TROUBLE TIME: Wasn't it Elvis Costello who said that every music critic is merely a frustrated musician who couldn't cut it? Well, Joey Sweeney, rock journo for the Philadelphia Weekly and, is here to prove Señor McManus wrong. Veteran of jangle-popsters the Barnabys, Sweeney's new band, The Trouble With Sweeney, has just released its second full-length, I Know You Destroy, on Burnt Toast Vinyl, and it's a keeper.

Befitting of a guy whose words put the taters on the table, Sweeney's 3 1/2-minute story-songs truly shine here, with lyrics as wryly literary as just about any found in modern indie-pop, and infectious tunes with inventive arrangements that suit the tales perfectly. Album opener "The Break Up" is a perfect example: Over a gorgeously brooding, acoustic-guitar-led backing that blooms with swooning strings at the chorus, Sweeney catalogues the telltale signs--real or imagined--of an imminent break-up ("The leaves are falling and the city's blue again/We're definitely gonna break up/You didn't say goodbye before you went to work today/We're definitely gonna break up").

The album starts strong and never lets up, though most of the songs are less bleak--indeed, even downright funny at times--than the aforementioned song would lead you to believe: Elsewhere, we encounter a kid who gets picked on and becomes awfully happy when another kid gets bullied, taking some of the heat off him, and a couple of indie-rock scenesters who fall in love and decide to settle down and procreate, only to realize they're probably not the settling-down type. Highly recommended.

The Trouble With Sweeney performs a free show at 9:30 p.m. on Sunday, May 4, at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St. Call 670-9202 for further details.

CONGRESS COCK FIGHT: After being holed up in WaveLab Studios--50 hours in five days--recording their first full-length album, you can be sure that the members of Chango Malo are ready to fuck some shit up. Or, to be more succinct, they're ready to fuck someone up, and that someone, as it happens, is the Jons.

The mutually respecting bands will convene on Friday night at Club Congress in a twist on the usual battle of the bands affair. The Congress Cock Fight: The Jons vs. Chango Malo will pit the two bands together in a head-to-head competition--literally, as both bands will set up on the same stage, going so far as to share a bass drum, leaving the drummers to face each other. (Oh, the stare-down possibilities!) Rounds will consist of each band performing a song, leaving audience voting to determine which band wins each round. With 12 rounds scheduled, expect the inevitable "rock-off."

In related news, the Bad Monkeys' label, Stunning Tonto, will present the third installment of its label showcases at Plush on Saturday. This time around, audiences will be treated to sets from loud-as-jets thunder-blues-rawk trio Love Mound; Mala Vita, whose well-crafted indie pop was recently resuscitated by singer/songwriter/guitarist Gabe Palacios, following an extended hiatus; and the Retainers, who specialize in infectious doses of spiky, punk-pop.

The Congress Cock Fight commences at 9 p.m. on Friday, May 2, at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St. Opening acts have not been determined at press time. Cover charge is $5. Call 622-8848 for more information.

The Stunning Tonto showcase kicks off at 9:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 3, at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St. Cover is $3. For further details call 798-1298.

RHYME AND REASON: A highbrow white Jewish guy--Brown-educated, even--who isn't afraid of the lowbrow, MC Paul Barman makes his second Tucson stop in support of his long-awaited full-length album, Paullelujah! (2002, Coup d'Etat). To wit: delivered so speedily you're still digesting the last line as the next one comes at you, are sentiments like, "I think of all the pube I got while reading The Rubayat" and "I'm a braniac with a veiny sac/resting on the brow of Erika Eleniak." Recommended to those who favor the Def Jux crew over DMX and his ilk, if you smiled at either of those lines, Barman is for you.

MC Paul Barman performs on Friday, May 2, at Solar Culture, 31 E. Toole Ave. Jessy Moss opens the all-ages show at 9 p.m. Eight bucks gets you past Mark at the door. Questions? Call 884-0874.

UNDER COVER: There's something a bit sad, creepy and therefore infinitely amusing about watching tribute bands perform. You know they'd rather be playing their own tunes, but they already tried that and nobody seemed to care. So they simply jumped someone else's train to maintain their rock lifestyle--kind of admirable in some sort of twisted way, even if they're all secretly hoping to for the Ripper Owens treatment, courtesy of the band they cover. (If that last sentence confused you, rent Rock Star and keep in mind it's based on a true story about how Judas Priest recruited their current vocalist.) And speaking of the Priest, Metal Gods, who dress like and perform the songs of Judas Priest, will join four other tribute-aries this weekend at Old Tucson Studios.

For a mere five bucks--that's a buck a band, in case your calculator isn't handy--you also get to witness the spectacles that are TNT (AC/DC), the Dream Police (Cheap Trick), Swan (Led Zeppelin), and Heartbreaker (Pat Benatar). If you go, please conduct the following experiment: After one of the bands is done performing, go up to them and act like they're the actual band they're pretending to be, as in: "Dude, that version of 'Surrender' kicked ass! How long did it take you guys to write that one?" Alternate option: asking them for autographs and seeing whose name they sign.

The Budweiser Rock-Back Tour hits--where else?--the Budweiser High Noon Arena at Old Tucson Studios, 201 S. Kinney Road, at 5 p.m. on Saturday, May 3. Advance tickets are available for $5 at all Zia Record Exchange locations, the Old Tucson Studios Box Office, online at or by phone through Etix at 1-800-514-ETIX. Active military with ID and Old Tucson Studios Annual Pass holders get free admission. The show is all-ages, and there will be a bar for those with valid ID. For more information, call 883-0100.

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