NOT ONLY DO these Kansas City alt-country upstarts walk the walk -- they have names like Rex, Vince, Solomon, Black Jack and J.B., and incorporate liberal doses of pedal steel, dobro and Telecaster in their tunes -- they talk the talk, too. Just the song titles alone are worthy of placard inscriptions: "Between A Rock and A Heartache," "Make Me Hate You Before You Go" and (best of all) "I Walked In While He Was Changing Your Mind." We're talking major cry-in-your-beer stuff. Hobart is blessed with a sweet, supple tenor descended from George Jones that scales emotional highs and lows with a naked honesty. His Misery Boys serve up a honky-tonk brew that's deceptively upbeat one minute (the choogling, twangy "I Always Cry At Weddings"), sleek and mid-tempo the next ("I'll Never Sleep It Off," which recalls classic Gram Parsons & The Fallen Angels), and desolation-row slow the next (the gulping-tear eulogy for love called "Cupid's Little Arrow"). Like Hobart's vocals, the music never seems forced no matter what the style -- clearly, a group that has soaked up its influences but isn't content to merely rewind and replay.
-- Fred Mills
Rex Hobart & The Misery Boys perform Wednesday, October 6, at 7 Black Cats, 260 E. Congress St. For details, call 670-9202.
A POWER TRIO that redefines the term "explosive," Chicago's Nerves (no relation to the late '70s powerpop combo of the same name) fuse classic '60s rave-up R&B motifs -- as filtered through Pretty Things and Yardbirds -- to the proto-punk skronk of mid '70s Detroit, Clevo, NYC and Australia, then update it for the Blues Explosion generation. And this, their second album, is thrilling as hell. All reports have the band being equally dynamic onstage, erupting through a wall of sound that leaves concert-goers' ears ringing for days.
Highlights? "Get Me High," which sounds like Tom Verlaine barking out marching orders while the band riffs on a bastardized Sonny Boy Williamson chord progression; "Looking Into Fire," a moody slice of noir blues-pop in the Pere Ubu vein; the title track, a complex, suite-like number that sizzles in its own fetid stew; and "Live All," whose throbbing-temple bassline, angular guitar riffs and insistent maraca actually come closer to the Stones than Jon Spencer did when he was exploring similar territory in Pussy Galore. Like the saying goes, if you buy but one punk album all year....
-- Fred Mills
Nerves performs Tuesday, October 5, at Double Zero, 121 E. Congress St. Call the club at 670-9332 for details.
BEING A LONGTIME fan of Calvin Johnson and Jon Spencer, I snatched this up the day it hit the shelves. However, I soon realized that it wasn't really the entire DNSS (responsible for this year's overlooked and just plain ass-kicking Out of Your Mind), but rather, Calvin along with (sometimes) DNSS organist Jeff Smith. That aside, this is a pretty interesting mix of two interesting, yet completely different bands. But do they pull it off? That depends if the glass is half empty or half full. If you're looking for Mr. Spencer to be redeemed after this year's limp ACME, keep looking. On the other hand, if you want to hear a recording of loose jamming culled from the K Records shelves, this could be for you. Picture the JSBX doing their thang while Spencer repetitively yells out people's names, etc. alongside Calvin's patented monotone talking/singing style and you've got yerself some definite Sideways Soul.
-- Brian Mock