SPECS ONE, SILENT LAMBS, DJ SEAN MALIK
(Rainbow) See preview, page 37.
SWARMING HORDES, PLASTER, MURDOCK, MARGINAL WAY
(Crocodile) I think one of the biggest tragedies in the history of rock and roll was Metallica's And Justice for All album. Sure it kicked ass at the time, but you could tell that the best metal band in the world was about to go soft and mainstream. The guitars on those first three Metallica records are so fucking fast, yet heavy at the same time. Sure Slayer was faster and more evil, but you could bang your head and sing along with Metallica. Although there's no singing along with instrumental metal band Swarming Hordes, they come the closest I've heard to nailing the sound of early Metallica. I'm not saying they're retro or that they're intentionally trying to cop Metallica licks but they have definitely nailed the physical feel of it. The Hordes are a much more technically advanced band then Metallica ever was though. The drums are fucking insane and they employ crazy time signatures and perform searing guitar solos at will. It's almost scary. Like the Japanese version of The Ring. I'm kinda worried there may be some dark forces at work. I'm not sure the human body can play guitar that fast. My guess is that during a particularly rousing game of D&D the members of Swarming Hordes figured out a way to devolve. How else would you explain it? Practice? JED MAHEU
THE MINUS 5, JESSE SYKES AND THE SWEET HEREAFTER, MIKE DUMOVICH, LARRY BARRETT
(Tractor) I've sung the praises of Jesse Sykes and the Sweet Hereafter many times in these pages but I never tire of it. For one because they are an amazing band when they are in full swing and for another because Sykes herself is simply incredible. She plays the interzone between alt-country and indie-folk with a perfectly bruised voice that can soar high or become husky and conversational. On Oh, My Girl, her second album, the sense of yearning, longing, and sadness that can potentially be read into the title are all present on its 10 songs. They're full of lush, melancholy sensuality and swathed in sound that is lustrous and supple. Sykes and guitarist Phil Wandscher create a series of nuanced moods, with any overwrought connective tissue left out or implied. The band adds layers in an understated way that flesh out the songs while making them appear almost gossamer and ghostly. That may not sound like holiday-spirited music, but look yourself in the mirror and be honest: It sure as hell is. NATE LIPPENS See also Stranger Suggests, page 23.
It was Christmas Eve, babe, in the drunk tank.
3 INCHES OF BLOOD, Book of black EARTH, SIX DEMON BAG
(Graceland) Last Christmas, I gave you my heart... Oh, wait, no. That's not what I was going to say. Last Christmas, Himsa played a Christmas night(mare) show which involved copious headbanging and the destruction of many a stuffed animal, providing a perfect angst-outlet for all those metal fans who were sick and tired of being bombarded with Wham!, Paul McCartney, and Frank Sinatra holiday songs for weeks on end. This year, 3 Inches of Blood, Book of Black Earth, and Six Demon Bag will supply the very unholiday cheer soundtrack, and who knows what else will go down (it's Christmas, people get a little crazy). Granted, maybe this is more of an anti-Christmas Christmas show, but personally I hope one of these bands has the sense to seize the perfect opportunity and rip out a cover of Spinal Tap's holiday anthem, "Christmas with the Devil." "So come all ye unfaithful, don't be left out in the cold. You don't need no invitation, no... your ticket is your soul!" MEGAN SELING
(KeyArena) Not to be a Grinch, but it can be an overwhelming time of year when neighbors fill their yards with animatronic reindeer, inflatable Santas, and enough light strands to guide the Mariners through a night game. However, even the most elaborate displays seem like tasteful holly wreaths compared to the Trans-Siberian Orchestra's stage spectacle. A seasonal symphonic offshoot of the virtuosic bombast factory Savatage, TSO recently completed its Christmas-themed rock-opera trilogy. The saptacular plot involves a young angel sent to Earth to save Christmas, and the story-advancing songs share space with streamrolling, synthesizer-smothered instrumentals ("Wizards in Winter") and traditional tunes. On paper, TSO seems too heady for the lighter-lofting masses, with its intimidating musical complexity and esoteric cultural allusions ("Wish Liszt" is a nod to "Hungarian Rhapsody" composer Franz Liszt, not a vehicle for a gratuitous metal "z"). But the group's hard-rock riffs leave ears ringing like Salvation Army bells, and their shows include more laser beams than a sci-fi anthology. ANDREW MILLER
(Triple Door) Earlier this year, in a review of a new CD, I noted that listeners who don't like comedy intermingled with "serious" (i.e., inspired or technically proficient) music might take exception to the artist's otherwise fine release. Friends admonished me, worried that this performer, who I know socially, might take affront at this comment. Au contraire, she responded enthusiastically the next time we spoke: "It never occurred to me that some people might not like comedy in music," she said. "Now I understand why Nickelback are popular!" Which brings us to the Bobs. Back in high school, when dinosaurs (i.e., Reagan and Thatcher) ruled the earth, I picked up the a cappella quartet's eponymous 1983 debut, going off no other information save some new-wave typeface and a couple mean-spirited song titles ("I Hate the Beach Boys," "Be My Yoko"). The Bobs was, and remains, unlike anything else in my LP collection. For 20 years hence, the San Francisco foursome has unabashedly mixed virtuoso, unaccompanied singing with stinging satire; this week they return to deck the Triple Door with the seasonal sounds plucked from their 1996 opus, Too Many Santas. Now that I am older and wiser (translation: a jaded curmudgeon), I prefer my vocalese in the form of vintage Lambert, Hendricks & Ross, and my singing high jinks courtesy of hip-to-be-squares like the Hi-Los, but I am not so snooty as to deny that, given the choice, I would cheerfully sit through an entire evening with the Bobs over five minutes locked in a room listening to Nickelback any day. KURT B. REIGHLEY
BIG A LITTLE A
(Gallery 1412) They may be named after a Crass song, but these Brooklynites don't really sound much like an agit-prop punk band. Judging from the one three-minute song by them that I've heard ("Lilly Vanilli," off the Narnack Records Is... compilation), it seems Big A Little A wander in the same acid-fried, pagan-ritual climes as Animal Collective and Black Dice. Utilizing three drum kits and electronically treated moans and chants, Aa weave weird spells and conjure eerie atmospheres. If the rest of their material is anything like this, then Aa are a very hot and wet handful of indescribability indeed. Their forthcoming full-length due next summer should be interesting. DAVE SEGAL
You look like I feel.
THE CONVERSATION HEART, MATH AND PHYSICS CLUB, TREASURE STATE
(Crocodile) Did you get what you wanted for Christmas? Eh, me neither. Most of us end up with gift certificates to Pier 1 or a Trader Joe's bucket o' powdered sugar pfeffernusse, or some other disappointment that didn't live up to the joy the holidays should embody--surprise, delight, childlike wonder. But don't despair. In the wake of holiday over-expectations, the Crocodile has booked a triple Tuesday bill of the most unexpectedly delightful local bands. Math and Physics Club blend wondrously insightful lyrics and charming indie-pop melodies with the grace of the Lucksmiths, the hooks of the Magnetic Fields, and the charms of the Smiths. Yes, I've just compared them to three of my favorite bands of all time--they deserve it. Yes, they're about to be huge: They were just signed by Matinee Records, home of said Lucksmiths. Work off your post-eggnog hangover by meeting your final favorite new band of 2004. Yes! Hosanna in the highest! DANA BOS
BEAKERS VS. BLACKOUTS, DJ SELECTOR DUB NARCOTIC, STEVE FISK
(Showbox Green Room) For those (like me) who recently discovered them, both the Beakers and the Blackouts represent a perk to the whole "music history repeating itself" thing. These bands were on the Seattle music scene in the '80s, preceding the current post-punk flourish by a mile, but from most accounts, shriveling up in an inhospitable environment during their heyday. K Records recently reissued the Beakers' Four Steps Toward a Cultural Revolution and the Blackouts' History in Reverse and both records sound amazingly timely, even after a 25-year lapse since their recordings. The Blackouts display blue goth veins under slithering instrumentation, like Siouxsie meets James Chance in a dark alley. In comparison the Beakers were more Gang of Four than gangrene melodies, complementing breathless vocals with a mishmash of saxophone skronk. Tonight is the record release party for these buried Seattle treasures, and the event features ex-members of the bands as well as DJ work from other notable Northwest names. JENNIFER MAERZ
BENCHGRINDER, UP FALLS DOWN, SOMETIMES WHY, PISTOL FOR A PAYCHECK, THE ANNEX, EXOCET
(Graceland) Up Falls Down is a young quartet of lads (all born in 1983, actually) whose sound is obviously heavily inspired by their long list of fairly typical influences--Senses Fail, Aiden, Boys Night Out, A Static Lullaby, and Thrice to name a few. If you haven't heard of any of those bands (or if you hate them), then chances are you wont be giving a shit about Up Falls Down. But, if you appreciate those names, UFD just might be your thing--an unpolished blend of melodic choruses and background screaming poured over more confused guitar work. MEGAN SELING