on the usually prolific band's inability to write while on tour. But he neglects to mention the promising, if frighteningly withdrawn, solo record he made as the New Amsterdams, which had a fair amount of fresh new writing on it indeed. Whatever the reasons for the delay, fans of the Get Up Kids proper will have much to rejoice about with the new record, which captures the sound of sweet, shy boys looking around to see who's watching before they self-consciously start to rock--sort of like diffident young Replacements minus the emboldening alcohol. Though they've opened for brassier outfits such as Green Day, their appearances here with older soul mates Superchunk bode better for both bands' next-door sound. At press time the Metro show was sold-out, but tickets for the House of Blues shows were still available. BOBBY BARE JR. 7/13, SCHUBAS Any American pop music worth its salt is about what Kerouac called "the unspeakable visions of the individual." Unspeakable, yes, but not unsingable. On Bobby Bare Jr.'s stunning Young Criminals' Starvation League (Bloodshot), the Nashville artist, performing here with members of Lambchop, delves into the souls of his characters: a lonely, flat-chested, manic-depressive girl; a monk at a disco praying for sins and struggling with lust; a frustrated kid writing an open letter to everyone from Pete Townshend to Frank Black--because "Your generation used up all the feelings / And if we rock it looks like we're ripping you off." Most rockers and fans have related to that sentiment at one time or another, but though Bare's sound nods to others--a little bit 70s country pop, a little bit Stax soul, a little bit Van Morrison, a little bit Dylan, a little bit Smiths--it's all done with heartbreaking skill. SWEEP THE LEG JOHNNY 7/13, EMPTY BOTTLE This local band has been a source of controversy in that "They're brilliant / They're full of shit!" game indie kids like to play. (Me, I favor bands that are full of brilliant shit.) Sure, there's a jazz influence, but Steve Sostak plays his sax like a rock guy, and all that Zeppelinoid heavy hip-shake sets the more cerebral listeners on edge. But if there have ever been records that help further the reconciliation of thinking and sweating, Sweep the Leg Johnny's limber, dynamic fourth album, Going Down Swingin' (Southern), is surely one of them. Happily dancing out on every metallic, avant, and art-rock limb they can find, this record is pleasingly rich to the taste as it stuffs itself down your throat. They also play Friday, July 19, at the Fireside with Lustre King and Haymarket Riot. Sources close to the band say this will be their last appearance as an ongoing concern; catch 'em while you can. VINES 7/13, METRO Nobody's falling for this rock 'n' roll revival crap again, are they? When has rock 'n' roll ever really gone away? Off the Billboard charts and commercial radio and MTV's not the same as not existing, is it? Well, I guess for some folks it is, because now these cute Australians are getting the treatment used for at least six different "new waves" in the last decade alone. And we're all on the same page here about the Strokes being pretty good but kind of ordinary and certainly not really all that, right? At least the fresh-faced neo-Brit-pop by way of the garage that's all over the Vines' debut, Highly Evolved (Capitol), is a lot more fun and invigorating than loads of other stuff that MTV and the NME and CMJ and all those other dreaded acronyms have tried to push on us over the years. DEATH OF MARAT 7/14, FIRESIDE BOWL It's nice to meet a band that realizes a trip to the gothic side of the postpunk tracks isn't necessarily such a bad thing. This Arizona-based trio has just released their second album, All Eyes Open (Stickfigure), and it's a beauty: enough jagged edges, turns on dimes, and fun with timing to please the less anal-retentive math rockers in the crowd, but still filled with plenty of cum 'n' blood poetic agony (note churning bass groove on "All Eyes Open"). Some of us have been waiting a long time for a band that can cheerfully point out the early commonalities between Bauhaus and Fugazi. THE TRAGICALLY HIP 7/16, 7/17, 7/18 & 7/19, HOUSE OF BLUES Having stuck it out since 1983, this Canadian alt-pop band has truly earned its loyal following. Their tenth album, In Violet Light (Zoe), is an unusually sexy entry in a usually bloodless genre; front man Gordon Downie twists his barbaric yawp into a husky, flexible, sinuous line, while guitars and rhythm burble and clash and drip like dark brown coffee into a gleaming steel pot. They get more points still for reminding us continually, as in "The Dire Wolf," that Canada is in fact another country--much of it cold, remote, and wild enough to qualify as romantic and exotic. Well, as exotic as alt-pop ever gets, anyway. YOUNG DUBLINERS 7/18, SKYLINE STAGE Music that aspires to uplift the masses is the object of a lot of often deserved disdain, associated as it usually is with perfect-toothed pop tarts who seem quakingly afraid of minor keys and dissonance. But plenty of Irish rockers think they can get away with it--whether due to a two-decades-old U2 hangover or just because Celtic-based pop really can't exist without at least a little musical tension. LA's Young Dubliners do get away with it on their new Absolutely (Omtown). It helps that there's a little booze and retribution in their anthemic rafter-raising rock, but really I think it works largely because violinist Chas Waltz saws like a madman. They share the bill with the every bit as bombastic but somewhat more fey Great Big Sea.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Thomas Petillo.