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Rock Picks: Built to Spill, Meat Puppets, Julia Fordham 

Plus other Feb. 21-28 shows

Wednesday, Feb 20 2008
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THURSDAY, FEB. 21

Ryan Aylsworth

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click to flip through (6) RYAN AYLSWORTH - Hazelden are either going to the prom or a funeral.
  • Ryan Aylsworth
  • Hazelden are either going to the prom or a funeral.
 

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Hazelden are either going to the prom or a funeral.

Jamie Mayer

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Hoosier dreamer James Combs

Raul Perez

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No Age, no eyes

Girl in a Coma at the Knitting Factory

Joan Jett knows a thing or two about rock & roll, and her latest protegees, Girl in a Coma, on her Blackheart label are one of the best and most interesting bands to come out of Texas in a long time. Although they're named after a Smiths song, Girl in a Coma are no mere tribute or revival act. Singer-guitarist Nina Diaz is a thoughtful lyricist who has a mighty voice that's in a league with Siouxsie Sioux and the HorrorPops' Patricia Day. And while many of the songs on their 2007 CD, Both Before I'm Gone, have a punk rock base, the group also have the ambition and reach to create epic ballads like "Road to Home," which has a fuller, deeper sound than you might expect from a trio. Diaz is properly enigmatic on "Sybil Vane Was Ill," as her guitar style moves from jangly and jumpy to punky and searing. Phanie D. keeps up a fierce racket on drums, supported by Jenn Alva's restlessly wandering bass. GIAC are actually stranger and more expansive than their influences and can't be neatly pigeonholed or relegated to some convenient genre basement. Don't miss 'em. Also at Alex's Bar, Fri., Feb. 22. (Falling James)

 Pinback at Avalon

Those kings of modern-day jingle-jangle Pinback are back with more ethereal-pop bliss than ever. Despite a title that evokes a Finnish black-metal album, Autumn of the Seraphs is full of the arpeggiating guitars and intricate coils of plucked bass the San Diego duo are known for. Not only that, Zach Smith and Rob Crow's feathery crisscrossing vocals fuel the sort of personal musings that make you think, but — thank god — not too much. Their previous album, 2004's Summer in Abaddon, is considered their commercial breakthrough, but for this fan Seraphs is the melodic, more upbeat return to form that sees them focusing on gooseflesh-inducing songs, reining in the side projects and saving the good stuff for, well, Pinback. (Even so, Crow's 2003 solo disc, My Room Is a Mess, is a delightful one-off totally worth checking out.) These mild-mannered guys don't seem like they'd have a sense of humor, but when they do crack wise, it's always a zinger. (Andrew Lentz)

 Also playing Thursday:

BLACK DIAMOND LOVE, THE FRESAS at the Bordello; WATKINS FAMILY HOUR at Largo; HEALTH CLUB at Mr. T's Bowl; AFRIKA BAMBAATAA at the Roxy; UNIDA at Safari Sam's; THE MONOLATORS at the Scene; ENTRANCE BAND, CRYSTAL ANTLERS, WHAT MADE MILWAUKEE FAMOUS at Silverlake Lounge; HECTORS, EJECT, RADARS TO THE SKY at Spaceland; WEST INDIAN GIRL, DIOS MALOS at the Troubadour.

 FRIDAY, FEB. 22

Hazelden, What Made Milwaukee Famous at the Bordello

Here's a strong bill with two disparate bands that each have a certain amount of commercial potential. Fronted by the "sadly beautiful and awkwardly poetic" singer-guitarist Mary Jane Snow, Hazelden have a radio-friendly alterna-rock sound on their debut EP, Deadstock Rock, that comes off at times like a shinier, sleeker version of Hole. The local quartet are at their most interesting when Snow's more intriguingly personal lyrics on "Loudmouth Bass" and "64 Redcliffe Gardens" emerge from the grunge-pop crush of the sometimes generic production. Despite their boozy name, What Made Milwaukee Famous are a pure-pop band caked with a thick layer of shoegazer effects on throbbing tracks like "Blood, Sweat & Fears." At times the febrile pop harmonies on their upcoming CD, What Doesn't Kill Us (Barsuk), variously recall the Strokes, Guided by Voices and Cheap Trick. "I wouldn't self-destruct for anyone else," Michael Kingcaid confesses against a minimal, harpsichord-like guitar break that gives way to a thunderous power-ballad assault. "Plead with me and beg me not to stay/so you can still get stoned every day," he teases on "The Right Place" before marching up a spiral staircase amid the doomy webbed-bass convulsions of "Resistance St." (Falling James)

 Built to Spill, Meat Puppets at the Echoplex

Provided you're wearing the right shoes, it's never too bad an idea to check in on what Doug Martsch and the psych-jam journeymen in Built to Spill are up to: Though the Boise band's last few full-lengths haven't quite done it for me like their late-'90s stuff did, Martsch is still one of indie rock's most dependable purveyors of sweet-and-sour guitar-army pop. According to the band's rep at Warner Bros., BTS have recorded about half of the follow-up to 2006's You in Reverse; they'll lay down the other half at the conclusion of their current U.S. tour, which kicks off tonight. Turntable-enabled fans should bring some extra dough and pick up a newish two-song 12-inch on which Built to Spill take a charmingly left-field crack at reggae. Last year the Meat Puppets released their first album with input from both Kirkwood brothers in over a decade. Also Sat. (Mikael Wood)

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