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DISTORTING THE HOUNDS

If you've been reading this column regularly, you may have noticed that there's been an abundance of new local CDs being released. That's because we're in the midst of New Local CD-Release Season, one of two such periods in the calendar year--the other being in the fall. And just in case you've been doubting the fact that this season is upon us (I know: Why would you? Just play along, OK?), the three local CD releases this week should quell your doubts.

After a series of coin tosses to decide who to tell you about first, the winner is Michael P.

Michael P. is multi-instrumentalist Michael P. Nordberg, one of those guys who, at one point or another, has played with pretty much every single Tucson band in existence. He started his career in music in the early '90s, when he quit the music program at the UA to play bass in bluesman Sam Taylor's band; judging from his second solo release, Hungry Like a Hound Dog (self-released), Taylor's influence continues to impact Nordberg's music to this day.

Hungry Like a Hound Dog contains 11 tracks, most of which are rooted in Taylor's funky blues style. "Pink Bicycle," which opens the album, is a six-minute slice of chukka-chukka slow-burning funk complete with a trio of female singers abetting the groove; it won't sound unfamiliar to anyone who was alive during the '70s (or has albums from that era). The next tune, listed on my advance copy as "Little Bit," though it clearly isn't, offers up more funk, this time in a Stax funky-soul vibe reminiscent of "Mustang Sally." "Gotta Gotta," from which the album title is pulled, is a rockin' road-trip anthem worthy of inclusion on a Steve Miller Band album, and "Get Awn Down" sounds like a pop-funk tune swiped from the Sly Stone playbook.

And, if this album were a game of "Which One of These Does Not Belong?" the jaunty, borderline-novelty "I Like It All" is the clear winner: It's got more in common with They Might Be Giants than P-Funk. Oh, wait, did I mention the country stuff, too? Like I said, the track listing on my copy is out of whack, but there's a trio of country songs toward the end of the album (on my copy, anyway) in succession that are enjoyable, if a bit disorienting, considering what came before--nothing that some crafty album sequencing couldn't fix.

It's also worth noting that the album, engineered and mixed by Nathan Sabatino at his Loveland Studio, sounds fantastic.

Michael P. will perform with a nine-piece band in celebration of the release of Hungry Like a Hound Dog starting at 9 p.m. on Friday, May 16, at The Hut, 305 N. Fourth Ave. Admission is either $3 or $4, depending on whether you believe The Hut's MySpace page or Michael P.'s promo posters. Call 623-3200 for answers to that and any other questions you may have.

The Hounds are a local trio who, on their debut album, Bonafied (FYI), effortlessly merge blues, hip-hop and reggae. The group spent a full two years recording and mixing the disc, and emerged with a collection that's sure to appeal to fans of Sublime and G. Love--or, for that matter, fellow locals the Triple Double Band.

The thing all these acts have in common is a penchant for laid-back grooves perfect for a spliff-smoking sesh on the front porch. So while a track like "Take Me There" uses a Bo Diddley beat to get its point across, and "She Got Stars" is an undeniably infectious sing-along, it's almost useless to parse this stuff: The charm is in the vibe, in the groove, in the feel-good feeling it evokes. Yes, it's perfect for sipping beers, but it works just as well as an antidote for the Sunday-morning hangover that follows.

The Hounds will perform at a CD-release party for Bonafied at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St., on Friday, May 16. Things get rolling at 9 p.m. with openers The Jons, Blazing Edisons and the aforementioned Triple Double Band. Admission is $4. Call 622-8848 for more info.

And lest you get the feeling that all Tucson's local music scene has to offer is funk and blues, along come the Distortionists to set you straight. This week, the four-piece punk band follow up their 13-song demo CD, given away to fans at shows, with a slightly more official release, Coloring the Distortionists (self-released), a five-song EP packaged, as the title implies, as part of a coloring book.

The band includes local scene vets--Mike Panico (guitar, vocals), Ed Nossem (guitar, vocals), Taylor Hardy (drums, vocals) and John Hayes (bass, vocals)--and their experience shows. The rhythm section pummels appropriately, and Panico and Nossem are straight-up shredders when they want to be.

The Distortionists trade in straightforward punk tunes that are notable not only for their musicianship, but also, in some cases, for their humor. The guitars on "Mass Attraction" recall the Damned, but the song benefits from harmonies that remind of the late, lamented Knockout Pills, while the dirge-like "I Hate Trick-or-Treaters" includes faux-menacing vocals espousing such nuggets as, "I hate trick-or-treaters / Snickers bars and candy corn / (I got more candy than you)." The blazing "Chicken Man A'Walkin'" continues on the same path, with a chanted chorus of "Chicken man, chicken man, chicken man-a-walkin'."

If you love punk rock but don't take it too seriously, the Distortionists just may be your new favorite band.

The Distortionists perform at a CD-release party for Coloring the Distortionists at 9 p.m. next Thursday, May 22, at Vaudeville Cabaret, 110 E. Congress St. Sets from Standard Deviance and Chow Yun Fat will follow. For further details, call 622-3535.


GOOD LIVE BOMB

Music dorks love making and discussing lists about all sorts of arcane things: best guitar solo, best sophomore album, best album of (enter decade of choice here), etc.

Following that theme, any discussion of best current live bands must, in my humble opinion, include Detroit's The Dirtbombs.

The group was started in the mid-'90s by frontman Mick Collins, a veteran of garage-rockers the Gories, as a part-time affair. The Gories were a stripped-down unit with no bassist, and Collins had the idea to go in the opposite direction with the Dirtbombs, who feature two bassists, two drummers and Collins on guitar and vocals. Much of the band's early work was covers of beloved and obscure rock and soul tunes performed with punk-rock energy; 2001's almost-all-covers Ultraglide in Black (In the Red) is a stone classic, though even it doesn't come close to harnessing the power of the band's live shows.

The group's latest album, released in February, is We Have You Surrounded (In the Red), and it marks a slightly different path than the band's previous releases. Until now, the Dirtbombs were largely apolitical, but We Have You Surrounded comes off as almost a concept album about societal ills: technology, the environment, politics, power--all are addressed to some degree on the disc. While the basics of the Dirtbombs' sound are intact--the ferocious R&B-addled rock, Collins' soulful vocals, and guitar fuzzier than Lindsay Lohan's brain after a bender--there's a somewhat dark, ominous vibe that permeates We Have You Surrounded. Not only does this not get in the way of the album; it provides a cohesion that has often been missing from the group's previous releases. To say this is the Dirtbombs' "growing up" album would be off-target; still, there is a definite sense of progression here that is undeniable.

Do yourself a favor and don't miss the Dirtbombs when they perform at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St., on Tuesday, May 20. The show begins at 9:30 p.m. with opening sets from Dan Sartain and Terrible Twos. Cover is a 10-spot. Call 798-1298 for more information.


ON THE BANDWAGON

There's far more good stuff happening this week than space will allow, so be sure to watch out for these, too: The Von Bondies at Club Congress on Wednesday, May 21; KFMA Day featuring Metallica, Scars on Broadway, Apocalyptica, Flobots and Chiodos at the Pima County Fairgrounds on Friday, May 16; Eisley at Club Congress on Monday, May 19; Liars at Plush next Thursday, May 22; Shearwater at Plush on Wednesday, May 21; the Bellamy Brothers at The Maverick on Sunday, May 18; Hockey at Sports on Congress on Tuesday, May 20; Efterklang at Plush on Friday, May 16.

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