SOUL FULL: Aside from the so-called female neo-soul movement, too much of what rides current R&B charts misses out on the soul music it's assumed to represent. Or, in baser terms, dammit, I miss the soul crooners of yore: the Rev. Als, the Otises, the Marvins, the Sam Cookes, you get the idea. It's apparently been hard on young performers to update the classic soul influences into contemporary configurations. Some would say Lenny Kravitz's retro-drenched take is sufficient, but I'd rather hear that Shuggie Otis album one more time; others are sated by the sweaty sex-soul of Maxwell, but that path just leads us back to Monsieur Gaye, who shall never be replicated.
All of which leads us to Maktub. On the Seattle quintet's brand new release, Khronos (Ossia), the band reminds of a time when you couldn't help but think that new Jeffrey Osborne track was pretty smooth, but could be made better by grittier production than Quincy Jones was willing to offer. But lest you think Maktub is some sort of modern-day ez-smooth soul outfit, let it be known that the band's sonic tablecloth is woven of everything from Bad Brains noise freakouts to LTD-style '70s funk-ups. All of which will tickle your love bone. One song, "See Clearly," even sounds like the blue-eyed soul follow-up smash to Ace's "How Long."
Reggie Watts, the band's singer, veers from Corey Glover-esque rock histrionics back to come-hither-with-a-beat crooning in the space of a verse and a chorus. (Local music fans: imagine Chango Malo, sans horns, with more emphasis on Stevie Wonder than Fishbone--but with a substantial presence of both, minus most of the punk influences.) In other words, a modern-day, but less annoying Living Colour, with more soul.
Maktub appears at 9:30 on Thursday, May 2, at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St. For details call 798-1298.
TRY IT, YOU'LL LIKE IT: I've noticed that Tucson audiences have a tendency to avoid shows by artists they've never heard of. (I've got plenty of ammo; don't get me started, don't even get me started.) That's fine, but let me venture to say that you never know when you'll be surprised by someone you've never heard of. In other words, splurge for a five- or six-dollar cover once in a while--trust your friends with good taste!--because the results can be life-changing. (Just ask anyone who saw the Nels Cline Trio on Saturday.)
You've never heard of John Vanderslice, and that's fine, not many people have. From here on out, consider me that friend that passes on a tidbit of good advice: If you're down with clever indie-pop along the lines of Spoon or The Shins, you deserve to discover JV. (You don't have to call him that, though--that's just my personal nickname.)
On the drive back from Austin a couple months ago, one of my travel mates insisted on playing his new Vanderslice disc every chance he got. While I slept, its contents permeated my (un)consciousness as effectively as osmosis, and let me tell ya, when I woke up I knew that album by heart. It's a smart pop extravaganza with lotsa guitars, and pop music this good doesn't usually have words this witty to match. Fave sample lyrics, amongst a host of 'em: "It's not really four tracks, cause you can add and subtract" and "Strawberries, big as a baby's fist."
That's not to say you'll wholly "get it" on first listen; it's too dense--and yet minimalist, like the Shins--for that; better yet, fork out the extra cash for a CD at the show and find out why you're the coolest one on your block.
And did I mention that stuff about him recording Creeper Lagoon, Spoon, Beulah, and Preston School Of Industry? I meant to do that, too.
Oh, and one more thing: For those keeping track, our beloved hero was the one behind that "Bill Gates Must Die" hoax a couple years ago. You've all got the in-ter-net, right?
John Vanderslice appears, along with openers Manifold and La Cerca, at 9 p.m. on Sunday, May 5, at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St. Call 622-8848 for further details.
GIVE 'EM A BONE: The only info I got on The Studdogs was a three-song EP, called She's Dangerous, on Mutiny Productions. No idea where they're from or nuttin', the Dogs sound to these ears like a combo platter of the Gun Club's eerie goth-blooze-punk and the ne'er do well heartbreak punk of the Replacements or Johnny Thunders, with Make-Up-esque gospel testimony tossed in when you least expect it. Three songs ain't much to judge, but I'm pretty sure these guys'll rock live.
The Studdogs, along with openers Worm, appear, at 9 p.m. on Sunday, May 5, at Vaudeville Cabaret, 110 E. Congress St. For more information call 622-3535.
SOUNDS LIKE -- : While listening to San Francisco's Rube Waddell, I was reminded of the following: Dublin, the tin whistle whimsy of Vaudeville (not the club), Guided by Voices' Dayton, the lovable Muppet N'awlins funk of Crawdaddy-O, the Catskills, and Tom Waits, if he lived in the barrio. Rube Waddell combines the front porch sincerity of Asylum Street Spankers with the pomo clatter of Skeleton Key, barbershop quartet harmonies with the swampy gutter-muck of CCR. On second thought, you'd better just check 'em out.
Rube Waddell performs, along with openers Okmoniks, at 9 p.m. on Wednesday, May 8. Call 622-8848 for more info.
GOOD SHOW: KFMA-FM 92.1/101.3 has finally put together a decent bill for its yearly KFMADay festival. System of a Down is undoubtedly one of the smartest of the nu-rock pummelers (depth, people, depth!) and Social Distortion will always kick-ass, period. Saves the Day, Unwritten Law, and Gob are frosting on the testosterone-iced cake.
It all goes down at the Pima County Fairgrounds, on Saturday, May 4. For tickets, call Ticketmaster at 321-1000.