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VINYL EXCLAMATION

One of the books I'm currently reading is called Vinyl Junkies, written by Brett Milano. It's a compendium of anecdotes and theories about why people collect records, or more accurately, why people obsessively collect records, and why they prefer vinyl over CDs. The theories range from the sensual (the smell of vinyl; records are more tactile than CDs and sound better) to the scientific (anal retentiveness and lack of seratonin fuel collectors), and anyone who still owns, and uses, a turntable in the 21st century will surely find a lot to identify with in the book's pages. (Alternately, it could serve as a gift to a record collector's mom to prove that her son/daughter wasn't quite so crazy to blow all his/her paychecks on records after all.)

I mention this because the three bands playing a bill at Club Congress on Wednesday, July 21, would surely appreciate the book, as all three still see to it that their respective releases are released on vinyl.

Headlining is Gravy Train!!!!, who have just released a three-song, vinyl-only 12-inch single called "Ghost Boobs," and whose press kit explains the group "hopes their preemie fanbase will be inspired to buy record players with their allowance money or go and shoplift one to play this record (and then go out and buy thousands of other records that are not available on CD!!)." (They like their exclamation points, those Gravy Trainers.) Musically, the band mixes programmed drum beats, cheesy organ and bratty femme-punk vocals for what sounds like a highway pile-up of cars driven by Quintron, Bis and the BLTs.

When I interviewed The Knockout Pills for an article in these pages last year, their self-titled debut album had just been released, and the thing they seemed most jazzed about it was that it was released on vinyl. And you can bet that the follow-up, much of which has already been recorded and is slated for release on Estrus, will follow suit.

The Okmoniks, meanwhile, have always tried to steer clear of releasing their music on CD (though they finally succumbed last year with a tour CD called Keepin' Up With The Okmoniks). They've just released a limited edition (500 copies) vinyl-only 7-inch EP called Compact 33 (so named because it plays at 33 1/3 rpm to allow the inclusion of seven songs), which is probably the best slab o' wax they've put out yet. The sound hasn't changed--they're still cranking out the same brand of organ-driven, '60s-inspired garage punk they always have--but the songs are simply better this time around, catchier and more fully realized. Get it while you can; that is, as long as you've got a turntable to play it on.

Gravy Train!!!!, The Knockout Pills and The Okmoniks perform an all-ages show at 9 p.m. Wednesday, July 21. Club Congress is located at 311 E. Congress St. Admission is $5. For more information, call 622-8848.


FLASH MOBS

La Cerca's Andy Gardner has been working overtime booking barely-on-the-radar bands that are largely worth investigating for Club La Nuit at Flash Gallery. A pair of shows this week bear the fruits of his labor.

The Prids, who come to us from Portland, Ore., via Lincoln, Neb., followed up a pair of EPs last year with their debut full-length, Love Zero (Luminal). The album merges a new wave aesthetic with shoegaze guitars, brooding basslines a la Joy Division, busy drumming, '80s synths and deceptively peppy male/female harmonies. Perfect monsoon listening.

Judging from their three EPs and new 7-inch, Prids labelmates and Portland homies Green Circles have also been listening to their Joy Division records, but they've also thrown the occasional Wire and Fall albums into the mix. Still, they're original enough to avoid base mimicry. Expect their debut full-length in the winter of this year.

The Prids, Green Circles, and Mainframe perform at 9 p.m. Sunday, July 18. Flash Gallery is located at 310 E. Congress St.

Two days later, the gallery hosts Seattle's The Pale, whose third album, Gravity Gets Things Done (2004, Sidecho), bears 12 tracks of sentimental indie-pop along the lines of Death Cab for Cutie. It's chock full of pretty melodies that are abetted by warm keyboards, and fits squarely into what most people call emo these days.

They'll be at Club La Nuit at Flash Gallery at 9 p.m. Tuesday, July 20.


MEXICO MAESTROS

Upon the release of Cafe Tacuba's Cuatro Caminos (Four Roads) last year, one music journalist asked, "Is it possible that the best band in the world is from Mexico?" while another dubbed the album, "the Rock en Español Kid A." Backhanded though they are, both statements were meant to be compliments.

The truth is, there really isn't another band around like Cafe Tacuba. The quartet is brazenly eclectic, mixing rock, jazz, ska, folk, punk and just about anything else that suits its unique musical vision, changing the (lack of) formula with each release. As for Cuatro Caminos, the Kid A comparison likely stems more from the album's quirky production, courtesy of knob-twiddling masters Dave Fridmann (Flaming Lips, Mercury Rev) and Andrew Weiss (Ween), than it does the music contained within. In fact, Cuatro Caminos, despite its far-reaching singular elements and experimental nature, is far more accessible and joyous than the last few Radiohead releases.

The best band in the world? Check 'em out and decide for yourself when Cafe Tacuba performs at the AVA Amphitheater at Casino Del Sol, 5655 W. Valencia Road, Tuesday, July 20. Advance tickets are available for $20 (reserved seating) or $15 (lawn) at all Ticketmaster outlets, at ticketmaster.com or 321-1000. The show begins at 7 p.m. with openers Maldita Vecindad and Ely Guerra. For further details, call 883-1700 or visit avaconcerts.com.

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