THAT DAMN VEXING VANThings can be a bit rough when you're one of the best working punk bands today, you're on a label whose taste the consumer can trust, you've got a tour of the West Coast scheduled, and you've got a broke-dick van that needs a cool grand's worth of repairs to attain road-worthy status.
Just ask Tucson's The Knockout Pills, who find themselves in that very predicament, right now.
"But we must allow these merrymakers to spread the utter joy of seeing them perform live, which they do so dang well, to the inhabitants of cities both up and down the coast of which we speak," I can hear you soliloquizing. "They must spread the word about the punk rock riches upon which our fair town was founded and upon which it continues to flourish. What can I do to help the cause?" you ask.
Well, as it turns out, you can do a couple of things. You have the opportunity this week to not only witness these fine, upstanding young--er, scratch that last one--men, these purveyors of everything that is good about fast, hard rock 'n' roll music that you can actually hum along with, but by doing so, you can help fix their cursed van, built in America almost 20 years ago. They call it the '87 Dodge Vampire--we're guessing because it's been sucking them dry for a year or so now (a couple grand has already been dumped into it)--and your attendance at one or both of the following two shows will aid the cause.
The Knockout Pills perform tonight, Thursday, Aug. 4 at the Surly Wench Pub, 424 N. Fourth Ave., along with two other excellent Tucson punk bands, Shark Pants and the Cuntifiers. Things get rolling around 10 p.m., and a fiver gets you through the door. More info is yours by calling 882-0009.
The following night, Friday, Aug. 5, will see the K.O. Pills headlining an all-ages show at Skrappy's, 201 E. Broadway Blvd. It's $5 too, but starts at 7 p.m. with openers The Sweat Band, Oldman, Mr. Free and His Satellite Freak-outs (described to us as a cross between the "fun side of Bright Eyes [is there one?] and the Wipers ... great") and The Remaining. We suggest calling 358-4287 for more details.
SWEET RELEASEWhile we're on the topic of excellent Tucson punk bands, let's discuss Swing Ding Amigos, shall we? The trio will hold a release party this weekend for their second album, whether or not they actually have the CDs and LPs back from the label by the time of the show. If necessary, Isaac has promised to burn CD-Rs to sell at the gig, then swap 'em out for the genuine article once they arrive. (Because we were given an unmastered CD-R of a vinyl test pressing, we find ourselves without an album title, though we can tell you the band's new label is Recess--same as Shark Pants, with whom they share a member.) Unfortunately, we got our hands on a copy at the last hour before deadline, so we haven't had a whole lot of time to spend with it, but here are our first impressions.
Where debut The Mongolita Chronicles (Rock N Roll Purgatory) boasted 22 bilingual tracks of mostly speedy, short punk stabs that subtly integrated slightly quirky tendencies and '70s rock riffs, on it, the Amigos came off without sounding like one of those bands that tries too hard to be different--they just were. And best of all, like all the great current Tucson punk bands, they proved they know their way around a memorable melody. The follow-up comprises 14 songs that mine much of the same territory, but--and keep it mind we're going on first impressions of a crappy sounding copy--the songs don't jump out as instantly as those on the debut. It's still far better than most of what passes for punk these days, but we were hoping for a leap forward of sorts, or at least hooks to rival those on Chronicles. To be fair, it sounds way better on second listen than it did on the first, so maybe those hooks will reveal themselves over time. With an asterisk: a slight disappointment, but still completely recommended.
Catch the Swing Ding Amigos' release show on Saturday, Aug. 6 at Vaudeville Cabaret, 110 E. Congress St. Things should get underway at around 9 p.m. with sets from the Cuntifiers, The Mystery Girls (In the Red Records), Ultra Maroon (their first show in almost two years) and Toys That Kill (owners of Recess). For further details, call 622-3535.
FOUR OUT OF FIVE CRITICS RECOMMENDThe Teeth are a D.C. quartet that cut their, um, teeth in clubs in their native Pennsylvania, where they apparently garnered quite a following. Along the way, they self-released three albums, and now have a new six-song EP out on Park the Van called Carry the Wood. It's some rather oddball stuff, in the same way their labelmates Dr. Dog or The Galactic Federation of Love are/were. There are pastoral elements along the lines of The Kinks, some dramatic Bowie-era glam, moments of Wings-like orchestrated intricacy, and lots of British invasion guitars and harmonies. And, each song sounds different than the previous one (they like the quiet song/loud song dynamic), though they all sound like the same band.
The Teeth are rumored to be pretty hot live, and you can judge for yourself when they make Tucson a stop on their first national tour on Saturday, Aug. 6 at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St. They'll be sandwiched between openers The Places and headliners LemonMan and Friends. Things start at 9:45 p.m., and cover is $4. Call 798-1298 for more information.
A GOOD TIME WITH EXCLAMATION!!!Though they made their name as a pseudo-rap outfit that released an album, 2003's Hello Doctor, entirely about food and sex, the co-ed foursome known as Gravy Train!!!! sound like an almost entirely different entity on their latest, Are You Wigglin? (Kill Rock Stars). This time around, they sound sorta like Le Tigre, but instead of feminist anthems, they sing about what happens to your boobs when you go on a diet ("Ghost Boobs") and sending naked photos of yourself to your significant other while you're out on tour ("Nudies From the Road"). There are lots of cheesy organs, an analog-electro vibe, bubble-gum pop, nods to '60s girl groups, an inherent punkiness and lots of cheeky pop-culture references. They're after nothing so much as feeding you a rollicking good time on a silver platter, and Are You Wigglin? does exactly that.
Gravy Train!!!! hit the stage at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St., for an all-ages show on Tuesday, Aug. 9. VIP and The Okmoniks open at 9 p.m. Cover is $6. Call 622-8848 for further details.
ON THE BANDWAGONFormer Bright Eyes tourmates Neva Dinova bring their dreamy selves to Plush, 340 E. Sixth St., on Friday, Aug. 5. Things kick off at 9:30 p.m. with openers Mayday (see Rhythm & Views) and La Cerca. Cover is $6. 798-1298.
Merge Records' The Rosebuds bring their brand of indie-rock to Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St., on Wednesday, Aug. 10. The Sweat Band and LemonMan kick things off at 9 p.m. Cover is $6. 622-8848.
While it's astounding to us that hair-farming "soul crooner" Michael Bolton ever fooled lonely housewives into thinking he was something special, it's even more astounding that he's still at it, asking $55 and $30 to witness the maiming of music as we know it. (Tix are $5 more on the day of the show.) The debacle goes down at 7 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 5 at Desert Diamond Casino, 1100 W. Pima Mine Road. 393-2799.