The Lights
Diamonds and Dirt
Wäntage USA

Maybe you’ve heard: the surviving Stooges—Iggy included—are recording a reunion album. Now the Stooges were undeniably the shit, an unassailable pinnacle of rawest garage-rawk, and albums don’t come any better than Fun House, but I’m willing to bet good green I’ll still be listening to Diamonds and Dirt long after I’ve tossed whatever memory-shattering beer coaster the reconstituted Stooges are bound to regurgitate.

Comparing Diamonds and Dirt to Fun House, or today’s Lights to yesterday’s Stooges for that matter, would be stupid blasphemy, but both albums accomplish similar goals: they display bands capable, through accident or artifice, of making truly great front-to-finish rock records, and they leave little doubt that while the record itself may be a more-than-worthy artifact in its own right, the live show it suggests is likely to inspire full-bore awe.

It doesn’t even hurt that “A Horse Rides Away with Its Lover” sounds more like golden-era Violent Femmes than anything the Stooges ever recorded. Hell, it helps.

I listened to this thing three times and couldn’t find a song I didn’t want to turn up, and not one to make a Stooges fan feel guilty for liking it. If there’s not room in your collection for a CD like that, you need a bigger iPod. (Brad Tyer)

The Lights play the Elk’s Lodge Friday, Oct. 6, at 9 PM. Volumen, The Touchers, Riddilin Que and The Constants open. $7.

The Touchers
Pretty Baby
Beard of Blood

Catchy pop hooks tend to be most intriguing when they’re battered and unkempt. Keeping in line with that strategy, The Touchers manage to snare your attention with heart-wrenching melodies despite—and because of—their belligerent demeanor and sometimes neurotic delivery of shiny garage-punk rock.

In their newest release, the Bozeman-based band revels in dark, anthemic lyrics flooded by fast-as-hell guitar strumming. Vocalist Ben Spangler spits the lyrics out with the defiance of a scrapper just punched in the face, especially in songs like “Pig Has Gone Away,” where he spouts, “If you think the bad guys always lose, you got another thing comin.’”

The album’s darkness is counterweighted with smart-ass attitude, sharp wit and anguish about the state of the world, making it delectably ambiguous. Certain song titles, such as “Apes in Hell” and “Number of the Beast,” might trick you into thinking this is a death-metal album, but The Touchers present a little more like the Pixies and sound a lot like the frenzied rock ’n’ roll of Gaunt. It’s messy and indulging, good for a wild dance and worth sinking your teeth into. (Erika Fredrickson)

The Touchers open for The Lights at The Loft Friday, Oct. 6, at 9 PM. $7.

The Breakmen
The Breakmen

Before you throw your $17 down for a cheeky new Old Crow Medicine Show album that doesn’t quite measure up to previous efforts, you might want to check out The Breakmen’s debut CD. Like OCMS, the Breakmen are a squirrelly bunch of guys who play and sing their hearts out on both traditional and original tunes—they even do a number about cocaine, just like OCMS. But unlike OCMS, these folks have managed to make a hit-caliber record without the production help of acoustic mega-star David Rawlings. In fact the man in the producer’s chair on this eponymous CD is former Missoulian Ivan Rosenberg.

Rosenberg, who formerly picked in Missoula’s Iron Lasso bluegrass band, also drops his own zippy Dobro licks into the mix, rounding out the string band’s twang. Based out of Vancouver, British Columbia, The Breakmen own up to their north-of-the-border roots—this is possibly the only occasion on which you’ll hear a bluegrass song with the word “Kilometre” in the title. Wherever these folks are from, though, their sound is relaxed, the fun is authentic and those qualities are more important to an album than a hit CMT video any day. (Caroline Keys)

Tilly and the Wall
Bottoms of Barrels
Team Love Records

Yes, it’s a tap dancer. It takes a second or two, and then an extra moment of convincing, before realizing that the percussion in Tilly and the Wall’s outrageously catchy, sugary opener, “Rainbows in the Dark,” is in fact Jamie Williams tapping the crap out of a hard surface. The sound—bolstered by horns, bells, shakers and a score of other merry melody makers—is a veritable feel-good fest that’s evidence of what indie-pop can be when it’s not trying to drown itself in maudlin coolness.

Bottoms of Barrels is this quintet’s follow-up to their well-received 2004 debut, Wild Like Children. Birthed in Omaha, Neb., and boasting a half-dozen connections to that area’s resident indie starchild Conor Oberst, Tilly and the Wall revels in a wickedly smart party vibe that’s as catchy as flypaper. After “Rainbows in the Dark,” listeners are treated to the cross-dressing romp “Bad Education” and the soaring ballad “Lost Girls.” In these, as with the rest of the album, the harmonious vocals of Kianna Alarid and Neely Jenkins (with occasional support from lone dude and guitarist Derek Pressnall) stretch above the robust arrangements for a sound big enough to fill a cornfield.

Tilly and the Wall is stirring and sprightly, and Bottoms of Barrels scrapes up so much infectious energy that anyone might find themselves tapping their toes by track two. (Skylar Browning)

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