THAT DOG 4/9, SCHUBAS That Dog's eponymous debut co-opts the poignant but discordant folk-rock pioneered more than a decade ago by England's Raincoats (whose recent reissues--three long-out-of-print early-80s Rough Trade albums, on DGC--demonstrate the market value of Kurt Cobain's admiration). That Dog chirp up the sound (their most Raincoats-like element is the ragged violin of Petra Haden) with sweet three-part harmonies and less personal, less troublesome subject matter ("Westside Angst" playfully bemoans the º·¶ area code's splintering of their LA home). Tony Maxwell's manic drumming and the appropriately rude bass lines of Petra's sister Rachel offset the violin's softness and the generally strum-oriented guitar of Anna Waronker (daughter of Warner Brothers Records bigwig Lenny). All of it creates a nice tension beneath the compelling harmonies; think of a low-rent Roches. While some of their material is rather uneven, their basic sound is striking enough to compensate. Link opens; Beck headlines (see Critic's Choice). That Dog and Beck also play in-store at Reckless Records earlier the same day. THROW 4/9, EMPTY BOTTLE I could map out the basics of this local trio--whose just-released debut Trace (Espresso), handsomely packaged in a sleeve printed by Bruce Licher's classy Independent Project Press, captures the essence of their crisp if utterly unspectacular pop-rock--but I'm far more concerned with figuring out why a recent gig flier of theirs pictured the puffy mug of minimalist composer Morton Feldman without a trace of irony. Send your explanation to me c/o the Reader. Compelling Atlanta oddballs Flap and former Squirrelbait vocalist Peter Searcy's latest odyssey Starbilly open. CARCASS, PITCH SHIFTER 4/10, OAK THEATRE Leaving behind the unceasing whiplash tempos and indecipherable guitar stutter of its past, England's Carcass has turned to a truly bizarre fusion of grinding metal heaviness, slick production, and mushy schlock-rock flourishes. Its new Heartwork (Earache/Columbia) runs amok with logic-destroying tempo shifts, ear-crushing sound, and lots of incongruous, oversweetened guitar leads clearly indebted to Boston's Tom Scholz. On top of that is Jeff Walker, sounding a little like Beavis portraying Satan, roaring thesaurus-sucking lyrics that are ultimately meaningless (e.g., "Multifarious carnage / Meretriciously internecine / Sublime enmangling steelbath / Of escheated atrocities"). But the band exudes plenty of sensual might; as with Swedish labelmates Entombed (in town last week), Carcass's music might be better felt than thought about. The same philosophy could be applied to Pitch Shifter, whose uninspired take on ugly metal is only made less interesting by an endless shuffle of suffocating samples in a sorry imitation of Godflesh, a rather poor choice to begin with. PRISONSHAKE 4/10, LOUNGE AX Cleveland vets who've refined their raw take on trad-rock lilt and fire into a terrific, if unoriginal, post-Rolling Stones grind. The vocals of Robert Griffin and Doug Enkler, at once liquor-sodden and articulate, sputter on top of the exuberant, churlish twin guitars like the choking fumes of a dying engine. Prisonshake's attempts at resuscitating their broken-down rock mechanisms may not result in new life, but they do produce some nice last gasps. Specula, hot on the heels of a guest appearance on the new Material Issue album, opens. DEADBEAT SOCIETY 4/10, OLD TOWN SCHOOL This Ann Arbor quartet infuse their buoyant, fairly traditional bluegrass with all sorts of outside influences--swing's fluidity, rock's swagger, folk's gentle lyricism. Although the vocals tend to be on the weak side--pinched, nasal, and lightweight--their instrumental prowess generally makes up for such shortcomings. NOA 4/14, NAVY PIER On her Pat Metheny-produced U.S. debut, Israeli-born, American-raised vocalist Noa smothers her Yemenite heritage in gloppy new-age/fuzak nothingness, sapping a potentially intriguing blend of jazz and Israeli flavors with white-bread blandness. I'm sure heavy rotation on WNUA is imminent.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Melodie McDaniels.