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BRAVO FOR TWANG!

Like all Tucsonans smart and/or rich, Campo Bravo ringleader Mark Matos has hightailed it out of town for the hottest months here. He's been holed up somewhere in California, and this week, he begins a roughly six-week tour all over these great United States, which will bring him back to T-Town for a gig at Plush on Saturday, July 8. It's a release party for Goodbye, Oklahoma, which was released by the ever-prolific band last month on local label Keep Recordings.

Recorded with Nathan Sabatino at Loveland Studios, the album is another notch in the bedpost of Matos and company, another disc chock full of the sleepy, weepy lovelorn songs Matos seems to be able to crank out in abundance. Campo Bravo have been oft-compared to Giant Sand in the past, but this time around, there's more of a Harvest-era Neil Young or a Will Oldham vibe going on. The lyrics, for one thing, are simpler and don't rely on Howe Gelb-like wordplay as much as Matos' past work. He seems to be finally finding his own voice, rather than attempting to emulate his hero.

The music itself on Goodbye, Oklahoma, too, has undergone a bit of a transformation, taking on a far more country twang than previous efforts. There's violin on nearly every song, and nearly every song unfolds at a slug's pace. Things can get noisy occasionally, as in a guitar-feedback passage on "She Is You," but the pace remains the same, and once the noise dissolves, the quietude returns. And when, on "Amateurs," Matos sings, "We are amateurs, we are lovers," it's backed by a mid-tempo beat that sounds positively speedy in contrast to most of the rest of the album. Aside, that is, from "End of Poetry," a positively jaunty male-female (or another high-pitched male) duet that begins, "I forbid, I forbid that you look upon my grave when I'm dead." Album closer "Collision Course" will be familiar to anyone who's seen a recent Campo Bravo live set, and here, it's given miles to breathe and swell, clocking in at more than 7 1/2 minutes.

Locals are probably either fans or detractors of Matos and Campo Bravo by now, and while this album may win a few new converts (or not), it's the former that will be most excited by Goodbye, Oklahoma--a new batch of Matos tunes to toss into the CD player for a fix while the band is away for the summer.

The CD release party for Goodbye, Oklahoma begins at 9:45 p.m. on Saturday, July 8, with opening sets by Lowlights and Golden Boots. Cover is $4, and Plush is located at 340 E. Sixth St. For more information, call 798-1298.


CLASH REHASH

For those of us who grew up on the music of The Clash, it was a sad day when that band's original lineup fell apart in 1983, signaling the end of an adventurous and groundbreaking career that changed the face of not only punk rock, but rock music itself. There was a reason people called them The Only Band That Matters, after all.

So I wonder what my fellow Clash fans thought the first time they heard Rancid. The band, formed in the early '90s by two vets of ska-punk legends Operation Ivy--guitarist/singer Tim Armstrong and bassist Matt Freeman--was one of the spearheads of the burgeoning California neo-punk revival, along with Green Day, The Offspring and a slew of others. The addition of Lars Frederiksen effectively helped transform them from a somewhat run-of-the-mill skate-punk band to one that paid homage to the first wave of British punk, in the late '70s--particularly The Clash.

In fact, many simply wrote Rancid off as a Clash rip-off band, which wasn't surprising. Combining left-leaning politics, dual vocalists, ska-heavy punk riffs and songs that sounded, well, like they could have come straight from any of The Clash's first three albums, Rancid at first showed that these critics had a point. But as Rancid's contemporaries started signing up with the highest corporate bidder--this was, remember, during the post-Nirvana feeding frenzy, when major labels began to realize they could make money off punk rock after all--Rancid chose to stick with indie label Epitaph (and, later, one of its subsidiaries, Hellcat), solidifying their street cred, even as they began to sell albums in the seven-digits. Their gutterpunk looks didn't hurt their cause, either.

I'll admit that when I first heard Rancid, I was one of those who wrote them off as mere regurgitators of an already-proven formula. But the more I listened, I realized, well, The Clash don't exist anymore, and these are some great fucking Clash songs. In other words, the quality of the songs (I'm a sucker for a punk rock song with a killer hook, and Rancid is full of them), and the passion with which they were executed, superseded my misgivings that they were merely aping one of my favorite bands--enough so that I'll now cop to being a Rancid fan.

Things have been rather quiet on the Rancid front lately, their most recent album being 2003's Indestructible, which makes their local appearance this week as mystifying as it is exciting. Check out what they've been up to for the last three years when they take the stage of the Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St., on Friday, July 7. The all-ages show begins at 8 p.m. with openers Last Laugh. This local Oi! Band--to quote 50 Cent: "internationally known and locally respected"--recently lost some members, so they'll have two members of the Last Call Brawlers filling in for this gig. Tickets, available in advance at the venue's box office or at the door on the day of show, are $18. For further details, call 740-1000.


LIVE FROM THE FOOTHILLS

One nice thing about sticking around Tucson in the summer is that restaurants that are normally a bit financially out of reach for some of us get a bit more affordable. Some advice to those who have gotten used to considering Taco Bell fine dining: Do a little research, and you'll find that restaurants you've always considered out of your price range might be a heck of a lot more affordable than you think during the hottest months of the year.

One of those restaurants is J Bar, the more affordable option connected to Janos (and Janos offers its own summer specials, too), which adds the incentive of a series of live musical performances on its outdoor patio each Wednesday and Thursday night. Here's a quick rundown of the schedule of performers for the remainder of July: Ed DeLucia Trio on Wednesday, July 12; Retread on Thursday, July 13; String Figures on Wednesday, July 19; Al Perry on Thursday, July 20; Round the House on Wednesday, July 26; Stefan George and the Conrads on Thursday, July 27.

Each performance begins at sundown and goes until 10 p.m. For a full schedule of performances, which run through September, as well as info on those summer dining specials, head to janos.com. J Bar is located at 3770 E. Sunrise Drive, on the grounds of the Westin La Paloma Resort and Spa. To make reservations, call 615-6100.


ON THE BANDWAGON

As usual, there's a slew of worthwhile shows we didn't have time to tell you about this week, so be sure to check out our listings section for more options.

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