Editors with Stellastarr*
Friday · The Mad Hatter
The definition of what constitutes "The Next Big Thing" is subjective at best, but there's no question that South by Southwest 2006 was crawling with somebody's idea of this week's buzz band. If it wasn't the Arctic Monkeys generating huge hype and long lines, it was Wolfmother playing five shows in four days and wowing crowds at every one of them. Sadly, one of this year's "It" bands didn't get to rise to its full potential: Editors lead singer Tom Smith lost his voice midway through the band's first set on the first day. Nevertheless, the UK quartet acquitted themselves nicely, and if they didn't leave Austin with the NBT crown, they certainly gave notice they were heirs to the throne.
Early last year, the Birmingham band, formerly known as Snowfield, was suffering under the yoke of being saddled by the English press with the regrettable tag "the British Interpol" and lightly dismissed as little more than Joy Division tributers. The band's debut album, The Back Room, helped alleviate that misrepresentation somewhat (the tag turned to "the British Franz Ferdinand") and reviews were overwhelmingly positive. But it was solid, consistent touring and a manic stage show that made Editors one of the UK's most sought after and talked about bands; within a matter of months, England's "Drowned in Sound" Web site had proclaimed the foursome "THE singles band of 2005."
With the release of The Back Room here in the U.S. late last month and the band's much discussed American tour kicking off, we'll finally have the opportunity to judge Editors' "nextbigthinghood." As long as Smith doesn't blow out his pipes again, audiences here in the States will finally have the opportunity to experience the incendiary performances that have been igniting stages in Europe for over a year. (Brian Baker)
Metric with The Holy Fire and From Fiction
Friday · Bogart's
Toronto's Metric is only three months into the New Year and it's already been a phenomenal period for the quartet.
In January, they were tapped to open the Rolling Stones' two-night stand at Madison Square Garden in New York; where exactly do you go from there? In February, Metric scored a Juno nomination at home for Best Alternative Album for their sophomore release, last year's Live It Out. And just last month saw Metric's triumphant return to Austin where they dropped jaws once again during their performances at SXSW.
Metric's profile has been rising steadily since Toronto music denizens Emily Haines and Jimmy Shaw began collaborating in the late '90s, forming Metric and moving their base of operations around the globe. They had toured North America, Europe and Japan extensively by the 2003 release of their debut full-length, Old World Underground, Where Are You Now?, and were finally ready to return home to their comfortable roots in Toronto (bassist Josh Winstead and drummer Joules Scott-Key chose to remain in southern California, but venture north often).
The past two years have been eventful for Metric. Underground was well received and the quartet toured ceaselessly behind it, they made the most of French filmmaker Oliver Assayas' cameo offer in his 2004 cautionary junkie fable Clean, and they saw their audience grow exponentially at home and abroad, driven by both their tireless touring and their association with the suddenly scorching-hot Broken Social Scene.
For Live It Out, Metric decided to shake things up, playing down the first album's adherence to New Wave traditionalism and veering off into noisier sonic territory based on their love of Sonic Youth and admiration for Pink Floyd.
Given the monumental events of 2006 so far, it might seem as though the rest of Metric's year would be anticlimactic by comparison. But it's also a safe bet that the band will find a way to scale even these heights and have a great time doing it. (BB)
Very Bad Things with Highgate, Watchfire and Against All Odds
Wednesday · Top Cat's
With the heavy, stabbing attack of new-school Metal rusted together with the more melodic fire of the old school, Indianapolis-based five-piece Very Bad Things' debut, Unimaginable Consequences, rumbles with propulsive rhythms, switchblade guitar slashing and a strong vocal mix of shrieks, grunts and more precise singing, falling somewhere between Judas Priest, Iced Earth and Pantera. The band was put together by ace guitarist Ritchie Wilkison, who previously lent his formidable skills to reformed German Metal faves Angel Dust and Iced Earth guitarist Jon Schaffer's Demons & Wizards.
But Very Bad Things — whose debut is receiving widespread distribution from Indie Metal powerhouse Century Media — doesn't need to rely on pedigree to draw fans. Their music is more than enough. While not exactly in the "Prog Metal" camp, the band's arrangements are impressively imaginative and unpredictable. Within the dynamic structuring, the group is able to unload an arsenal of "tricks" that keep listeners on their toes. For example, "Flat Black" starts with a vinyl record crackle and the unamplified sound of a pick quietly plucking before igniting into guitarmonies and a pounding, monstrous riff of which Dimebag would be proud; as the song builds to a boiling point, it suddenly falls backwards into a more aired-out, Jane's Addiction-like bridge, then U-turns back to a fierce, fuming solo that sounds like train brakes scraping the tracks.
Despite the bold architecture, VBT never forgoes melody, and singer Mike Wells' versatile singing adds another dimension to the band's overall sound as he effortlessly goes from a low-register creak to high-wire wail, throwing in various gut-punch howls in between. VBT's music is full of power, but their finessed delivery helps them stand above some other Metal acts whose songwriting prowess often gets swallowed up in a squall of blind rage or self-indulgent virtuosity. VBT have mad skills, but they use them solely to serve the song and not just to get a blowjob from the drunken shred-queen with an Yngwie t-shirt throwing her hair around in the front row. (Mike Breen)