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Rock Picks

FRIDAY, October 20

Swollen Members at El Rey Theater

You can blame Canada for this shape-shifting hip-hop threesome that exists in two distinctly different worlds. Formed in the land of liberal weed laws and rampant movie production (I’ll take Vancouver for $200, Alex), Swollen Members — a.k.a. rappers Madchild and Prevail alongside producer Rob the Viking — are pop stars in the Great White North, touring with Black Eyed Peas and selling records in the millions. In America, they’re soldiers in the indie underground, rolling with Dilated Peoples and Planet Asia. Beloved by backpackers for their grimier, battle-ready beats, they bummed a bunch of them out with the decidedly poppy 2004 album ironically titled Heavy. They’re back on track with the recently released Black Magic, boasting cameos from Ghostface and Alchemist. They’re known for bringing it live, so expect more ladies than at your average rap show. (Scott T. Sterling)

The Detroit Cobras at the Key Club

In this stultifying era of tribute groups, unimaginative rock & roll revivals and endless oldies weekends, what makes the Detroit Cobras more than just another cover band is that they bring something of their own to the table: fire. Guitarist Mary Ramirez keeps things down to earth with her chopped-up, rootsy garage-rock riffing, and singer Rachael Nagy is such a radiantly powerful, distinctively soulful stylist that the Cobras’ remakes of obscure R&B gems are often more memorable than the originals. (And that’s really saying something when you consider that they’re redoing tunes by the legendary likes of Otis Redding, Bobby Womack, and Jackie DeShannon, who was so pleased by their version of “He Did It” on 2001’s Life, Love and Leaving that she’s now one of band’s biggest fans.) Like the Rolling Stones, who also started out as a cover band, the Detroit Cobras are finally writing original songs such as “Hot Dog (Watch Me Eat),” from their 2005 CD, Baby, that approach the intensity of those divinely, deliciously incendiary remakes. (Falling James)

SUNDAY, October 22 Oxford Collapse, The Joggers, The Capitol Years at the Knitting Factory

From song titles like “Please Visit Your National Parks” to the suburban-leisure album-cover art, Oxford Collapse’s Williamsburgian irony belies their gently rocking loveliness. The Brooklyn trio’s earlier releases had a tendency to ape their New York brethren’s dance-punk sensibilities, but their brand-new Sub Pop release, Remember the Night Parties — a lo-fi nimbus of chiming guitars and shimmering distortion — would float away if it weren’t anchored by drummer Dan Fetherston’s meaty fills and Adam Rizer’s funk-inflected bass lines. Portland warmer-uppers the Joggers, former Oxford tour partners, have a similarly shambolic thing going on, but their deliberately muddy execution can’t obscure their ditties’ melodic centers. Philly’s the Capitol Years funnel late-’80s Amer-indie through the onstage histrionics of yesteryear’s arena rockers. (Andrew Lentz)

UK Subs at the Key Club

While a rather dismal package of past-it acts, Fiend Fest does include one particularly notable aspect — the presence of ferociously intransigent, intemperate punk rocker Charlie Harper. The Cockney-Chicano shouter has been driving his UK Subs (as in subversives, kiddies) for nigh on 30 nonstop years, and while the band’s recorded output and lineups have been wildly inconsistent, Harper’s cheerily rabid presentation remains as powerful as ever. The consummate misfit (his father was a U.S. serviceman from Arizona, a heritage frostily received by the bulldogs of postwar London), Harper early on sought refuge in the big beat, but it wasn’t until punk’s 1976 outbreak that he found a home — and a sound the Subs excelled in. Tireless, trashy and thoroughly charming, Charlie Harper ably — perhaps even nobly — represents punk rock’s finest. (Jonny Whiteside)

MONDAY, October 23No Means No at the Knitting Factory

Originally from Victoria, British Columbia, No Means No have since way back in the ’80s been not just a standard-bearer but a highly influential (Fugazi, among a million obscure others) trio whose freewheelin’ forays across the hinterlands of post-punk hash up heady swirls of avant-jazz, twisted funk, nonmacho metal and out-’n’-out noise. While few NMN songs come without the de rigueur clever-dick sarcasto verbal spew, neither do they skimp on the extremely hot-shit spazzy time signatures, laid down by the genre’s best-ever rhythm section of co-leaders Rob (bass, guitar, vocals) and bro John Wright (drums, keyboards, singing). The brothers have a just-plain-excellent new album out, All Roads Lead to Ausfahrt, on AntAcidAudio/Ipecac, which, along with tonight’s most-likely-explosive performance, will only confirm how criminally overlooked they’ve been. Take heed! (John Payne)

THURSDAY, October 26

Matt Pond PA, Micah P. Hinson at Spaceland

The Brooklyn-based indie-pop ensemble Matt Pond PA is led by a former Philadelphian named Matt Pond, a guy whose talent for sweet-and-sour acoustic balladry far exceeds his ability to name bands with anything approaching a creative flourish. The group has had some success outside (what’s left of) the college-radio ghetto: Last year, its cover of Oasis’ “Champagne Supernova” made it onto one of The OC mixtapes, which these days probably delivers more exposure than airplay on commercial radio. But Pond’s music is exceedingly gentle stuff, better suited to a world of library boys than hollaback girls. Opener Micah P. Hinson, from Texas, plays pretty but depressive folk-blues laments for people who wish Bright Eyes would get a little trippy sometimes. (Mikael Wood)


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