EYES ADRIFT 10/18, SCHUBAS On Eyes Adrift's eponymous Spinart debut, Krist Novoselic, Curt Kirkwood, and Sublime's Bud Gaugh are less a three-man band than friendly participants in a three-way tug-of-war. Kirkwood yanks the music into Meat Puppetsy terrain, but there's also a dollop of modern-rock oomph here, the sort designed to fill rooms bigger than those the Puppets generally played prior to their association with Nirvana. The sound is expansive and warm and shockingly earnest--a reminder that although alt-rock's class of '92 is forever associated with irony because of its alums' sarcastic takes on stardom, government, and money, those kids took their rock 'n' roll pretty damn seriously. Kirkwood sounds like time has barely passed on his sunny stoner porch, while Novoselic's vocals sometimes shoot for Eddie Vedder's histrionic heights but usually settle into a Tom Petty drawl. The final track stretches to the 15-minute mark with a languorous, easy-walkin' bit of space guitar that isn't out to impress anybody with its hit-making potential. Hardly life-changing stuff, but its amiable wallop beats the Foo Fighters' manipulative thud by a Greyhound mile. LOS LOBOS 10/19, RIVIERA Los Lobos: original rock en español (though they rocked a lot en ingles too) or original indie roots rock? Discuss. With one mid-80s addition, these are the same guys who were playing barbecues and barrio parties in East LA in 1973. Their new Good Morning Aztlan (Mammoth) rides on plump, bouncy tires through the familiar neighborhoods of R & B, traditional Mexican populist forms, and progressive indie rock with intimate assurance. Having digested the playful but imposing experimentation of Colossal Head and Kiko, here the Wolves are very much in crowd-pleasing pop mode. (The disc's generous package includes a bonus CD with two additional songs and a video documentary of the recording process.) Which isn't to say they're taking it easy--there's no shortcut to the depth evident on "Tony y Maria." How many other bands could pluck two characters from their watershed (1985's How Will the Wolf Survive?) and check back in on their lives 17 years later? WACO BROTHERS 10/19, FITZGERALD'S I grew up listening to my dad wonder why so many working-class people consistently voted against what he considered their own interests. Now I wonder myself. Why on earth would anyone with an income below six figures, let alone someone with a precarious livelihood, ever vote Republican? Is the symbolic power of the cowboy hat and the Bible quote really strong enough to override rational considerations about antilabor and procorporate policies? So let's hear it for that persistent strain of country music that's kept its political wits about it--and so what if one of its best practitioners nowadays is a Welshman and a punk? The new Waco Brothers album is called New Deal (Bloodshot). With its WPA iconography and Posada-skulled centerpiece rendered pomo and scary, Jon Langford's cover art suits our dark age. The record, for all its rollicking moments, is similarly eerie and elegiac, full of death and ghosts and liquor and regret. Rather than riding off into the sunset, embattled songs of class consciousness like "New Deal Blues" seek beauty in despair. This is a release party. YAKUZA 10/19, EMPTY BOTTLE Well, if a reviewer for the Wire holds up a metal album as an example of some of the most exciting and innovative rock being made today, surely some revolution in hipster thinking will result, right? I wish. Yakuza's second full-length, Way of the Dead (Century Media), isn't just a breath of fresh air--it'll clear out your sinuses quicker than a snort of wasabi. The band's wicked metal fusion, simultaneously eloquent and brutal, reminds me of a bunch of radically different artists--Pantera, Borbetomagus, and Rush, for starters. The band incorporates both Tibetan and metal-style throat singing, lures Ken Vandermark into a duel to the death with resident saxist Bruce Lamont, and, after seven tracks of savage prog no old-school Black Flag fan could hate, closes with a 45-minute space jam I can only describe as cold fusion. This is a release party. J MASCIS 10/20, ABBEY PUB Any extreme sports practitioner can yab on at great length about the spirituality of his chosen adrenaline rush, but skydiving may have something genuinely celestial to it--I mean, you are in the sky. (And as someone who doesn't care much for being inside airplanes, I find an eagerness to jump out of them a special kind of truly magical stupid.) But though J Mascis's new album with the Fog, Free So Free (Ultimatum), is a celebration of high altitude death defiance, J's soar-above-the-plod sound is more classic rock for my demographic than a real leap. Only "Someone Said" plunges into new sonic space, locating a quiet grandeur in its airy acoustic guitars and soft synthesizer washes. But if what you're really looking for is a Dinosaur Jr reunion, lock yourself in the club and wait for Lou Barlow's set on Monday. HELLA 10/23, SCHUBAS Hella is a guitar-and-drum duo from Sacramento that recently released its first full-length, Hold Your Horse Is (5RC). It's a monster. The songs are so twitchy and restless it's hard to believe that Spencer Seim is the only guitar player here, while Zach Hill is one of a very short list of rock(ish) drummers I'd really want to hear taking a long solo. They've already toured with Lightning Bolt. Now somebody pair these guys off with Spock's Beard--if there must be so much gentle fusion in this world, can't it at least share a bill with the less gentle kind? FRANK BLACK 10/24, DOUBLE DOOR This is a great week for late-80s/early-90s nostalgics--and you know who you are. For all the contempt Gen X once heaped upon wistful boomers, there's now a depressing amount of murmuring about how there's no one around these days as riveting as Nirvana or the Pixies. Sad truth: to lots of people, rock 'n' roll will never sound as good as it did when they were 18, and the specific bands who happened to be rocking the worlds of some people at some pivotal generational moment will always be ensconced in somebody's canon somewhere. The Pixies actually aren't in mine--I find Frank Black more interesting with the Catholics, where he's wriggled loose from band-of-the-moment scrutiny and is free to be a cultic old weirdo out in the wilderness. Black Letter Days and Devil's Workshop, the two albums Black released simultaneously on Spinart this year, revolve thematically around escape, and the rootsy riff rock surges like it means to plow through a coffeehouse wall from the inside and disperse itself like a wind into the desert outside. GREENHORNES 10/24, EMPTY BOTTLE These much-buzzed Cincinnatians, now on their first headlining tour behind their second album, Dual Mono (Telstar), seem more like refugees from the mid-80s garage revival than exemplars of the current one--their sound is so perfectly retro it has the energy of a brand-new rediscovery. Organ-driven and grimy, their neo-Animals and fledgling Yardbirds moves combine the energy of youth with the bitterness of old souls so well they almost sound British. One of my favorite albums in this nongenre this year, Dual Mono sounds like a living thing in itself, not a painting from a photograph of someone else's music.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Mark Van S..