From Ashes Rise
Jade Tree Records
Would the last crusty punk to leave Tennessee please turn out the lights? Everyone seems to be moving to Oregon these days, and just as there’s a network of former Missoulians in the City of Roses, so, too, is there a small but active contingent of Memphis and Nashville natives playing super-political hardcore in bands like From Ashes Rise.

In the late ’90s, the standard-bearers of the Memphis punk scene were His Hero Is Gone—now defunct, with members playing in Portland band Tragedy. From Ashes Rise formed in Nashville, but the influence of their compatriots and sometime-label-mates HHIG is readily apparent in the ominous metallic guitar textures the band mixes with its charging hardcore. It’s a surprisingly varied listen, with styles ranging from no-prisoners Japanese thrash to relentless Discharge-style pounding and different members stepping up to the mic on vocals. I don’t buy many hardcore records anymore, but I used to fiend for His Hero Is Gone, and stuff like this takes me right back to a special place. (Andy Smetanka)

Paul Westerberg
Come Feel Me Tremble
Vagrant Records
You could argue that the world doesn’t really need Paul Westerberg anymore now that it’s got Ryan Adams. In fact, it’s kind of weird how one of the most distinctive punk-gone-country voices in American music doesn’t sound so distinctive anymore unless you already know it’s him, in which case you have to wonder if it’s just nostalgia working its narcotic effect. You’d think the ex-Replacement, whose world must feel crowded with epigones these days, would be trying a little harder, but there’s the Westerberg charm for you. It’s always nice to get a new album from the ex-Replacement. At the very least, you can always count on the lazy bastard for a catchy song or two.

Come Feel Me Tremble sounds pretty patchy at first, but it kind of grows on you. It takes Westerberg awhile to get where he’s going, and the listener a song or six to wonder whether Westerberg is still relevant 15 years after the Replacements called it quits. The album (actually a soundtrack to a Westerberg documentary of the same name) feels front-loaded with mostly lukewarm and forgettable tunes, but if you make it through those there’s a thick stand of great ones waiting toward the finish. The jaunty “Knockin’ Em Back” is the highlight—Westerberg back on the sauce, or at least singing about it—and a plangent cover of Nico’s “These Days” ends things on just the right wistful note. (Andy Smetanka)

Until He Finds Us
Pehr Label
The last Timonium record, Suspende Animation, had such amazing powers of stillness and quiet, I actually panicked on the band’s behalf when I heard they were playing at Jay’s Upstairs! If they’d have played a coffeehouse instead, the people who wanted to go see quiet music could have done so in a suitably cozy atmosphere, and those patrons who didn’t wouldn’t have had any trouble reading right through the performance. It wouldn’t have trespassed on anyone’s study-bubble any more than, say, a Low album playing in the background—just the kind of soothing wallpaper music you’d expect to hear there anyway.

To make matters worse, when Timonium showed up the band was missing a few members. So regardless of the crowd’s forbearance, it was still hard for Timonium in abbreviated form to charm its way out from under just the clamor of bartenders taking drink orders. Where do these guys play around where they live?

I think they stand a better chance now, touring behind Until He Finds Us—lots of subtle dynamics and intricate interplay of guitars and male/female vocals. Though of a piece with Suspende Animation, and still not exactly what you’d call rockin’, there’s a quiet intensity to a lot of songs on the album that should come through live. Between drink orders, anyhow. (Andy Smetanka)

Dressy Bessy
Dressy Bessy
Kindercore Records
Dressy Bessy has always seemed like a kid-sister band to Apples in Stereo. Not just because both bands are from Denver and reportedly share a member, but also because both draw heavily on ’60s pop and bubblegum and feature girlish-sounding female vocals. Though Apples in Stereo haven’t officially broken up, it’s yet to be seen what kind of long-distance band arrangement will develop now that the husband-and-wife singing/songwriting team of Hilarie and Robert Schneider has pulled up stakes and moved to Kentucky.

Meanwhile, Dressy Bessy is a band on the move, venturing as far east as New York to perform at CMJ and record this album: 11 tracks of fuzzy, candy-coated pop that make a pretty convincing case for the band’s straightforward brand of hook-happy, girl-flavored fun. Singer Tammy Ealom (who also wrote all of the songs on the record) still tends to sing flat, but somehow the music takes it in stride, giving bite-sized sugar bombs like “Georgie Blue” a husky, disheveled sexiness that’s quite appealing. Good fun, and judging from the horsing-around-the-studio footage on the bonus DVD, a fun band to be in, too. (Andy Smetanka)

Dressy Bessy and Timonium play a double-header at the Ritz on Saturday, Oct. 11 at 10 p.m. Cover TBA.

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