LOVE LIFE 10/4, EMPTY BOTTLE The city of Baltimore lays claim to Edgar Allan Poe, though he lived much of his life elsewhere. Perhaps they'll be equally proud of their genuinely local genius John Waters after he's dead too. Rattling and creaking like the prematurely buried, yet chest beating and toe sucking like the gloriously trashy, this Charm City quartet proudly stuffs both heritages into their gothic grab bag, with Katrina Ford wailing like a drag-queen banshee. And like Poe, these relocated members of Jaks aren't really from Baltimore. Their second album, Here Is Night, Brothers, Here the Birds Burn (Jagjaguwar), came out this summer. REX HOBART & THE MISERY BOYS 10/4, SCHUBAS There's nothing "alt" about the country music on Your Favorite Fool (Bloodshot). Produced by Dwight Yoakam's longtime collaborator Pete Anderson, Hobart's third album loosens up its hard honky-tonk with a touch of rockabilly swing, a pinch of sophisticated heartache from Kelly Hogan (who duets with Hobart on George Jones and Tammy Wynette's "Golden Ring"), and the twining pedal-steel garlands of Solomon Hofer. SUBARACHNOID SPACE 10/4, HIDEOUT The Terrastock festival, organized by the splendid British psych zine the Ptolemaic Terrascope, takes place this October in Boston, but it does the whole country good. The fest encourages many of the finest artists in underground psychedelic music to get their shit together for at least one weekend; many figure they might as well tour a bit since they're already out of the house. San Francisco's SubArachnoid Space doesn't hit the road often (though more often than Ghost, below). Founded in 1996, the instrumental quartet specializes nowadays in the long haul, the epic jam, the coming-on-you-slowly freak-out, the warp and woof of wahwah. Guitarists Mason Jones and Melynda Jackson meet on a windswept plain of the cold and colorful planet Trip, their dueling lightsabers leaving incandescent trails. The band's latest release is Tigris and Euphrates (Camera Obscura), a split full-length with Bardo Pond that one-ups the traditional split seven-inch--the two bands contribute one song each, a sprawling full-side epic. SubArachnoid's last traditional album was their seventh, These Things Take Time (2000, Release), recorded live for radio and showing off what Jones can do with his effects pedals when he stretches out. Grimble Grumble, Chicago's best psychedelic band, opens. GHOST 10/5, EMPTY BOTTLE Must be an odd sense of time at the Ghost House, the headquarters of this musical commune in Japan. I imagine a wonderful faerie place where the music and the fashions could be 2002 or 1967, where long hair and beautiful acid folk are the rule, where Masaki Batoh meditates on his guitar while others toodle about on vibes and harmonium and recorder. Maybe guitarist Michio Kurihara has brought frequent collaborators Damon & Naomi to visit and they're jamming in a corner. Maybe there's a piece of potentially infinite music constantly streaming, like the Reichian "Daggma," from the band's latest album, Snuffbox Immanence (Drag City, released in 1999), which threatens to erupt into an electric storm. Maybe once you enter the song, time in the outside world moves differently. Such a temporal glitch would explain why Ghost is just now touring the U.S. behind Snuffbox. This is the full band's first Chicago show since 1997, and if it's a third as good as the last you'll be telling youngsters about it 20 years from now, and it will seem like yesterday. PUERTO MUERTO 10/5, HIDEOUT I sang the praises of this local duo's first album, Your Bloated Corpse Has Washed Ashore, in its raw demo form two years ago, and was gratified to see it released on the West Virginia-based Actiondriver label earlier this year as a tight, polished package--well, as tight and polished as this duo is likely to get. Less bleak and country gothic than the draft, the finished version highlights the sing-along, sea chantey, and narrative aspects of Tim Kelley's broke-down cabaret and Christa Meyer's elastic voice. Though they've been playing these songs around town for ages, there's no shortage of new material: two new albums are planned for December and March. VHS OR BETA 10/5, METRO Call me a Luddite, but my biggest problem with dance clubs and much of their music is that grooving to a mechanized prerecorded beat when I can't see the creators of the music makes me feel puppetmastered. Give me a big Afrofunk band like Antibalas up there onstage so those of us on the floor feel like we're part of something communal, not the dupes of some mysterious ProTools savant who's never seen the club we're in. (Note to DJs who really work it--aurally if not visually--as live performers: I don't mean you.) Louisville's VHS or Beta offer a simple solution to my problem: they look and play like a rock band, but they sound like groovy space disco. Their new Le Funk (On!) has an inescapable retro quality--and even, on the live "Teenage Dancefloor," what I can only call jam-bandiness. But for all their contrived and stylish antistyle, there are signs of human life. Headlining is Cinerama, the newest project of David Gedge, once of the Wedding Present. Ballboy also performs; see Critic's Choice. XIU XIU 10/6, EMPTY BOTTLE Emerging not exactly out of nowhere, but from somewhere in its immediate environs, this San Jose band's debut, Knife Play (5 Rue Christine), is one of the avant-pop surprises of the year. Their sound is clangy and drippy, misty and prickly, mixing from a vast store of strings, bells, harmoniums, mandolins, and horns (which the band members trade among themselves) to create a fever-dream update of the classic 4AD sound. Their new EP, Chapel of the Chimes (Absolutely Kosher), raises the stakes and the tension with four spiky originals and a version of "Ceremony" that almost reconciles the matter/antimatter Joy Division/New Order dichotomy. MOONEY SUZUKI, SAHARA HOTNIGHTS 10/9, METRO Blustering across the nation on the strength of their hit Electric Sweat (on Gammon, recorded in Detroit for authenticity), the Mooney Suzuki are as responsible as anyone else for Entertainment Weekly's discovery of sweaty garage rock. This sound is currently so inescapable, I'm starting to wonder whether I really would rather hear a mediocre garage band than a mediocre Creed wannabe. You can get that creeping one-from-column-A-one-from-column-B feeling about any genre, no matter how much passion is its stock-in-trade--and not many cats are grayer in the dark than these guys. But the hype machine is leaving the Mooney Suzuki behind. Surpassing them as up-and-coming cuties is the all-female Swedish band Sahara Hotnights. Rip-roaring in a Hivesy way, the ladies landed their second album, Jennie Bomb (Jetset), at number one on the CMJ list. Guess Sweden is the new Detroit.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Mitsuhiro Hiruma.