The Suicide Machines
Wednesday · Top Cat's
Punk is a genre that inspires a good deal more burning out than fading away. It is not a style that is conducive to easing gracefully into different phases of a band's evolution, which might be why so few of them either age or evolve. Detroit's Suicide Machines is a virulent and vibrant exception to the rule. The Machines began nearly a decade-and-a-half ago as standard bearers for the Motor City's long and illustrious Punk legacy with the meeting of vocalist Jason Navarro and guitarist/songwriter Dan Lukacinsky. Naming themselves after hometown euthanist Dr. Jack Kevorkian's end-it-your-way devices, Navarro and Lukacinsky cut a broad swath through Detroit's Punk underground. Blending raw Punk with bouncy Ska melodies got the Machines noticed locally which led to their 1995 signing with Hollywood Records. Their first four releases were studies in contrast; Destruction by Definition took the Ska/Punk route, Battle Hymns was more classically focused Punk mayhem, the eponymous third album was a blend of Punk urgency and Pop melodicism and 2001's Steal This Record was a fascinating melting pot of the previous three. This willingness to experiment with their sonic palette and not stick with a didactic Punk template might be one of the primary reasons for the Machines' long survival. The following year marked the end of the Machines' association with Hollywood but they quickly signed with traditional Punk label SideOneDummy Records. Now the band mines their most scathing musical and lyrical Punk vein to date on War Profiteering is Killing Us All, as the Machines, enraged by the current administration's attitudes and alarmed over the complacency of youth, roar through 14 breakneck wake-up-and-smell-the-oil-profit Punk broadsides.
Friday · The Viper Room
The big-sounding Rock duo is one of the more interesting trends in music since white Metal dudes decided that having a "rapper" in the band was a good idea. While certainly not the first, The White Stripes made it popular and, no doubt, gave many musicians looking to form a band the confidence to say, "Maybe we can do this without a bass player." Artists who choose the motif rarely try to sound like the Stripes, although most of them do manage to produce colossal sounds that make critics and music fans go, "Whaaa? There's only two of 'em!?" Cleveland's Mr. Gnome succeeds in getting the monstrous sonic tidal wave flowing on their debut EP, Echoes on the Ground. But, while that harsher side is what most of their reviews rally around, what makes Mr. Gnome special is an entrancing soft/loud dynamic. The twosome bandy around the phrase "Trip Rock" in their biographical materials, referring to the more delicate passages in their sound, but the Trip Hop/Portishead comparisons are somewhat misleading. While mesmerizing, the band eschews electronics, Hip Hop beats and, most glaringly, monotony. The five songs on the EP showcase unpredictable arrangements and erratic rhythmic shifts, making for a thoroughly captivating listen. Singer/guitarist Nicole Barille provides guitar work that is both muscularly beefy and windingly intricate, while her equally versatile vocal abilities provide the duo's magnetic core. Drummer Sam Meister's elastic, Jazz-like percussioning is the anchor, though his playing is so musical, it does much more than simply provide a backbone. The EP's title track encapsulates the band's approach, moving back and forth between breezy, music-box-like verses and a huge, squally wall-of-knife-edged guitar dissonance, with Barille's gripping, breathy wail slinking sensually across the aural barrage like Michelle Pfeiffer climbing around on top of a piano in The Fabulous Baker Boys. The trippy melodies and hush-to-bombast flexibility is more in line with the Deftones' like-minded sound than anything, but you simply have to hear Mr. Gnome yourself to fully understand. (Mike Breen)
Coheed and Cambria
Friday · Bogart's
Three years ago, an odd New York group led by graphic novelist Claudio Sanchez set out to create a soundtrack to the nightmarish world that Sanchez had envisioned in his not-so-comic books. The improbably christened Coheed and Cambria released their indie debut, The Second Stage Turbine Blade, to almost universal acclaim in 2002. C&C's post-Punk energy appealed to indie listeners, Metal fans were attracted to the volume and the darkness, Emo/Screamo followers picked up on the passionate presentation and Classic Rock hounds appreciated the thunderous riffage and the Prog-like nature of the conceptual storytelling. The album was an unexpected hit and C&C's compelling live presentation of it became a hot ticket in venues across the country. In relatively short order, C&C garnered a major label contract with no less than Columbia Records, who quickly reissued Turbine Blade. 2003 saw the release of the band's equally absorbing In Keeping Secrets of a Silent Earth: 3, which earned C&C a top slot on last year's Warped Tour. C&C's third foray into Sanchez's alternate sci-fi universe, released this past fall to ecstatic fan reaction, carried the ominous (and brevity-challenged) title of Good Apollo I'm Burning Star IV, Volume I: From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness. Although the band's storytelling thread is every bit as complex as anything Tolkien ever concocted (there are Web sites devoted to unraveling the story), the music can be appreciated outside the context of the continuous tale and has attracted the fans of similarly themed bands like Dream Theater, The Mars Volta and even Rush. When Coheed and Cambria hit the stage, you'll need your head for more than simple banging. (BB)