The Star Spangles brightly spread the gospel

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Vampire Moose

The Star Spangles with Death in Graceland and Anonymous Bosch

Wednesday · Barrelhouse

If you're the type of person who speculatively bought up Internet domain names a few years ago, your current project might be selling stretches of Lower East Side gutter to aspiring Garage bands. But for every hundred bands whose New York residency is as suspiciously convenient as Hillary Clinton's, there is one that is the real deal. That would be The Star Spangles. They have been sloughing it out in clubs around NYC for several years, and not running into any of the bands now claiming the same boroughs as their stomping grounds. Not that this pedigree makes their music groundbreaking, but it certainly relieves the burden of proving their authenticity, a condition that is driving many to labored mediocrity. Not so for the Spangles, which explains their Sex Pistols stoicism and strut. Actually, their playful detachment might better be described as a cross between The Replacements and Spinal Tap. Looking like AC/DC stepping out of The Rolling Stones' closet and sounding like Billy Idol fronting The Heartbreakers (with the infectious choppiness of early Cars), the Spangles are way too aloof to be bothered by comparisons. Bazooka!!!, their raucous and melodic Capitol Records debut, is a throwback to exactly the right era. Ramones' producer Daniel Rey was enlisted to capture the straight up Rock & Raw energy, which these guys churn out in abundance.

This year has brought them one break after another, including opening slots for bands such as Idlewild, The Datsuns and, most recently, with Jane's Addiction in Europe, where they were the absolute darlings of the U.K. press. Now stateside and back into no-nights-off touring mode, the Spangles are doing whatever it takes to spread the gospel, including this free show at the Barrelhouse. (Ezra Waller)

Vampire Moose

Thursday · Sudsy Malone's

The idea of a demented, fanged woodland creature is imposing if not comical. If nothing else, they've got to have some fantastic T-shirts. But this St. Louis Prog-core outfit is about more than merch. "An insane cross-breeding of Meshuggah, Dillinger Escape Plan and Obituary" is what their bio offers; dead-on, if not a little more listener-friendly. If you're a Metal fan, it's love at first bite, but any discriminating audiophile will find their eponymous Rotten Records debut enjoyable. They come bearing metallic guitar, thumping bass, sputtering drums, demonic white noise vocals and intricate song construction. The addition of soft spots and cascading atmospherics on the album sidesteps the one-dimensional intensity of many Hardcore acts, and the mathematics aren't really so disorienting that a dozen listens are required to appreciate the sonic assault. Most people have gotten over the shock of blood-curdling howls in place of singing, so the cathartic style is actually accessible by today's standards. This allows the razor riffs and abusive heaviness to take center stage. As a result, VM probably gained as many fans opening shows for Post-Grungers Nickelback and Hot Sauce Johnson as they did by doing the same for heavier acts like Testament. The band's antics (or those of the über-enthusiastic "Moose-heads") have gotten them banned from a handful of clubs in their hometown, started a mini-riot on their last East Coast tour and landed lead screamer Ryan Pulliam in jail at least once. So, take the satisfying crunch of Anthrax, add Mr. Bungle's feverish variety and G.G. Allin's caustic stage presence, and you have one mean moose. (EW)

Redheaded Stepchild

Thursday · The Comet

This Stepchild took some time to brew, like the coffee in the Buffalo, N.Y., haunts that earthy chanteuse Kathryn Koch and Bluesy acoustic picker David Nanni performed in frequently, honing their songwriting and performance chops as a duo. Gradually adding a rhythm section, the band hammered out their identity on the road, playing small clubs in the East and South. This lively four-year period culminated in the 2000 release of Time Will Tell, a Bluegrass-tinged effort full of youthful energy. In addition to Koch's strong voice, harmonica and alto sax (sounds strange, but it works great in the folky setting) and Nanni's guitar, a variety of guests playing traditional Bluegrass instruments (banjo, dobro, mandolin, washboard) were added to the flesh out the sound. Since then, Redheaded Stepchild has added Rebecca Mercurio (upright bass) and Ted Chubbuck (drums) to the fold, solidifying the RHSC lineup. This is the group that created 2003's self-produced gem, folks 'round here, an album that draws attention away from the music's roots and more toward the evolution of the band's sound. Notable guests Kevin Schramm (the Mollys) and Billy Constable (Sassagrass) lend their veteran talents to the effort as well. Folks 'round here has been critically acclaimed and is selling well on the road. When not out adding to their considerable fan base, the quartet is also collectively restoring a 19th century boarding house in Buffalo, where they live and record together. The members also split duties such as management, booking, promotion, photography and Web site maintenance, making RHSC a true cottage industry and reinforcing the "band that plays together and stays together" philosophy. (EW)

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