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Soundbites

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THE CRAWL IS ON!

I won't waste too much space telling you that the Weekly's Spring Club CrawlTM is this weekend--Saturday, April 21, to be exact--because you've no doubt already checked out the handy guide in this issue, which contains all the info you could possibly need to know about the event.

For example, you already know that close to a hundred bands, both local and national, in just about every musical genre that exists, will be performing in the downtown area on 25 stages. You can't escape the music, people! Submit!

Pick up a wristband in advance at CD City, 2890 N. Campbell Ave., for $8. They'll be $10 at the door.

And be sure to play it safe. Pick a designated driver; take a cab--whatever it takes. Mom always said, "Be careful," and mom knows best.

Most of all, have fun. After all, that's what Club CrawlTM is all about.


POETIC VAGUENESS

Will Elliott sounds a lot older than 23. He's one of those guys who writes, plays and sings songs far beyond his years.

I first heard about him in January of last year, from a guy named Jason McHenry, who worked at A Shot in the Dark Café downtown. Jason was preparing an art exhibition at the cafe that was mostly composed of dozens of portraits of Jackson Browne, all painted by the same artist, though there was also a Drew Barrymore and an Adam Sandler. Anyway, Jason had arranged for a singer-songwriter that I had never heard of to play at the opening reception. His name was Will Elliott, and Jason wanted me to hear his CD, The Doorman (self-released), badly enough that he ran a few blocks to fetch a copy for me that he had lent out. Here's what I wrote about it: "Elliott's self-released CD, The Doorman, is a lovely collection of songs mostly performed with minor chords on an acoustic guitar and Elliott's winsome voice. 'Put Down the Gun, Boy' is only enhanced by the melody stolen from Leonard Cohen."

In other words, I thought it was good. Derivative maybe, but good. The sound of a good songwriter who--as they say in writing workshops--hadn't yet found his voice.

In April 2006, he released a five-song EP, A Devil's Drought (Home Recorded Culture). Here's what I wrote about that one: "Elliott's songwriting skills are strong, and despite the fact that he seems to bridge the gap between the singer-songwriters of the '70s (Leonard Cohen, Harry Nilsson) and modern-day folk revivalists such as Devendra Banhart, he also comes fully formed, with his own distinctive sound: a hushed, husky voice and minor chords that add up to a heaping pile of forlornness and melancholy." His influences were still on his sleeve, but he had found his voice.

He had also very quickly found an audience and a whole lot of respect. Elliott took home last year's TAMMIES Critics' Choice award for Best Songwriter, pulling in ahead of Howe Gelb, Joey Burns and John Coinman.

This week, he releases his second full-length, Beat This Horse (self-released), credited to Will Elliott and the Heretics. The band credit is no mere formality. The Heretics-- guitarist J. Clay Koweek, drummer Andrew Collberg and bassist Michael John Serpe--flesh out Elliott's songs in superb fashion, and his voice is more confident and optimistic here. The entire album feels like a bunch of friends hanging out, playing their buddy's songs in the living room. Elliott writes story-songs, but they're often rendered in vague but poetic lines that, in context, add up to something more than a linear story. One of the albums' highlights is "Sip and Sup," a narrative of sorts that employs the opening lyrics: "I've lined up all my heroes and I've shot them in the heel / So I've named a lover with a heroine's appeal /And I was cold and loaded and my tongue was dry and vain / My eyes were duly coated with goodly goods to gain." Somehow, in context, it makes sense.

Celebrate the release of Beat This Horse when Will Elliott performs at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St., on Friday, April 20. Andrew Collberg and Graig Markel open at 9 p.m. Cover is $5. Call 798-1298 for further details.


MULLARKEY RECOMMENDS

Anyone who regularly goes out to see bands perform in this town knows Mullarkey. I'd be willing to wager the guy sees more live music than anyone in Tucson (with the possible exception of TucsonScene's James Hudson, who also contributes to this paper), thereby earning his uni-name status.

Mullarkey is a bit of an enigma. Ask him what he does for a living, and he'll give you a roundabout answer. This is, after all, a guy who once embarked on a cross-country tour of karaoke joints, gracing each one with a passionate performance before heading off to the next. Best of all, though, he's one of those guys who is always great to run into. Mullarkey would hate me using this (semi-hippie) terminology, but he's one of those people who just emanates good, positive vibes.

If you ever need to find the guy, your best bet is to look front and center at whatever the best rock show in town is on any given night. He's Tucson's version of Beatle Bob, except without all the baggage. (Beatle Bob is a cult figure of a guy who lives in St. Louis, and shows up to awesome rock shows nationwide, doing his little trademark dance, which sorta looks like he's tossing a bowling ball down a lane. Except there's no bowling ball, and there's no lane, and the fact that he often knocks into those around him while engaging in this dance tends to piss off those getting knocked around. He's also got a lot of outspoken enemies in every facet of the music industry, as one of those guys who takes a kilometer when he's given a meter. Still, he's also known as a reliable arbiter of taste. If Beatle Bob shows up at a gig, it's usually a damn fine gig.)

But I digress. Back to Mullarkey, Tucson's answer to Beatle Bob, if only in the sense that he's everywhere good live music is being performed. The guy's got great taste, and he takes risks, paying cover to see plenty of bands he knows nothing about, always searching for that next band that will reinforce why he goes to see all these shows in the first place. Mullarkey is to the next awesome band you'll read about on blogs a year from now, as a pig is to truffles.

So, when I got an e-mail from him recently, informing me that his "favorite currently existing and touring band are coming to Solar Culture (Gallery) on Monday, April 23," I obviously took note. They're called Parts and Labor, they're from Brooklyn, and based on the few songs I've heard by them (thank you, MySpace) they sound exactly as he first described them to me: like melodic '80s punk à la Husker Du crossed with current Brooklyn noise à la Liars. When I asked if I could quote him on that, he said, "No, don't use that," then gave me a more generic music-speak definition. Sorry, Mullarkey, but you got it right the first time--at least regarding their older stuff. But then there's their latest album, Mapmaker (Jagjaguwar, 2007), which incorporates more electronic devices and synths, but still keeps the dissonance and the melodies intact.

And that's the charm of Parts and Labor: They find the perfect balance between noise and beauty, in the same way the shoegaze progenitors did (I'm lookin' at you, My Bloody Valentine), though they don't really sound anything like them.

Trust Mullarkey and go see Parts and Labor at Solar Culture, 31 E. Toole Ave., on Monday. As an added bonus you get the opening antics of Mr. Free and the Satellite Freakout. All this for $7, open to all ages. Call 884-0874 for more information.

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