Bitter, bitter weeks with n. Lannon
Wednesday · Southgate House (Parlour)
Philadelphian Brian McTear has earned a substantial reputation over the past few years as a gifted producer and engineer through the lush and layered work that has emerged from his Miner Street Studios, the facility he opened in 1996 after the breakup of his band, The Marinernine. Recent recordings from Mazarin, Burning Brides, Bigger Lovers and Broken Social Scene have all been cited as triumphs for the respective bands while praising McTear's vital contribution to the overall sound and vision. Now the gifted producer is venturing into the artist's realm with little more than an acoustic guitar and a bit of help from a broad circle of friends in a solo project he's christened "Bitter, bitter weeks." Although sparsely appointed, McTear's two Bitter, bitter weeks albums are not deliberately or trendily lo-fi as McTear presents a fascinating interface between Bob Dylan's Folk foundation and lyrical acumen and the Shins' basement Pop ethic. McTear launched Bitter, bitter weeks with a self-titled debut last January, an album so strong that Philadelphia's City Paper trumpeted the release as the best album of 2003 before the year had officially begun. Just after the completion of the first album in 2002, McTear was devastated by the death of Sara Weaver, a longtime friend and former bandmate, who had been diagnosed with leukemia two years previously. A good deal of Bitter, bitter weeks' sophomore album, the patently brilliant Revenge, is laced through with McTear's grief and resignation over Weaver's passing as well as his frustration over the inevitability of the war in Iraq. But even Revenge's darkest moments are lit, however briefly or subtly, by life's joyous potential. With Bitter, bitter weeks, Brian McTear has taken all of the energy and passion he has both given and received as a producer and channeled it into his own emotional and impactful songwriting. (Brian Baker)
R.E.M. With Now It's Overhead
Wednesday · Taft Theatre
The last time R.E.M. held court at the Taft Theatre was in support of their politically-charged guitar Rock album, Life's Rich Pageant, which took the '80s head on with literate jabs at American imperialism, polluting the environment and the Reagan years.
Since that Cincinnati stop 18 years ago, the band has achieved international success with a series of highly personal and politically involved albums. They've also dealt with the surprising early retirement of founding member Bill Berry and, in the process, almost called it quits. And while R.E.M. didn't break up, the band's first studio album in three years, Around the Sun, is unequivocally about just that.
Leaving their Jangle Rock past behind for the more subtle, quieter piano arrangements showcased on their two post-Berry albums, Around the Sun is a meditative, first person commentary about the end of a relationship, a per se "state of our union" address. Penning what might be (mis)construed as his most autobiographical lyrics yet, frontman Michael Stipe wants you to know that sometimes he's not too shiny or happy. Awash with the delicate wistfulness and minor key melancholy that are part of the group's trademark sound, the disc includes two first-rate ballads in the bittersweet "Make It All Okay" and gorgeous first single, "Leaving New York." Gone are guitarist Peter Buck's chunky guitar riffs, pushing to the forefront Stipe's plaintive vocals, which seemed to have mellowed and aged better than Kentucky bourbon.
Last month's co-headlining slot with Bruce Springsteen on the Vote for Change tour reaffirmed that R.E.M. can be a vicious live band even with more introspective material to choose from. They still pull no punches when it comes to their politics as evidenced by Sun's "Final Straw" and "I Wanted to Be Wrong," both direct assaults on the policies of the current U.S. administration. It's fitting then that early tour reports have the band filling out their set list with a few of Pageant's churning, socially-conscious rockers, including "These Days," "Begin the Begin" and "Cuyahoga." Expect to hear most of the new album as well as an unrecorded tune, the apocalyptic "I'm Gonna DJ at the End of the World." (Sean Rhiney)
The Bamboo Kids with the Sundresses and Viva La Foxx
Tuesday · The Comet
Where will you be on Election Night? I know where I'll be — at The Comet in Northside. I'll be doing one of two things — having a beer to celebrate Kerry's impending victory or crying in said beer because Bush is ahead. Either way, it'll be a great time because I'll have a killer soundtrack: New York City punk rockers The Bamboo Kids. They are perfect for our post-9/11, pre-1984 society — they're edgy, they're raw and they bring the guts and grit of their city with them wherever they go. This past spring at Detroit's D-Pollen Music Festival, they got the disaffected denizens of that scene up and moving with their defiant energy, and they're sure to do even better with the crowd at the Tavern. The Kids are energizing today's music as The Ramones and The Clash did before them. They follow along in the grand tradition of givin' the finger to The Man, and sounding damn good while they do it. Their just-released eponymous CD on Get Hip Records contains 11 tracks of straightforward, high-energy, real Punk Rock, as well as a video for the song "Caught in NYC." The Queen City will be doubly blessed on Election Day, as the Kids are also doing an in-studio performance on woxy.com from 2-4 p.m. So while we might be losing our privacy, our healthcare and our security, we aren't losing the Rock. The Bamboo Kids are proof that they haven't taken that away from us ... yet. (Ericka McIntyre)
Atreyu with The Used, The Bled and The Bronx
Tuesday · Bogart's
In the '80s and early '90s, America's main way of hearing electronic music was by importing the cache of hits that Europeans had already been sucking pacifiers to for months before they sent it our way. When we got tired of relying on another continent to soothe our growing fix for this kind of music, we started producing it on our own and dubbed it Techno. That's all ... just Techno. No delineations. No sub-genres. No boundaries or borders. If it was made with computers, it was Techno. It didn't take too long for this system to become complicated and inadequate. Soon certain kinds of Techno branched off and established their own domains. As quick as a strobe flash we were bombarded with an unbelievable amount of different types to chose from — Drum-and-Bass. Trip Hop, Breakbeat, Happy Hardcore, House, Trance. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.
This same trend of blossoming marginalization is happening again with Atreyu. When their debut album, Suicide Notes and Butterfly Kisses, came out in 2002, they were classified as part of the "Screamo" mob. Just Screamo. But now, just like with Techno, Screamo is transforming and branching out into refined sub-divisions. Atreyu is the involuntary chameleon of this diversification. The feedback for their music ranges from veneration, hailing this California quintet as the pioneers of the emerging Metalcore genre, to the more bitter end of criticism, deriding them as an example of Fashioncore (music where looking good is a higher priority than sounding good). To the band, they define themselves as "Black Hair Metal." Figure that one out. Either way, almost every respectable music magazine in circulation has given this band attention, now augmented by the release of their second (and better) album, The Curse, on Victory Records. In an age where any publicity is good publicity, Atreyu's shifting placement in the phylogeny of Screamo provides more than enough fodder — and they are worth checking out. See if you can find a place for them in your own evolutionary tree, if you can stop banging your head to their grandiose Arena Rock. (Jacob Richardson)