Sound Advice: : Limbeck, Mustard Plug and Sah

Upcoming concert previews of note

Aug 28, 2007 at 2:06 pm
Mitch Ranger

Mustard Plug

Mustard Plug

Friday · The Orange Cat

"(Fill in the blank) is dead" chatter in musical circles is as cyclical as the seasons, so it shouldn't come as any surprise that the latest rumored demise is Ska. The Reggae/Rock hybrid has gone through plenty of lean times in the past and come out unscathed. Regardless of its current state, Grand Rapids, Mich., outfit Mustard Plug will clearly hoist the Ska banner loudly and proudly until we believe them over the naysayers. Mustard Plug has gotten used to the genre's negative feedback over the years; this is the band that has twice been yanked from a stage after a trio of songs, first at their 1991 debut show (as the only Ska band in Grand Rapids) and again at a 2002 Warped Tour appearance in Detroit.

In the face of adversity and multiple lineup shifts, Mustard Plug has always continued to soldier on, bolstered by its love of the music and the great things that have counterbalanced the bad ­ like meeting the head of Hopeless Records in a beer line after opening for the Descendents in 1996 and agreeing to a record deal before getting to the taps. Or garnering rave reviews for their spirited cover of The Verve Pipe's "The Freshman" for a local compilation. Or first-time tours of Europe, Japan and Brazil, amazing notices for their part in the Ska Against Racism tour with Less Than Jake and the Toasters or lasting through five albums to reach a point where they could release Masterpieces: 1991-2002, one of the most unlikely greatest hits packages in the history of the concept.

Inveterate road dogs, 2007 has seen Mustard Plug take an inordinate amount of time away from touring to concentrate on its imminent sixth album, In Black and White, due out in early September. Word from inside the Plug camp calls In Black and White the heaviest album in the band's catalog, from both a musical and lyrical perspective. Of course, if you're a Ska-loving mother's son, you don't need any other enticement than the name Mustard Plug on the cover or the marquee.

(Note: This is a basement show at 2362 Rohs St. in Clifton; all-ages and 8 p.m. start time.) (Brian Baker)

Sah with Knife the Symphony, Measured In Angles, Swear Jar and Steve Wethington

Saturday · The Mad Hatter

If you listen to 06/06, the fourth album by phenomenal Marquette, Mich.-based Indie/Post-Punk trio Sah, and the word "epic" doesn't at least pass through your brain, you're either a non-English-speaking person or your ears have fallen off. The CD is only five songs long, so it's an EP, right? Well, those five songs clock in at just under an hour, so if it's an EP, it might well be the longest one ever made.

Not that it's not worth spending time with these songs. Quite the opposite. The trio seethes intensity and their compositions are spellbinding in their fluid, serpentine structuring. Their sound reminds me of Greater Cincinnati trio Ampline, an instrumental crew that works a similar vein, mostly minus vocals (it's several minutes in before you hear any vocals on 06/06, so I thought they actually were an instrumental group at first). Like Ampline, Sah charts out a road map that doesn't follow the simplistic rules of "Pop songs." It is all about impulse, resulting in a winding sonic stream on which Sah pulls the listener down behind them on a buoy. The mind-lock between the musicians that is so apparent also extends to the listener — it's hard to not get sucked into the band's sweeping dynamics and angled propulsion.

The songs are endearingly manic, moving from heavy and clamorous to soft and twinkling. That kind of dynamic reminds me of soundtrack music — if you close your eyes, you can imagine an intense action scene, as the band members bash away in full rock-out mode, but when the energy of the scene changes and/or calms down, the music follows.

While using some of the tools of the Indie Rock trade (guitar and drums, no bass), Sah's approach is more like a composer from the Jazz or Classical worlds. The songs feel very instinctual, as if they were written by "jamming," but, at the same time, there are parts that are so intricate that you envision the writer sitting down and carefully putting the notes onto sheet music. It makes for a totally engrossing listen. The Built to Spill-ish vocals that come in and out add texture. And each musician is a monster behind his instrument. The drums are especially impactful, huge-sounding due to the doubling-up of kits (singer/guitarist drummer Jesse deCaire switches between instruments).

The group's 06/06 album, which it self-released, will be re-released by Cincinnati-based Phratry Records Sept. 25. If you like music that doesn't stick to the song structure rule book, get the CD, block an hour out of your day, dive in and just let it wash over you. (Mike Breen)

Limbeck with Piebald, The Format and Steel Train

Tuesday · Bogart's

When Limbeck began at the turn of the millennium, the SoCal quartet was an Emo-influenced group touching up its Pop/Punk sound with Cheap Trick-flared melodic energy to great effect, as evidenced by the full-bore debut album, This Chapter is Called Titles. A funny thing happened when Limbeck hit the road during the subsequent three years following its inaugural release. Crammed in a van stocked with seminal Country music, Limbeck began to absorb and translate the profound twang of the influential Country artists on the tape deck as the band roamed the nation's highways on its endless tour.

As a result, Limbeck (now comprised of Robb MacLean on vocals and guitar; Patrick Carrie on guitar, vocals and harmonica; Justin Entsminger on bass; and Jon Phillip on drums) has increasingly moved toward a more AltCountry center-point while retaining elements of the juiced-up Power Pop/Punk it began with seven years ago. The process began with 2003's Hi, Everything's Great, continued with 2005's Let Me Come Home, and now, with Limbeck's eponymous fourth album, the band has completely integrated its two loves into a pumped-up Americana output that stomps and shivers like Adam Schlesinger's vision of a Big Star tribute hootenanny with the Trick, The Shins, Rhett Miller, Jeff Tweedy and Paul Westerberg all pumping up the Country jam in the house band.

Whether full-throttle rockers ("Wake Up," "Keeping Busy") or gentle Country/Pop ruminations ("Reading the Street Signs"), Limbeck applies considerable skills and influences with equal measures of raucous abandon and thoughtful subtlety, employing a broader variety of instrumentation and otherworldly harmonies to link the extroversion of Punk roots with the introversion of Country branches.

Call them the New 97s or Grandson Volt or Little Star if you like, so long as you call them. Limbeck is ready for their big-time close up. (BB)