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C'MON GET HAPPY: Man, talk about irony. The new album from Glasgow's Mogwai is called Happy Songs for Happy People, which is doubly ironic 'cause not only are these songs not very happy, these songs aren't really songs. But, as anyone who's familiar with them knows (except those who write them off as pretentious, Scottish twits, anyway), in the case of Mogwai, that's not a bad thing.

What the band has perfected instead of songs (Mogwai mostly trade in instrumentals) are albums that flow seamlessly along their own path in dynamic fashion: drony, narcotic, repetitive, quiet passages ebb and flow, slowly building into dramatic and powerful crescendos--sometimes, anyway. Sometimes they just drift off into the next passage, and then, before you even have a chance to check what track number you're on, the album is over.

Presto! You've just spent 44 minutes staring at the wall, lost in heavy-duty, booty-numbing thought, with Mogwai's spacey sonic bliss as your soundtrack. Now get outside and go for a bike ride or something, willya?

If you're partial to the slow build of bands like Godspeed You Black Emperor! or the Dirty Three, don't miss this. Word has it that the shows on the band's current tour--whose only Arizona stop is Tucson--have been the best of Mogwai's career.

Openers Isis do the very same thing (sorta), except they never get quite as dreamy as Mogwai, and their crescendos pummel you with relentlessly chugging guitars, and throat-shredding screams. Sorta like if Mogwai yelled more and recorded for Amphetamine Reptile (Isis resides on Ipecac; Mogwai on Matador).

Mogwai and Isis perform at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 18, at the Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St. Admission is $12. For more information, dial up 884-0874.


SEXY BOYS: Toss the Constantines' latest, Shine a Light (2003, Sub Pop), into the CD changer, listen to the first song, and you're tempted to write 'em off as yet another jumper on the angular, post-punk bandwagon. Keep listening, though, and things get mighty different.

Read any review of the band, and you'll eventually get to the line that calls them "Joe Strummer fronting Fugazi," or, alternately, "Bruce Springsteen fronting Fugazi." In spots, it's hard to argue with either. But such simple deductions leave much out: inventive arrangements that employ lots of organ, plus strings and horns for punctuation, and are far more varied in tone than Fugazi's; lyrics that work as great poetry on the written page (think about it--rarer than you think); a refreshing lack of pretentiousness; singer/guitarist Bry Webb's fucking amazing voice, which, in addition to the aforementioned comparisons, leaves lipstick traces of Britt Daniel, while managing a soulful earthiness all its own; not to mention the sheer sensuality of the big picture.

Better yet, let's do mention it.

You know how everyone always talks about how sexy Girls Against Boys are? How they make you want to get drunk in a smoky dive bar, then go home and fuck 'til you're dry? Well, frankly, I never got it. The Constantines are the band that I always wanted GvsB to be.

The Constantines open for ex-Propagandhi frontman John K Samson's new band, the Weakerthans, on Saturday, Sept. 20, at Skrappy's, 201 E Broadway. The all-ages show kicks off at 7 p.m. with sets from ROY and Camp Courageous. Questions? Call 358-4287.


APPETITE FOR TROUBLE: Oft compared to the Gun Club on their latest album, Get Well Soon (2003, Gold Standard Laboratories), Los Angeles' the Starvations come off like shady urban vampires with a mighty hefty thirst for moonshine, which is to say, they sound a lot like a twangier version of the Bad Seeds, with a bit of a Celtic touch tossed in, as they warble their tales of substance abuse and its attendant relationship problems.

The Starvations perform two shows on Tuesday, Sept. 23. The early, all-ages show starts at 7 p.m. at Skrappy's, 201 E. Broadway, with the band opening for the Mean Reds, along with the Knockout Pills, the Okmoniks and Annexia. Later that night, the 21-and-over crowd can enjoy a delicious alcoholic beverage (or nine) while watching the Okmoniks and the Mean Reds open for the Starvations at about 9:30 at Vaudeville Cabaret, 110 E. Congress St. You can reach Skrappy's at 358-4287 and Vaudeville at 622-3535.


COME, ALL YE FAITHFUL: Through their many appearances here in the last few years, Chicago's Oh My God have won over hoards of musically adventurous Tucsonans. Equipped with a powerful and flabbergastingly precise drummer, in Bish; a former blues organist who once worked with the likes of Junior Wells, Van Morrison, and Buddy Guy, but who now often distorts his rig to the point of sounding more like a fuzzed-out Stratocaster, and goes by the name of Iguana; and singer and sometimes-bassist Bill O'Neill, whose dramatic flair and passionate vocals seem at first somewhat incongruent, but make perfect, tweaked sense a couple minutes in, the band is quirky as all get-out (whatever the hell that means). So, yeah, it's arty, but it's damn infectious, too. If you're one of the few locals who hasn't been converted by Oh My God yet, chances are you haven't seen 'em perform.

Oh My God appear at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St., on Friday, Sept. 19. Chango Malo open at 9:30 p.m., and cover is five bucks. For further details, call 798-1298.


GOING ON INSTINCT: The masses that turned out for Denali's two previous Tucson appearances bought up the band's debut self-titled album (2002, Jade Tree) in droves, and were almost universally disappointed. They played the disc for their friends, who offered up a halfhearted, "Yeah, that's pretty good," to which the disc's owner countered with, "Man, you should have seen 'em live." Such is the case all too often with bands who record their first album before truly gelling as a unit.

Good news comes, then, in the form of Denali's second album, The Instinct, scheduled to be released Oct. 28, also on Jade Tree. (Don't let the band's label fool you; there may be a flood of emotion in Denali's sound, but they're most certainly not emo.) The disc far better captures the tension-and-release of the band's stellar live performances than the debut, and singer/pianist/guitarist Maura Davis' classically trained soprano is jaw-droppingly gorgeous and placed front-and-center in the mix, exactly where it belongs, while the band's lush backing veers from ambient minimalism to wall-of-sound density as needed.

And if they're already selling them at the show, be sure to pick up a copy of The Instinct. You won't be disappointed this time around.

Denali perform an all-ages show on Sunday, Sept. 21, at Solar Culture Gallery, 31 E. Toole Ave. Mala Vita and Electric Turn To Me open at 9 p.m. Admission is $7. For bonus info call 884-0874.


SKY HIGH: Brooding and expansive, ominous and atmospheric, Chicago five-piece Low Skies sound something like a post-post-punk version of the Doors one minute, and a whole lot like the horribly underrated Idaho the next. The band's debut album, The Bed (2003, Flameshovel), is cocksure enough to meander down dangerous, deserted back alleys at 4 in the morning, but human enough to be scared to death by what it finds. The perfect accompaniment to a solitary, late-night desert road trip.

Low Skies perform on Thursday, Sept. 18, at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St. Cathy Rivers opens at 9:30 p.m. Cover is $3. That number again is 798-1298.


LOVE YOUR COUNTRY: Whoda thunk, after Brooks & Dunn's "Boot Scootin' Boogie" first appeared back in 1991, that the mustachioed duo would go any way but follow Billy Ray Cyrus' mullet into one-hit wonder purgatory? Damn if they haven't become one of the biggest acts in mainstream country music. Fresh off an appearance at last weekend's Farm Aid XXVI, B&D are set to headline this week's KIIM-FM Country Music Festival (couldn't they have come up with a name with a little more, um, pizzazz?). Also on the bill are Jamie O'Neal, Dierks Bentley, Mindy McCready and Troy Olsen. The fest starts kickin' up dust at around 3 p.m. (gates at 2 p.m.) on Saturday, Sept. 20, at the Pima County Fairgrounds (take Exit 275 at Houghton Road off Interstate 10). Advance tix are available for $25 at all Chuy's locations, online at www.calproductions.com, or by phone at 1-800-514-ETIX. For more info, call 887-1000.


THAT VOODOO HE DO SO WELL: Scott Aaron Wexton, better known to lovers of spooky organ kitsch as the Voodoo Organist, brings his one-man band act back to town this week in support of his latest cobwebbed platter, The Return of the Voodoo Organist (2003, Witch Doctor). Heavily inspired by Screamin' Jay Hawkins, the VO was described last year in these pages by Gene Armstrong as "the sound of a Sunday-morning church service in hell's own roller rink."

The Voodoo Organist performs at 9:30 on Tuesday, Sept. 23, in the lounge at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St. Call 798-1298 for details.


CORRECTION: In the Aug. 28 edition of Soundbites, we misspelled Derek Leveque's name. Additionally, Last Call Brawlers bassist Eric Eulberg and Cathy Woolridge, of Skrappy's, should have been given equal credit along with Joey Siedel for organizing the benefits for the families of Leveque and Fred Janis. We sincerely apologize for the error and omissions.

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