Magpies 

Pretty Big Time

The newest album from one of the best bands in Missoula right now is diverse and addictive. Strutting riffs and built-up choruses make it perfect for swilling beer or wildly jumping around. Other songs, such as "Burning Cellophane," fit with daydreaming alone on stormy nights, in a fog of loss. The songs are shimmery, badass, sweet and sinister. It's music for music geeks. It carries with it the flavor of CBGB greats without feeling derivative.

That said, I can't resist a few comparisons to other bands I love. The title track evokes Silkworm's Libertinethat bright, fuzzy wall of minor-key chordage that defined the best of 1990s underground. "Gasoline Semen" has the rowdy fierceness of The Gits. One big difference: The Gits's Mia Zapata sang with a volatile grit. Equally good, Magpies' bassist/vocalist Samantha Pollington's vocals are sweet and weird, Kathleen Hanna-style. Other times, Pollington purrs like a cat who's about to whip out her claws.

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"Impact Crash" is spooky and danceable, gathering speed and then slowing down into anthemic intermissions. "Highway to Helena" could be a rallying cry for a midnight highway drive in a Quentin Tarantino film; Pollington and guitarist Tolan Harber sing, "It's sundown. / Shit is goin' down." Their hypnotic confidence together recalls bees buzzing in a hive: happy but hinting of danger.

Magpies play two shows this week: at The Top Hat Fri., March 16, at 10 PM with Vera, New Hijackers and Salamanders. $5. And at Zoo City Apparel Wed., March 21, at 8 PM with Vera and TacocaT. $5.

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