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GET THE POINT

While it began as a side project for Three Mile Pilot's Amistead Burwell Smith IV and Rob Crow (Thingy, the horribly overlooked Heavy Vegetable), Pinback's tremendous success has transformed the band into a full-time entity. Early releases focused on the band's trademarked chiming, dual-guitar volleys, which were pleasant enough in a pastoral manner, but often fell into a trap of sameness. But with the release of this year's Summer in Abbadon (Touch and Go), the band's songs have grown far more complex while retaining a similar sound. In contrast to the days of yore, the songs are now fully distinguishable from one another, even if they're not as instantly catchy. Instead, they're delicate, slightly jazzy in a Sea and Cake sort of way and, above all, pleasant.

Expect a slightly more rockin' outing than this would suggest when Pinback performs at an all-ages show on Friday, Dec. 3, at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St. Openers The Album Leaf and The Advantage start things off at 9 p.m. Advance tickets are available for $9 at the venue or online at www.hotcong.com. They'll be $11 on the day of the show. Questions? Call 622-8848.


WHAT A WICKED SHOW

It's tough to dislike Chris Isaak. He's good-looking but smart enough to balance it out with a self-deprecating wit, and his music is reverent toward its old-fashioned sources (Roy Orbison, skinny Elvis) without coming off as shtick. He just seems to do everything right, the bastard.

With backing band Silvertone in tow, Isaak arrives in town this week to celebrate his new Christmas album, ingeniously titled Christmas. Ever the neo-traditionalist, the release includes five original songs in addition to his take on 11 holiday classics, one of which--"Santa Claus Is Coming to Town"--is a duet with Phoenician Stevie Nicks. And while his performance is being billed as a seasonal performance, you can bet he'll trot out classics like "Wicked Game" and "Baby Did a Bad, Bad Thing," as well.

Chris Isaak performs on Saturday, Dec. 4, at AVA at Casino del Sol, 5655 W. Valencia Road. Openers Kyle Riabko and Keaton Simmons start this early show off at 4 p.m. Advance tickets ($40 and $30 reserved; $9.29 lawn) are available at all Ticketmaster locations, online at www.ticketmaster.com, or by phone at 321-1000. For more info, call 883-1700 or log onto www.avaconcerts.com.


HAND JOB

So, you enjoy bowling, but you're tired of throwing out your back. You used to like darts until you stuck one in the back of your girlfriend's head, thus engendering a fear of all sharp objects. Playing pool was once fun, but you just don't like working up that kind of a sweat. And all your friends have fallen prey to Texas Hold 'Em fever, but your broke ass just can't afford the buy-in. What to do, what to do?

Lucky for you, the folks at Plush and PineCone Productions have got your back: Prepare yourselves for The All Tucson Rock Paper Scissors Tournament. Contestants will battle it out head-to-head in elimination-style play, in three sets of three throws, and the eventual winner will walk away with a cool $100, not to mention bragging rights until the next tournament rolls around. Organizers are quick to point out that while the tournament is not officially sanctioned or governed by the World Rock Paper Scissors Society (www.worldrps.com), all rules and regulations set forth by the World RPS will be strictly adhered to. Oh yeah, since this is a music column, we should probably mention that The Deludes will be on hand to provide exciting rock 'n' roll music for your listening enjoyment.

It all goes down on Wednesday, Dec. 8, at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St. Registration begins at 8 p.m., and competition will start at 9 p.m. There's a $2 cover to watch, or $4 to participate. Call 798-1298 for further details. Good luck.


MIRACLE WORKER

Olympia, Wash., singer-songwriter Mirah (full name: Mirah Yom Tov Zeitlyn) has certainly had a busy year. First, with the March release of To All We Stretch the Open Arm (YoYo), credit her with being one of the first musical artists to release an anti-war album in the current political climate. (It was recorded last year, at a time when the whole country seemed to be populated by nothing but yes-men.) A collaboration with Seattle's Black Cat Orchestra, the ambitious and uplifting project is largely a collection of covers of songs by a wide range of composers, from Bob Dylan and Stephen Foster to Amodei and Guarany, sung in several different languages. Then, just two months later, she-of-the-honeyed-throat released C'mon Miracle, a solo album proper, on K Records. Whereas her earlier solo releases were brilliant in their diverse, scattershot way, Miracle is said to be a more mature, traditional work. Regardless, Mirah is always interesting at the least, completely enchanting at her best.

Also on the bill are 50-cent Nose, a side project featuring Kee and Dawn Copps of Sugarbush, and singer-songwriter Amy Rude.

The all-ages show begins at 9 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 8, at Solar Culture, 31 E. Toole Ave. Admission is $6. For more information, call 884-0874.


A SHOT OF EVERCLEAR

Everclear is a band that benefited greatly from their time and place: the Pacific Northwest in the mid-'90s. In the aftermath of grunge fever, when sincerity was placed on a pedestal as a reaction to the vacant hair-metal it replaced, Everclear couldn't have fit the bill any better. With effective if obvious hooks, the band's songs were almost painfully sincere.

Re-evaluation comes in the form of the recently released Ten Years Gone: The Best of Everclear 1994-2004. While a song like "Santa Monica" still holds up after hundreds of listens (it's as enjoyably catchy today as it was 10 years ago), many of the tracks here sound surprisingly dated, the once-admirable sincerity now gone the way of hamfisted earnestness. They're well-intentioned enough, but you just can't help cringing occasionally. "AM Radio," for example, intended to be a celebration of growing up listening to the glorious pop music of the '70s, instead is merely a horrible white-boy rap that ends up being a hollow gimmick. Check out some other song titles--"Heroin Girl," "Sex With a Movie Star (The Good Witch Gone Bad)," "Volvo Driving Soccer Mom"--to get the idea. The band certainly has their charms; unfortunately, the crap outweighs them by a wide ratio.

Everclear perform an early, all-ages show (doors open at 5 p.m.) on Saturday, Dec. 4 at City Limits, 6350 E. Tanque Verde Road. Avion and Michael Tolcher open. All tickets are $26 and may be purchased in advance at the venue, all Ticketmaster outlets, www.ticketmaster.com, or by calling 321-1000. For more 411, call 733-6262.


ON THE BANDWAGON

It seems like we say this every time they come to town, but if you've never seen Austin's Asylum Street Spankers live, do yourself a favor and check them out. Seriously--you won't be disappointed, no matter your musical taste. They'll be at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St., on Wednesday, Dec. 8. The Fashionistas open at 9 p.m. Cover is $7. That number again is 622-8848.

Just two short weeks after her former Royal Trux/life partner, Neil Hagerty, performed in town, Jennifer Herrema brings her patented rawk swagger and her new band, RTX, to Plush, 340 E. Sixth St., in support of their debut album, Transmaniacon (2004, Drag City). Catch 'em at 11:30 p.m. next Thursday, Dec. 9. Cover is $9, and the number to dial with questions is 798-1298.

Half of the fun of seeing Dick Dale perform live is witnessing the surf-guitar legend still shred on his classics. The other half comes from him talking about how he's a surf-guitar legend, referring to himself in third-person all the while. He'll be at City Limits, 6350 E. Tanque Verde Road, on Thursday, Dec. 9. Del Castillo opens at 9 p.m. All tickets are $15 and may be purchased in advance at the venue, all Ticketmaster locations, www.ticketmaster.com, or by calling 321-1000. 733-6262 is the number for more info.

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