ROTTING OUT: Tucson has been blessed lately with shows from some of the best and most influential nu-metal, hardcore, or whatever you want to call it bands recently. (For the record, when I was a kid, hardcore/thrash meant Minor Threat and JFA, not Sepultura and Clutch--on second thought, maybe that's the point.) Corrosion of Conformity comes to town this week, and if anyone is responsible for the confusion between punk and metal, it's these guys.

Early on--and I mean back in the early '80s--COC was a hardcore band with a decidedly metallic edge. Through the years it progressed into a metal band that was somehow still cool to like, even if you were a punk rocker--unlike, say, T.S.O.L, which failed miserably at the same trick. Still, while it may sound silly now, in the '80s there was a code of honor: You were either a punk rocker, or you were a metalhead. And though a few bands transcended such categories--mostly bands that were undeniably heavy and cool, like Sabbath, the Misfits and the Ramones--it was nearly sacrilege to cross the line from one side to the other.

Corrosion of Conformity did just that and came out not only unscathed, but with an audience that had grown exponentially. By the time 1991's Blind (Combat) was released, it was clear that a new, surprisingly organic hybrid of punk and metal had occurred, and it had a huge following. Though at one time it seemed unfathomable, COC's next two albums were released on Sony. (COC on a major label?!?) Then again, anyone who heard Bleach would never have guessed that Nirvana would ever be signed to a major, let alone hit number one, its next time out.

Anyway, what I'm getting at here is that bands like Corrosion of Conformity made it OK for the punks to like metal, and vice versa, thereby creating a landscape where tags weren't as important as whether or not you actually liked the music. That opened the doors for an anything-goes-as-long-as-it's-good mentality that either pervades modern musical culture, or is just the result of a few years under your belt--I can't be sure. Either way, sometimes it doesn't matter what effect you've had on the culture if you don't manage to somehow remain vital. Or in the bastardized words of Janet Jackson (as filtered through my friend Anna), "What have they done for me lately?"

For one thing, COC recently released America's Volume Dealer (Sanctuary), its first album in four years, and its most blatant attempt at mass acceptance yet. Leaning heavily on the boogie-rock grooves flirted with on past efforts, the bulk of tunes here are fine, but they are simply too slick sounding for the genre they're dealing with. "Congratulations Song" sounds like it could be lifted from a lame-ass late-era Metallica record--come to think of it, Volume Dealer is kind of COC's Black Album--while "Stare Too Long" is a bona fide Southern rock ballad, like Skynyrd usta do (and which, tellingly, features slide guitar by guest Warren Haynes).

A few weeks ago I applauded the Deftones for having the satchels to go soft(er) in a musical climate where harder=better, so maybe I'm being a hypocrite here, but this simply does not sound like Corrosion of Conformity. Where's the rage? The menace? The frothy political rants? This kind of growth is only permitted if you still manage to sound like yourself, and in the end, America's Volume Dealer does not scream "Corrosion of Conformity!" It sounds more like "Play me on the radio--please?" Kinda sad, when you consider the fact that COC influenced most of the bands in heavy rotation these days.

Corrosion of Conformity, along with openers Clutch, Clearlight and Spirit Caravan, appears at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, February 14 at the Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St. Advance tickets are available for $13 at Puff-N-Stuff. For more information call 798-3333.

LOCAL LOCOS: It'll be a rare locals-only show at Solar Culture this weekend as the in-your-face lounge disaster we love to call Bebe and Serge do the tag-team action with the most lovely, most rockin' Cloven Hoof on Saturday, February 10 at about 9 p.m. All ages are welcome, and Solar Culture resides at 31 E. Toole Ave. For more info call 884-0874.

IN THE FRIDGE: Everybody's favorite polyethnic Cajun slamgrass band--OK, so it's the only one--Leftover Salmon rolls into town from Boulder, Colo. this week. The 11-year-old band, which gained a cult following over the years mostly due to its eclectically dynamic live performances, gained big-time respect when it released The Nashville Sessions (Hollywood), a full-fledged country and bluegrass affair that teamed the band with A-listers like Jerry Douglas, Lucinda Williams, Bela Fleck, Waylon Jennings, Earl Scruggs and Sam Bush.

This will be the band's first visit to town with its new, revamped lineup. Former drummer Jeff Sipe recently had a baby, and ex-bassist Tye North just got married and moved to Portland; both left seeking a slightly more normal life than Salmon's stringent touring schedule allows. In addition to original members Vince Herman (vocals/guitar), Drew Emmitt (vocals/mandolin) and Mark Vann (banjo), the current roster also includes drummer Jose Martinez, bassist Greg Garrison and Hammond organist Bill McKay, who played keys and most of the vocals for the Derek Trucks Band (and, if anyone remembers, Band du Jour). He should be a nice addition, indeed.

Check out Leftover Salmon at 8 p.m. on Thursday, February 8 at the Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St. Tickets are $12 at the door. Call 798-3333 for further details.

DON'T SKRAP IT: Everybody's favorite all-ages local punk rock venue--OK, so it's the only one--Skrappy's hosts two out-of-towners this week.

Though it's placed in the punk bins, SoCal's Home Grown has too sunny a disposition to really qualify. It's one of the few bands that you can tell is from California just by hearing it, and its rabid local following will be glad it's back at Skrappy's, where it belongs. Home Grown and Coersion hit the venue at 8 p.m. on Friday, February 9.

Then, what better way to spend Valentine's Day with that special someone than to catch an emo band? The Movielife, touring in support of its Revelation Records debut, This Time Next Year (following It's Go Time on Fadeaway), will serve up the crunchy heart-on-sleeve stuff for your romantic listening pleasure at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, February 14 along with Bane and Reach the Sky. Skrappy's is located at 201 E. Broadway Blvd., and you can call 620-1824 for more information on both shows.