The Life and Times
Suburban Hymns
DeSoto Records

With songs like “Skateland,” “Muscle Cars” and “Thrill Ride,” you might expect The Life and Times to be a fast and dirty garage band wielding tough-as-leather solos to match their inked-up arms. Au contraire. It’s true that “Thrill Ride” begins with the lyrics “Shooting my way out. Blasting my way out. Bombs fall around me.” But keep in mind that the newest album by this Kansas City trio is entitled Suburban Hymns—a clue to the sort of interpretation to which such usually raucous subjects (like fast cars) might be exposed. In fact, these lyrics are sung in a melancholy tone with the air of a lounge act or a contemplative evening walk along autumned parkways.

Allen Epley’s angelic vocals crossed with Eric Albert’s angsty moog give a romantically melodramatic touch to Chris Metcalf’s ’80s-style backbeats. “Coat of Arms” is especially nostalgia-invoking, mostly because it sounds like the long lost brother of U2’s “Sunday, Bloody Sunday.” Here, Epley’s voice is edgier and far more interesting than when he falls into atonal somberness—because then he just sounds bored. Suburban Hymns is definitely a soundtrack for starry nights, as well as a moody indulgence for more sensitive folk. (Erika Fredrickson)

The Life and Times play The Elk’s Lodge Saturday, Aug. 20, at 9 PM. Cover $6.

Clinton Fearon & Boogie Brown Band
Give and Take
Sankofa Blackstar Music

Supposedly, reggae gives you that glazed-over mellow feeling because its rhythm mimics the human heartbeat. Whether or not this is scientific fact, Clinton Fearon’s latest album scoops up listeners from whatever rat race they’re running and deposits them into a more laid-back frame of mind.

Originally from Jamaica, Fearon is a reggae veteran. He was a member of the 1970s reggae band the Gladiators and worked with Lee “Scratch” Perry for years. A close listen to Give and Take reveals a level of sophistication that comes from a deeper place than just the ganja-smoking, hypocrite-bashing flow of some modern reggae groups. Fearon’s empowering and optimistic messages are carried successfully by his wise and grandfatherly voice. Fearon’s Boogie Brown Band is a testament to diversity: The sextet features Jamaican Nelson Miller on drums, North Carolinian Ire on vocals and percussion, Bill Jones from Nevada on trumpet, Izaak Mills from Washington on sax, New Englander Jeff DeMelle on bass and Oklahoma native Barbara Kennedy on keyboards and vocals. Together, the seven bodies gel in a concrete groove that has better calming properties than most prescription drugs. (Caroline Keys)

Clinton Fearon & Boogie Brown Band hit The Other Side Sunday, Aug. 21. Show starts at 10 PM. $15 for 21 and under, $13 for over 21.

Gorch Fock
Lying and Manipulating
Australian Cattle God

Contrary to what you might think, Gorch Fock is neither an exotic animal (do not feed the Gorch Fock) nor a nasty swear word. Originally a German sailor doomed to die and then destined for heroic folklore, Gorch Fock is presently a seven-piece Austin, Texas, band with a newly released album titled Lying and Manipulating. Highlights include “Penance/Giant Mast,” a reverberating tune inflected with dramatic crash cymbals and haunting sea chants, topped with apish, lunatic vocals. Equally theatrical is “Brazilian Whack Job,” which delivers a warped rendition of the Doobie Brothers’ “Black Water” and then plummets into feverish riffing.

The album is soaked in Melvins-ish intonations and spattered with the manic trombone work of frontman Joey Ficklin, who manages to sneak intermittent ska-like tempos in with spastic horn squealing a la John Zorn. Despite other familiar cadences (it wanders into ’70s psychedelia) and one familiar cover (Neil Young’s “Ohio”), Lying and Manipulating is fairly unpredictable in its cavernous lo-fi sound and alarmingly strange samples. The problem is that Gorch Fock’s wild nature and dueling drummers sitting face to face aren’t fully realized to the naked ear. This would seem to be a creature best seen live. (Erika Fredrickson)

Gorch Fock plays The Elk’s Lodge Friday, Aug. 19, at 9 PM. $5.

Tia Carrera
The November Session
Perverted Son Records

If by some chance our nation’s War on Terror mandated the construction of a rock ’n’ roll fortress, Tia Carrera would be on the list of musical contractors. The November Session, this Austin trio’s debut album, is dense as oat bran and fortified by Jason Morales’ thick Fu Manchu-ish guitar riffs and the muscular drumming of Erik Conn. Not only that, but these guys claim to be improvisers and never rehearse together, making the product of their labor an unpredictable but durable jam session. Yet they recorded an album, which raises the question: How the hell do you improvise a record?

Well, for one thing it’s a live studio session. But this band also appears to have a blueprint embedded in its song titles. The first two tracks are subtitled as soundchecks, and followed by three lengthy songs (the final track, “J. Bankston Manor,” runs over 30 minutes) divided into subtitled movements like “Hey! Do some drum intro thing and maybe give us a yell” and “The four open six.”

Tia Carrera is as overly self-indulgent as any jam band, but the ability to mortar walls of raw, monstrous sound displays their engineers’ art at its finest. (Erika Fredrickson)

Tia Carrera opens for Gorch Fock at The Elk’s Lodge Friday, Aug. 19, at 9 PM. $5.

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