ROGER CLYNE & THE PEACEMAKERS 5/3, METRO He may have written the theme song to one of the funniest shows on TV (Fox's King of the Hill), but these days Roger Clyne produces some of the most breathtakingly earnest roots rock since John Mellencamp got rich. The guy leans on his harmonica like an emphysema patient on an iron lung, and clearly hopes to earn his native Arizona desert a place next to the Boss's Jersey boardwalks in the public's heart. His third album with his band the Peacemakers, Sonoran Hope and Madness (Emmajava), works best when he sticks to the passionate poetry of ballads like "Ashes of San Miguel"; when he attempts to rock out, as on "Mile High and Risin'," he sounds wimpier than when he's quietly smoldering. FRENCH KICKS 5/3, ABBEY PUB This New York band, whose core members met as kids in D.C. and continued playing together at Oberlin, have turned a lot of heads over the past five years with sparse recorded output (two EPs) and heavy touring--including the head of the former head of England's legendary Creation Records, Alan McGee, who reissued 2001's Young Lawyer EP on his current label, Poptones. Their first full-length, One Time Bells (out next week on Brooklyn's Star Time International label), is a professional but soulful package of clean, choppy, energetic pop; the hummable melodies and three-part harmonies are inventively undercut with spiky new wave, careful dissonance, and some sheer guitar gnarliness. Recent Star Time signing the Natural History opens. SUPERSUCKERS 5/4, HOUSE OF BLUES, TOWER ON CLARK As shit-kicking rock bands go, the Supersuckers are good, but also fairly by-the-numbers; though hard-core fans won't agree, I think one of the more interesting things they've done over the years was to give free rein to their country impulses on 1997's Must've Been High (Sub Pop). Their new album, Must've Been Live (on their own Mid-Fi label), draws from three concerts (in Dallas, San Diego, and Austin) at which they performed that material; guests include Willie Nelson's daughter Amy, his harmonica player Mickey Raphael (the 'Suckers have a longtime association with Nelson that includes a Farm Aid gig and an appearance as his backup band on The Tonight Show in the mid-90s), and Black Crowes guitarist Audley Freed. They'll be doing the country bit for most of this tour as well. KITTIE 5/6, HOUSE OF BLUES They seemed like a gimmick, and an exploitative one to boot: cute Canadian teenage girls playing nu metal in corsets and leather. But anybody who actually listened to their debut, Spit, had to admit they were good in their chosen field; the finicky readers of Metal Edge certainly thought they had chops, voting them best new band of 2000. Their second album, Oracle (Artemis), is even more serious--heavy, solid, fierce, and quite unladylike (especially when it comes to the scary things Morgan Lander can do with her voice), with nary a cheesecake photo in sight. It transcends gender and age; like all metal, it aspires to the superhuman. Guitarist Fallon Bowman left the band before the recording, and bassist Talena Atfield left afterward; Atfield has been replaced by Jennifer Arroyo, formerly of the D.C. band Spine, and roadie Jeff Philips has been playing second guitar with the band live. GLENN TILBROOK 5/7, MARTYRS' The Squeeze front man never made a solo album before, he recently told an interviewer, because he never felt particularly unfulfilled in his old band. But as his longtime writing partner Chris Difford grew dispirited by the music business, Tilbrook began putting together his solo debut, The Incomplete Glenn Tilbrook (Quixotic), with a little help from some other friends: Aimee Mann and Ron Sexsmith cowrote a couple of songs, and the Soft Boys' Andy Metcalfe produced the whole thing. Age is a factor in his lyrics if not his talent--in "Up the Creek," for instance, the protagonist makes a fool of himself dancing with some young thing to songs that're older than she is--but Tilbrook's style, a blend of pale soul and Ray Davies-esque self-effacement, is mostly enhanced by it. Squeeze struck a chord by wrapping jaded bitterness in superficial harmlessness, but Tilbrook is younger than that now; anybody who claims to dislike the wistful politeness of his music or gentle sad humor of his lyrics is trying too hard. This is a solo acoustic show. MOTORHEAD 5/8, HOUSE OF BLUES When it comes to rock 'n' roll, consistency is often a euphemism for predictability, and nobody likes that, right? Unless, of course, your name is practically synonymous with the perfection of a particular form. Over the course of three decades, umpteen sonically similar albums, and a succession of drummers and guitarists, Motorhead bassist, singer, and songwriter Lemmy Kilmister has yet to let the fans down, efficiently providing brutal, catchy rawk at a volume many 56-year-old men can no longer listen to, much less play at. If you've liked any Motorhead record in the past, you'll like the new Hammered (Metal-Is), even with its gratuitous cameo by wrestling star Triple H. Sure, louder and more aggressive metal bands have come and gone over the years--but if that makes Motorhead a dinosaur in any sense, it's that they're a T. rex in a swamp full of crocodiles. LONESOME BOB 5/9, SCHUBAS; 5/10, FITZGERALD'S Not your typical Music City product: a big, bald, biker-looking mofo, "Lonesome" Bob Chaney grew up in New Jersey, played basketball at the University of Pennsylvania, followed the Grateful Dead, and has drummed for Ben Vaughn and accompanied Sally Timms on guitar. And on his second full-length, Things Change (Leap Recordings), he proves that above all he's a songwriter of rare power and personality. He's better recognized by fellow musicians than the public at large: Allison Moorer, Amy Rigby, the Derailers' Mark Horn, and former Wilco drummer Ken Coomer all contribute to the record, and Jon Langford made one of his songs the centerpiece of the first Waco Brothers record and included him on the recent all-star anti-death-penalty compilation The Executioner's Last Songs. But Chaney can probably change that if he keeps bringing his songs directly to the people. They range from tried-and-true country wit ("I Get Smarter Every Drink") to terrifying laments ("Where Are You Tonight?," in which he relives the death of his son) to philosophy lessons learned the hard way ("Forever is an abstract painted on a lie / We say it when we marry, we say it when we die / It provides a line between desperation and belief / A horizon in the distance always out of reach," from "In the Time I Have Left"). There's a vast gulf between good and great, and Lonesome Bob will probably cross it soon, in one giant, confident step. DAVID SYLVIAN 5/9, PARK WEST If you're of a certain generation, you might remember a certain type of guy who considered David Sylvian albums to be almost as important as a bed when it came to getting laid. After the breakup of the new-romantic band Japan, he matured into a sort of thinking man's Bowie, composing slinky, suggestive avant-garde pop. The only problem was, if you were a certain type of girl, you were likely to start measuring your seducer against Sylvian, and honestly, how could any guy you were likely to know compete with that? Elusiveness is part of Sylvian's MO; never a frequent live performer, he's somehow managed to get away with not touring the U.S. for seven years. In June, Virgin will release Damage, a collaboration with Robert Fripp recorded live in London in 1993. Fripp produced a limited-edition 1994 version; Sylvian has remixed it for wider release. It's fey but not effete, muscular but dreamy, and yes, sexy. Virgin will also release Camphor, a double-CD compilation of Sylvian's copious and sinuous instrumental work (including collaborations with Can's Holger Czukay).
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Mark Hunt.