A Tiger Dancing
Razor & Tie

Heiruspecs aren’t the usual suspects, although the name does sound suspect. This is a progressive five-piece instrumental hip-hop band from St. Paul, Minn. The cryptic name is perhaps misspelled, but its origin isn’t all that mystical: Haruspices were soothsayers in ancient Rome, known for their talent at weaving words together to foretell the future.

The raps from MCs Felix and Muad’Dib are solid and often tongue-in-cheek. What make Heiruspecs really shine, however, is the interplay between vocals and instruments. The band thrives within traditional song structures—instead of merely rapping over the top of simple breakbeats, the band breathes as a unit, breezing through rhythm and chord changes. Peter Leggett’s work with the sticks’n’hide merges inventive jazz grooves with hip-hop beats and is countered by dVRG’s mournful keyboards.

On “Get Down,” Twinkie Jiggles’ forceful bass lines provide an unbreakable foundation for the punchy lines and a cross fade toward the end introduces tasty electric raindrops from dVRG’s Fender Rhodes.

Perhaps the finest moment of the album is “5ves,” which is a microcosm of what Heiruspecs are all about: Muad’Dib’s mind-boggling vocal scratching, the offbeat organ accenting the rap, a solid and melodic bass line and refreshing rhythm changes. (Eric Segalstad)

Heiruspecs, play The Other Side Saturday, Feb. 26, at 9 PM.

Black Eyes and Neckties
New Regard Media

Whoever said horror rock was dead hasn’t been listening to Bellingham’s bloody-talented Black Eyes and Neckties. Notorious for its live shows (where “bloodbaths” aren’t necessarily out of the question), Black Eyes and Neckties released its new 13-track album Stiletto last year on Halloween. Recommended for the music lover, but not for the light of heart, Stiletto is a fast-paced romp through musical murder, massacre and mayhem. Frontman Bradley Horror’s shrill screams and imposing vocals resonate forcefully on almost every track. The guitars are murderously intelligent, and the drums wreak havoc on the soft pulp of the brain. Keyboardist Brenda Grimm is particularly tactful at blending melody and hard rock, and the keys add a ghastly and haunting element to tracks like “Tonight, Death Soars” and “Dirty Hands.”

The blood-splattered album cover comes adorned with a photograph depicting a pale-faced young woman standing steadfast and costumed in the band’s trademark neckties and black-eye make-up. There’s a bloody stiletto gripped in her hand; in the background, one of her victims begs for mercy. You may, too. (Diego Bejarano)

Black Eyes and Neckties plays Area 5 Art Gallery Friday, Feb. 25, at 8 PM.

Papa Roach
Getting Away With Murder
Geffen Records

Given the short shelf-life of today’s popular music, Papa Roach is a veteran band. Now into its second decade of producing bland music, the band continues to fill the coffers of fat record executives. Getting Away With Murder, the band’s third effort, has sold an impressive 400,000 copies. Is the title a sick joke on Papa Roach’s success-to-skill ratio?

On “Be Free,” vocalist Jacoby Shaddix complains that he is “so sick’n tired of being sick’n tired.” He’s been on a drunken rage and can’t remember the previous night. “Help me, save me,” goes the chorus on another track. “It’s the tyranny of normality.” And it goes on.

In a nation full of depressed teenagers and adults gobbling Prozac like M&Ms, the lyrics might resonate, but it’s hard to understand why the guys in the band feel that way. Here’s a tip Jacoby: If playing music doesn’t make you happy, try something else.

The band bio we received at the Independent was marked “confidential,” but between the blacked-out lines Shaddix reveals that his band wasn’t afraid to break out of its “shell” and “use more melody” on the record. The songs blend together in a sinewy mush, but they do have dark little hooks that are supposed to make the head move. But if Shaddix can sing “I’m not listening not anymore, the more I hear the more I ignore,” so can I. (Eric Segalstad)

Papa Roach performs at the Wilma Theatre Tuesday, March 1, at 7:30 PM.

Ernie Payne
Coercion Street
Black and Tan Records

Ernie Payne was born in Louisiana, moved to Texas when he was a child and now resides in Los Angeles. After a lifetime of playing music he decided, in his late 50s, that it was time to record his first album. Coercion Street is a rootsy blues album that’s somehow raw and refined at the same time. The songs are built primarily around his resonator guitar and rely on strong melody lines and traditional forms, although the title cut dips into a revamped polka that works really well. This album has several instant favorites on it, but my favorite favorite is probably “Wait For Me,” a gospel-influenced song that’s a bit reminiscent of some of Ben Harper’s work. It starts with a childhood story spoken with sparse accompaniment and moves into simple but powerful singing and slide guitar that’s mixed in this sort of ethereal, far-off way—like you’re standing on the front porch and can’t quite tell where the music is coming from. Payne has the warm voice of someone you’d want to be your friend, and he is definitely one to watch out for in the future. (Colin Ruggiero)

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