BOYS IN THE HOUSE: "There's nothing worse than a writer with nothing to say." This pearl falls from the mouth of Mitch Allan, the lead singer, guitarist and primary songwriter of Baltimore's SR-71, which has just released its major-label debut, Now You See Inside, on RCA. The stodgy old critic in me would wittily retort that it takes one to know one, and present to you, dear reader/fellow music fan, the following nuggets of wisdom from various songs on said album:
"I confess it's all true/I'm a mess, what a fool/Now what do I do/I need your help to get up off my knees/I can't seem to see the forest for the trees"; "She'll find strength in her anger and the truth in his lies"; and "I'm one of those things you'll save forever, but never need/Like an old newspaper no one has time to read."
Hardly the "potent songs of boundless intelligence" that the band's press kit touts. Or is it? In an era where carefully crafted poetry like "Backstreet's back, all right!" goes multi-platinum, maybe these guys are geniuses after all.
Actually, there's a hint of truth in that last statement. Let's give SR-71 some credit. After all, they do write their own songs (which seemingly counts for something these days), but most importantly, whether it's the band or the label, someone in the fold knows where their bread is buttered. Answer: everywhere.
These guys ape more safe, homogenized styles, and thus appeal to more disposable income-heavy demographic groups, than perhaps any band I've ever heard. Ever. Teenage boys who won't even let you borrow their precious Lit and Blink-182 CDs for fear of a dog-eared insert booklet will glom onto "Politically Correct" as well as "Right Now," the track that's made a name for the band on modern rock radio. (Teen boy consumer alert: If you're buying the disc 'cause you think it's all gonna sound like those two songs, I guarantee the word "wussy" will drop from your lips at some point during the other nine tunes.)
But as I said, that's the point. Elsewhere, sensitive-boy pop tunes like "Empty Spaces" (sure to end up on a soundtrack for some crappy hour-long drama on the WB in the near future) and "Go Away" will appeal to middle-aged women who listen to Adult Contemporary radio, where these ditties will sound positively edgy when preceded by Mariah Carey. Traces of Rick Springfield, Poison and the Goo Goo Dolls abound, and if you think about it, none of those artists ever offended--or even challenged--the listener in any way.
It's all very pleasant; completely disposable if sometimes catchy pop fluff. And as for the little girls, if nothing else, they'll surely understand the group's hunky Boy Band looks. But then what do I know? I'm just a stodgy old music critic.
Check these pages next week to read a review, written by our Teen Beat cub reporter, of the SR-71 show at 8 p.m. on Sunday, September 3, at the Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St. Sixth Year Senior will open, and advance tickets are available for $10 through Ticketmaster at 321-1000 or online at ticketmaster.com. For more info call 798-3333.
GROWING UP: It's funny how a term like stoner rock comes to be invented to describe a genre of music that can't get discussed without reverting to comparisons to bands that existed 30 years ago. Confused? Don't be. If you dig the dirty heavy-blues riffs of bands like Mountain, Black Sabbath, Blue Cheer or even Cream's denser material, I'm talkin' to you, bub. And if you're too young to remember Mountain, what about Kyuss, Nebula and Queens Of The Stone Age?
Well, Fu Manchu was one of the earliest purveyors of this modern strain of sludge rock, and is now perhaps its longest-lived. (Two previous Fu members went on to form Nebula; most of the Kyuss guys formed Queens, but Fu Manchu nicked its drummer, Brant Bjork.) After releasing genre-defining platters like its 1996 debut, In Search of--, and 1997's The Action Is Go, the band is currently touring to promote its latest, King Of The Road (all on Uni/Mammoth), released in February of this year. Higher production values shouldn't deter longtime fans, nor should the slightly more streamlined, less sludgy tunes that inhabit King.
Yes, the Fu has grown, but luckily it hasn't outgrown the dumb-rock aesthetic that made it so appealing in the first place. The Nugent-esque vocals are still in place, as are the boogie-blues riffs that, this time around, recall Royal Trux (minus that band's arty leanings) more than Mudhoney. If you've ever fantasized about driving a tricked-out van with shag-carpeted walls and those round bubble-shaped windows, Fu Manchu is for you.
Fu Manchu appears along with Speedealer (shortened from REO Speedealer following threatened legal action from you-know-who) and Fireball Ministry at 9 p.m. on Saturday, September 2, at The Rock, 136 N. Park Ave. Advance tickets are available for $10 at CD Depot, Guitars, Etc. and Zip's University, by phone at 1-800-965-4827, or via the web at ticketweb.com. Call the club at 692-9211 for further details.
ENLIGHTENED '80s: If you get misty-eyed while "Reminiscing" about the "Cool Change" that occurred when the "Lady" in your life ran off with that former "Lonesome Loser," forcing you to beg "Take It Easy On Me," then you'll feel right at home when Aussie MOR popsters Little River Band play all their late-'70s/early-'80s hits for you at 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, September 6, at Bob's, 6350 E. Tanque Verde Road. Pick up your advance tickets for $15 at Hear's Music, Zip's University or CD Depot; or, if you prefer, do it by phone at 1-800-965-4827, or online at ticketweb.com. Questions? Call 733-6262.
IT'S HOT HOT HOT: Now in its fifth year of welcoming students back to town with a bang, the Rendezvous on Fourth Avenue is now re-dubbed Caliente's Rendezvous on Fourth Avenue, due to sponsorship by the morning daily's entertainment supplement. The event is using its newfound sponsorship dollars to expand its scope. For the first time, partygoers will be required to purchase a wristband in order to attend the proceedings. Sound like a raw deal so far? Trust me, it's not.
The wristbands--which run a mere $5, and are available at most Fourth Avenue-area storefronts--grant you access not only to the events during the day (skating and BMX demos, graffiti art, poetry, merchant sidewalk sales, etc.), but also to some 20-plus clubs along the avenue. And for the first time, in addition to performances by local bands and artists like Catacoustic Groove, The Last Call Brawlers, Stephen Budd, Fusty Luggs, and way too many more to mention here, the event will also bring in two national hip-hop artists: the old-school rhymes of Doug E. Fresh and the booty-quakin' beats of DJ Kool ("Let Me Clear My Throat").
Events begin at 3 p.m. on Saturday, September 2, all along the historic Fourth Avenue merchants district, with the bar-hopping portion of the night set to run from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. Call the Fourth Avenue Merchants Association at 624-5004 with further questions.
LADY LUCK: If you simply can't wait for October's scheduled appearance by Sleater-Kinney, the Shotgun Won gig this week should help tide you over. The four-piece girl-punk band from Olympia is just about to turn a year old, and the demo tape they passed along sounds more than promising. Hard-driving beats, dexterously atonal guitar work and Amber Bayer's Corin Tucker-meets-Belinda Carlisle vocal shrill spell a bright future for these young ladies. Catch 'em live at 9 p.m. on Wednesday, September 6, at 7 Black Cats, 260 E. Congress St. For more info call 670-9202.