DIGGING UP 'BURIED TREASURES'
Although his "other" band—the Sand Rubies—is no more, guitarist-singer Rich Hopkins continues to churn out at least an album per year with his ongoing pursuit, Rich Hopkins and Luminarios. Hell, even when the Rubies were still around, he was releasing them at about the same pace. And it's not like he's a young man anymore; no, he's a lifer.
In recent years, Hopkins has been spending much of his time in Houston, to be with his girlfriend and collaborator, Lisa Novak, whose name is attached as a co-writer to nine of the dozen songs (13 counting a bonus track) on the Luminarios' latest, Buried Treasures (San Jacinto). The album was mostly recorded in Tucson by Thomas Beach at Loveland Studio, and by Lars Goransson, Nathan Sabatino and Bill Cashman at the Cavern Studios; it features a roster of mostly Tucson musicians backing Hopkins up.
After a brief instrumental "Intro," the album kicks into gear with "Dark Side of the Spoon," which sounds like a long-lost Byrds cut with crunchier guitars; it doubles as a heroin cautionary tale: "Hating myself every day / Lies the only things I say / Sleeping until noon / Living on the dark side of the spoon." Hopkins comes off like a less-amped-up Craig Finn on the mostly spoken verses of "A Stone's Throw," which benefits from a catchy chorus bolstered by Novak's vocal harmonies and a typically soaring guitar solo from Hopkins. (The album, like any Hopkins album, is fully stocked with killer guitar-playing.)
I'm always a sucker for a song with a descending chord structure, and "Betcha Gotcha Now!" doesn't disappoint in that department—it's a rollicking, three-chord power-pop tune that aims to please and succeeds. (When I finished listening to the album for the first time, it's the song I was left humming.) Other highlights include "Strutter" (not a Kiss cover), which sounds a little bit like what the Velvet Underground might have sounded like if they hailed from Los Angeles instead of New York City; the vicious "Alycia Perez," which features a somewhat-sinister-sounding guest vocal from Salvador Duran before hitting a gorgeous midsection of tangled guitars; and the backward-looking "Buried Treasures (It's Not Out There)," which implores us all to count our blessings.
But the album's centerpiece is the 7 1/2-minute "Friend of the Shooter," which, against a swirling backdrop of distorted guitar, re-imagines the Jan. 8 Safeway shootings from the point of view of a narrator who was once friends with the suspect: "I knew him when / I knew him then / now I'm a friend of the shooter."
Although there are a couple of superfluous tracks on Buried Treasures—"Good Morning" and the bonus track are both meandering sound experiments that sound a bit out of place—this is among the most consistently enjoyable albums Hopkins has released under the Luminarios banner.
Rich Hopkins and Luminarios perform at a CD-release party for Buried Treasures next Thursday, Jan. 26, at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St. Saint Maybe and the Sugar Stains open at 9 p.m. Cover is $5. For more information, check out plushtucson.com, or call 798-1298.
Mean Beans, the duo of Matt Molina and Matthew Taylor (though they're often joined by other local players such as Nick Letson, Rhae Vaiana and Darren Simoes), are splitting town for the greener pastures of San Francisco soon, but not before giving Tucson one last taste of what we'll be missing in their absence.
The band veers from raw, primal garage rock ("The Situation"), to indie-rock inspired by Modest Mouse and their ilk ("Drunk Man"), to sweet, ramshackle pop songs ("Raise"). The song they've most recently posted online, "Honey Bee," seemingly merges all those disparate elements into one catchy-as-hell little package, which would seem to bode well for their Bay Area future. Good luck, boys.
Mean Beans perform at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St., on Friday, Jan. 20. Havarti Orchestra and Vine St. open at 10 p.m. Admission is free. For further details, head to hotelcongress.com/club, or call 622-8848.
New York City's The Toasters remain one of the most important and influential American ska bands ever. In the early 1980s, while British second-wave-of-ska acts like the English Beat, Madness and The Specials were attempting to make inroads in America (and largely failing), Brit expat Rob "Bucket" Hingley formed The Toasters in an attempt to do the same. He also formed Moon Ska Records, which was the primary outlet for American third-wave ska bands (The Pietasters, The Slackers, Dance Hall Crashers) to release their material to a ska-hungry U.S. subculture. In other words, Hingley and The Toasters were one of the few bridges between the second-wave British ska bands of the 1970s and '80s, and their American offspring in the 1980s and '90s.
Some things have changed since then. Ska isn't as popular as it once was, and Moon Ska Records went out of business in 2000 as a result. But these days, Hingley operates Megalith Records, a smaller operation that still releases albums by ska bands, including The Toasters, of which he is now the sole original member.
The fact that The Toasters still tour regularly, and that Hingley is still releasing albums at all, signals that ska never really died; it just did what all other subcultures do when the masses jumped off the bandwagon: It went back underground.
The Toasters perform at The Hut, 305 N. Fourth Ave., on Tuesday, Jan. 24. Tucson's The Gunrunners open at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10. For more information, call 623-3200.
In the 1990s, Kansas City, Mo.'s Shiner was among a handful of Midwestern indie-rock outfits that forged a sound based on a huge guitar sound, melodicism and a few time-signature tricks. Shiner broke up in 2003, but the band's singer and guitarist, Allen Epley, now fronts a new band, The Life and Times, which released its third full-length, No One Loves You Like I Do, earlier this week on SlimStyle. These days, Epley places more of an emphasis on inviting melodies, and shoegaze and space-rock textures.
The Life and Times perform at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St., on Saturday, Jan. 21. American Android and The Vases open at 9:30 p.m. Admission is $7. For more info, head to plushtucson.com, or call 798-1298.
Expect a blues-harp showdown (blowoff?) when Fabulous Thunderbirds singer, songwriter and harmonica player Kim Wilson headlines a show at the Rialto on Saturday. Wilson will bring the goods, of course—but the opener is none other than Tucson's own harp king, Tom Walbank. Here's hoping Walbank gets the nod from Wilson to join him on a tune or two.
Kim Wilson and Tom Walbank perform at the Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St., on Saturday, Jan. 21. Start time for the all-ages show is 8 p.m. Tickets are $21 in advance, or $23 on the day of the show. For more info, go to rialtotheatre.com, or call 740-1000.
On Saturday, Jan. 21, at the Surly Wench Pub, Bettie Rage Arizona will hold a benefit show for their friend Ty, who is battling cancer. Live music will be provided by the Moonlight Howlers and The El Camino Royales, and there will be raffles as well. Suggested donation is $5 at the door, with all proceeds going directly to Ty. It all gets started at 9 p.m. on Saturday. The Surly Wench Pub is located at 424 N. Fourth Ave. For further details, head to surlywenchpub.com, or call 882-0009.
ON THE BANDWAGON
Standby Red 5, Gabe Borquez and Molly Hadeed, Rescue Lights and Lariats at Club Congress on Wedndesday, Jan. 25; La Cerca, Dream Sick, Mombasa and DJ B-Rad at La Cocina tonight, Thursday, Jan. 19; the Kristin Chandler Band and Black Cat Bones at Boondocks Lounge on Saturday, Jan. 21; Grapla, The Effin' Sumbodies and Lee Hybrid at Vaudeville on Saturday, Jan. 21; Combo Westside at Club Congress on Saturday, Jan. 21; Some of Them Are Old, Gorky and Sleep Trigger at Plush on Friday, Jan. 20; Matt Hopper and the Roman Candles and Dylan Ludwig and the Red River Outfit at Sky Bar next Thursday, Jan. 26; Ernest Troost at Abounding Grace Sanctuary on Saturday, Jan. 21.
Just as the Tucson Weekly was going to press on Tuesday night (Jan. 17), we learned that Jonathan Holden, the tireless music promoter behind the Rhythm and Roots concert series, has died after a brief illness.
We'll have more information online at daily.tucsonweekly.com and in next week's print issue. Our condolences go out to Holden's friends and family.