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FROM ANOTHER ERA

Upon tossing The Tough and Lovely's debut album, Born of the Stars (Spoonful, 2004), into the CD player and hearing the opening title track, I was ready to dismiss the band as just another fungible, bandwagon-jumping garage-rock band; they had nothing new to offer, it seemed. But as the disc kept playing, I realized that first song was something of an anomaly, if not a decoy. Most of the songs on the album are less chaotic, and more reverent of '60s-era soul music and girl-groups, and Nuggets-like pop gems.

"Hard to Love" is the real standout, a soulful vocal tour de force from Lara Yazvac set against a dramatic backdrop of churning guitars, a perfectly descending bassline, tasteful but powerful organ and expertly executed backing harmonies; it's the type of song you just don't hear being performed in the 21st century, and you don't realize how much you miss it until you do--as perfect a song as I've heard since the last time I had the oldies station on the car stereo. If they were still making teen-rebel movies like the ones from the early '60s, a song like this would be on every soundtrack, and no one would complain.

It's when the band adopts a more modern sound that they falter somewhat. "I Will Not Hurt You" finds Yazvac singing an almost new wave melody over staccato-meets-ska guitars, and isn't necessarily bad, just forgettable--as is the blistering "Tough and Lovely," though that one at least shows off Yazvac's powerful voice. "Good Find" is raucous, stomping fun and, while paying homage to the garage-rock of yore, still manages a modern-sounding hook.

Detroit Cobras fans take note: The Tough and Lovely are at least every bit as good--and they write their own songs to boot.

The Tough and Lovely will perform third on a four-band bill at Vaudeville Cabaret, 110 E. Congress St., on Monday, May 29. La Cerca headlines, and Lomita and The Press start things off around 9 p.m. For further details, call 622-3535.


HIS NAME IS WARN

In certain circles, Warn Defever, the mastermind behind His Name Is Alive, is a cultish superstar of sorts--though that tag shouldn't really diminish the power of his pull. Since 1990, Defever and a revolving crew of co-conspirators have explored a world of sound that dabbles in all variety of influences--yet they still manage to sound like His Name Is Alive.

The constant elements are a bed of crafty electronic arrangements in all variety of pop (and other) styles, often abetted with organic instruments, that serve as a canvas for the vocals of mostly female singers, who are always front and center in the mix. The songs found on Detrola (Silver Mountain, 2005), the group's first new offering in four years, and their first major release that doesn't reside on their former home of 4AD (which was a perfect fit), essentially gather everything likable about HNIA and cram it all into one tidy package--the album clocks in at just less than 40 minutes. The musical compositions are interesting but unobtrusive--the focus is very much on the various female singers, whose voices sometimes seem so achingly close they virtually ooze out of the speakers. Electronic-based music is often criticized for a certain sterility that seems inherent to the form, but the combination of Defever's deft arrangements that often incorporate jazz and blues elements (and, again, his inclusion of piano, horns, bass, clarinet, etc.) tend to overcome that obstacle. Paired with the trio of female voices, these songs turn into something electronic-based music rarely is: intimate and inviting, sensual and sexy. If you're not already a fan and you dig the more accessible work of Björk or Kate Bush, give these guys a whirl.

His Name Is Alive's first major tour in a decade brings them to Solar Culture Gallery, 31 E. Toole Ave., on Monday, May 29. The all-ages show begins at 9 p.m. with an opening set from Nomo. Admission is $9. For more information, call 884-0874.


ATTENTION LOCAL MUSIC TECH DORKS!

We'll be providing extensive coverage the week of the event, but consider this your heads-up that the fifth annual TapeOpCon, a conference organized by Tape Op magazine and the folks at Tucson's Wavelab Studios, will take place in our humble burg Friday, June 16, to Sunday, June 18. The conference has something for every music tech dork, from bedroom four-trackers to studio bigwigs: panels, workshops, a functioning "Pot Luck" studio in which various producers demonstrate their recording techniques, and way, way more.

For a full schedule of events, head to tapeopcon.com, where you'll find everything you need to know, except this: Unlike other conference registrants, locals are entitled to buy single-day passes for the event ($100 for Friday and Saturday; $75 for Sunday) and can peruse the exhibitor tables at no charge from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and noon to 2 p.m. on Sunday. Tucson and Phoenix students with valid student ID can register for the entire conference at the discounted price of $175. (First time attendees are $350; returning attendees are $295.)

The daytime action will take place at the Hilton El Conquistador; night events will be at the Tucson Fox Theatre, and night-ending live music blowouts will be at Hotel Congress (the Congress shows will be discounted to conference attendees). All students and locals wishing to register at the discount rates should e-mail Craig Schumacher at craig@tapeop.com.


CULLUM ACROSS THE STREET

We thought it was a bit odd a few months ago when we saw that British jazz-pop singer-pianist-wunderkind Jamie Cullum was booked for a show at Club Congress--it just seemed too small of a venue for someone with such mainstream popularity. Were we just overestimating his drawing power? As it turns out, no, we weren't.

In order to accommodate the throngs of Cullum devotees, the Friday, May 26 show has been moved across the street, to the much larger Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St. Doors open at 7 p.m. for the all-ages show, with opener Raul Midon taking the stage at 8 p.m. Tickets are $17, both in advance at the Rialto box office and Zia Records, and at the door. Tickets purchased for the Club Congress show will be honored at the door. For more info, call 740-1000.


GOODBYE GUITAR; GREETINGS GILKYSON

Tony Gilkyson has quietly assembled quite a resume over the years: He played guitar for X and Lone Justice; he's served as session musician and/or producer for the likes of Peter Rowan, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Chuck E. Weiss, Alice Cooper, Tucsonans John Coinman and Mark Insley, and his sister, Eliza. Now, a full six years since his solo debut, he's finally gotten around to making a second album bearing his name, Goodbye Guitar (Rolling Sea, 2006). Where one might expect such an accomplished guitarist to use a solo album as a vehicle to showboat his chops, Goodbye Guitar instead falls decidedly into singer-songwriter territory, of the rootsy, storytelling variety. With it he adds "songwriter's songwriter" to his status as "guitarist's guitarist."

Tony Gilkyson performs next Thursday, June 1, at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St. This early show begins at 7 p.m. with an opening set by I See Hawks. Admission is $6. Call 622-8848 for more info.


ON THE BANDWAGON

Sunday Afternoon will celebrate the release of their new CD, Something Always Leads You Home, with a release party on Friday, May 26, at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St. Opening at 9 p.m. are Luca and Pete Ekstam. Cover is $7. 622-8848 is the number to call for details.

On a night off from touring with Hank III, the filth and fury of the Murder Junkies--with Antiseen's Jeff Clayton filling in for the late GG Allin--take over Vaudeville Cabaret, 110 E. Congress St., on Sunday, May 28. The show starts at 10 p.m. with openers Demon City Wreckers and Pop Gestapo. Call 622-3535 with questions.

Soul-blues singer Johnny Rawls and Lisa Otey are teaming up for a Mississippi Soul tour of the Southwest beginning this week and running through mid-June. Local dates include a 6 p.m. Blues & BBQ show at Boondocks, 3306 N. First Ave., on Sunday, May 28 ($6; 690-0991); and a gig on Friday, June 9 at Chicago Bar, 5954 E. Speedway Blvd. (748-8169).

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