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GETTING AN EARFUL

It's a mighty busy week for live music in the ol' Old Pueblo, so I'll cram as much of it into this space as I can. As always, be sure to check out our listings for more good stuff that simply wouldn't fit.


CALENDAR BOYS

Who could have predicted just a couple years ago that indie-rock bands like Spoon or The Arcade Fire would be played on the radio and MTV--not to mention The O.C. ? Modest Mouse have a platinum album hanging on their walls, fer chrissake. Is there even such a thing as a rock underground anymore? The popularity of all things indie now seems like a foregone conclusion--not unlike that of nu metal a few years ago (and where are you now, Fred Durst?). Just try to find a magazine these days that doesn't have Death Cab for Cutie on its cover.

I, for one, am thrilled. It's nice to find bands who have paid their dues for years finally get the attention and success for which they have worked so hard. But perhaps more importantly, I take it as a sign that people are getting smarter. Take, for example, the Decemberists, a Portland, Ore., band whose songs are some of the most literary out there right now--which, until recently, would have translated into "cult success," if any sort of success at all. But this week, the band will perform at the Rialto Theatre, which is quite a jump from their previous two shows at Plush just last year.

Singer-guitarist-songwriter Colin Meloy is a creative-writing graduate, and his songs betray that fact. A bit precious at times, and with a predilection toward nautical themes, Meloy's songs are highbrow to the max. (He has said that if it weren't for his musical idols, Robyn Hitchcock and Morrissey, he wouldn't be writing songs at all.) Take for example, a somewhat randomly selected couplet from 2003's Her Majesty the Decemberists' (Kill Rock Stars) "Song for Myla Goldberg," an ode to the Bee Season author: "Pretty hands do pretty things when pretty times arise / Seraphim in seaweed swim where stick-limbed Myla lies." It's a far cry from "I did it all for the nookie," to be sure. And musically, the band is equally risky; as Gene Armstrong wrote in these pages last year, "Meloy's balladry brings to mind vaudeville, ragtime, Tin Pan Alley, 'Sweeney Todd,' the Victorian and Edwardian eras, Kurt Weill and Nick Cave, 1960s psychedelic rock pop and roaring pub sing-alongs."

The Decemberists' latest album is Picaresque, released earlier this year on Kill Rock Stars. It's the band's most accessible yet, even as it follows 2004's The Tain EP (Acuarela Discos), which consisted of a single, nearly 20-minute prog-influenced song broken into five parts--not exactly the sort of thing that's going to storm the Billboard charts (though it did make my year-end Top 10 list).

The Decemberists perform on Saturday, Sept. 17, at the Rialto, 318 E. Congress St. Sons and Daughters open the all-ages show at 8:30 p.m. Advance tickets are available for $12 at the theatre box office; they'll be $14 on the day of the show. For more information, call 740-1000.


POLISHED

Angst poster boy Trent Reznor brings his Nine Inch Nails to town this week, in support of the band's latest album, With Teeth (2005, Nothing), which once again marries immaculate production with lyrics that could be stolen from any lonely high school kid's journal. (Hey, Trent, aren't you, like, 40 now? It's time to grow up, buddy.)

Following their recent Rialto show, Queens of the Stone Age open, with Autolux also on the bill. This one's at the TCC Arena, 260 S. Church Ave., at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 17. Tickets are $45 and $35, available at all Ticketmaster outlets, ticketmaster.com, or by phone at 321-1000. For further details, call 791-4101.


BAND CAMP

Tucson's dark prog-rock flag-hoisters Camp Courageous celebrate the release of their second full-length this week, with the requisite CD release party. Unfortunately, we didn't receive a copy of the new album, so we can't grace you with our opinion on it. But suffice it to say that we'd listen to Danny Moreno sing his ABCs for hours on end.

Things get started at 9 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 16 at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St., with opening sets from Is to Feel, Manifold, Embercoast and The Ballad of Us. Cover is $4, and the show is all-ages. Call 622-8848 for more 411.


ALLSTAR HOUR

There's no denying the talent of the three men--Luther and Cody Dickinson and Chris Chew--that comprise the North Mississippi Allstars. But their rootsy blend of blues, Southern rock, R&B and even hip-hop tends to leave me a bit cold. While I enjoy particular songs by the band (and the number of songs that fall into that category seems to rise with each album), they've always been one of those bands that I feel that I should like more than I actually do. Perhaps I'm just missing something.

I am, however, excited to see that Chuck Prophet has been added to the bill of the Allstars' show here this week. Prophet took the stage at the Rialto Theatre a couple weeks ago, with his old band, Green on Red, as part of Club Congress' 20th anniversary celebration, and returns with his own band this week. His solo output has been consistently great, and his last three studio albums--The Hurting Business (2000, Cooking Vinyl), No Other Love (2002, New West) and Age of Miracles (2004, New West)--combine Prophet's folk and country roots with technological touches that make them sound modern, without sounding like they're trying to sound modern. And while Prophet is well known as a master of the Telecaster, he's an entirely underrated lyricist, too--the complete package.

The North Mississippi Allstars and Chuck Prophet perform at 7:30 p.m. next Thursday, Sept. 22, at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St. Tickets are $14. Call 622-8848 for more info.


KILL JOY

American singer-guitarist VV (nee Alison Mosshart, formerly of Discount) and Brit singer-drummer-guitarist Hotel (aka Jamie Hince) are the Kills, a band you should probably know more about. On their two albums, Keep on Your Mean Side (2003, Rough Trade) and No Wow (2005, Rough Trade/RCA), the band strips gritty, bluesy rock down to its most basic elements. VV's voice reminds of Chrissie Hynde at her sultriest, and the combination of male-female vocals provides an abundance of sexual tension. Hell, the Kills are all about sex, from the dirty, fuzzed-out guitar and the lyrics to the hypnotically repetitive rhythms and come-hither vocals. I recommend taking a date to the show, because your odds of getting lucky are pretty damn good--assuming your date's musical tastes are as good as yours.

The Kills perform on Sunday, Sept. 18, at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St. She Wants Revenge and The Deludes open at 8:45 p.m. Advance tix are available for $10 at virtuous.com. For details, call 798-1298.


ALL YOU CAN BEAT

Comprising Jarrod Weeks (aka Lord Grunge, aka Matt Kukla) and Jackson O'Connell-Barlow (aka Grape-A-Don, aka Nate Kukla), Grand Buffet is a pair of white Pittsburgh--or, in their nomenclature, "Shittsburgh"--wiseass rappers who trade in humorous non sequiturs with patently lo-fi production. The duo has for years released their own albums and EPs--the liner notes on 2002's Cigarette Beach read: "STILL No Label. STILL No Fans. STILL no problem"--but recently succumbed to releasing Five Years of Fireworks, a compilation of remixes from past releases, on Fighting. Fans of Mad and National Lampoon magazines and MC Paul Barman and his ilk will eat this stuff up.

Grand Buffet performs at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St., on Monday, Sept. 19. DJ Jester the Filipino Fist and Peachcake open at 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $6. That number again is 798-1298.

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