Screwed Up Dreams
You remember Mike Jones, don't you? Who? Mike Jones, the platinum-toothed mouthpiece for Houston hip hop whose excessive self-promotion transformed him into one of 2005's most successful artists — sound familiar now? If so, chunk up a deuce because Jones is back with his second album, The American Dream. And from the sound of Dream's first two singles, "Mr. Jones" and the Eazy inspired "My 6-4," the album delivers with all the lyrical puffery and candy paint you can eat. With the success of his first studio album under his belt, Jones' music has moved beyond the streets of H-Town and on to a national audience. However, the title of this second effort is a testament to his early hustle.
Born in Aldine, Texas, Jones began rapping in 2001 when his grandmother convinced him to stay out of state-authorized jumpsuits and focus on legitimate ways to support himself. After unsuccessfully pitching his lyrics to DJs around the area, Jones looked to new venues for exposure — local strip clubs. By using the instrumentals from other popular artists like the Ying Yang Twins, Jones crafted original songs for dancers who played them during their three-song sets. Soon, the rapper's stripper marketing caught fire, and Mike Jones became a Swisha House-hold name — signing with the record label and releasing Who Is Mike Jones? in 2005. With fellow lone stars Slim Thug and Paul Wall, Jones began turning heads with his unique Southern sound. Most notably present in these tracks are the "chopped and screwed" instrumentals, a musical technique developed by the late DJ Screw. This method slows down the tempo of recorded vocals and beats, creating aurally viscous hooks that ooze between each verse.
Set to drop on July 10th, Jones' sophomore debut will set a new pace for his career in 2007. But even if you give up on this rapper's American Dream, you'll never forget his name. Mike Jones plays with Animal Farm and DZO at 9 pm Friday, May 18, at the McDonald Theater. $36. — Zach Klassen
Man At Work
If Colin Hay were featured on an episode of VH1's Where Are They Now? it might read something like this: With a string of hits in the '80s, Men at Work's Colin Hay has since moved on past the eyeliner and muscle shirts to an older, more sophisticated look and sound. Men at Work lasted as long as the Vanilla Ice haircut fad — about three years — but Hay has proven that he and his shades have staying power.
Hay has had a five year break between his last album, Company of Strangers, and his latest solo work, Are You Lookin' At Me? Part folk and part Irish limerick, Are You Lookin' At Me? communicates Hay's poetic journey from being a child in Scotland to life as an '80s pop star in the U.S.
Picture Mel Gibson's William Wallace in Braveheart auditioning for the part of Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver, and you get a good sense of the tone and style used in the title track. As you shuffle through the rest of the songs, you will hear Hay's deep, resonant voice. His sound is reminiscent of old Bob Dylan records.
Without a dance beat in sight, the album is not going to make any top 20 countdowns, but that is quite all right with the former Men at Work frontman.
"When you have commercial success, it takes a while for the effects of that to leave you. But after a while you stop asking 'Is that gonna get on the radio?' over and over," Hay says in press materials for the new album. "Now I just want to try to write cool songs that people will get something out of — the rest really doesn't matter."
Colin Hay performs at 8 pm Sunday, May 20, at the WOW Hall. $25. — Deanna Uutela
Earplugs are for the Weak
Back when MTV actually played music, there was a fabulously loud and trashy video show on Saturday nights called "Headbangers Ball." I would accept babysitting jobs from the stingiest families with the brattiest kids just to gain access to the elusive world of cable television and revel in the guttural grind of the mass-marketed mayhem-and-death-fest that was "The Ball." Helmet, Pantera, Tool, Alice in Chains and, of course, Metallica all kept me and so many of my angry, misunderstood comrades company late into the night, charging our drained emotional batteries with feelings of black-hearted redemption.
Eugene is not a town typically known for metal bands (notable exceptions being Floater and Northwest Royale) but local guys Grynch obviously put in their time watching "Headbangers Ball" too (or its modern MTV2 equivalent), because they totally nail the three things that are essential to really kick-ass heavy metal. One is the nerve-shattering, percussive electric guitar riff; second, the primal scream that makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up; and third, the melodic, atmospheric lull that gives you temporary reprieve from the rage before slamming you full force back into the explosion of unbridled musical frenzy. Grynch sounds like a lot of other bands; Tool, Rage Against the Machine and System of a Down all immediately come to mind when listening to their new CD, Two Minutes Before Two Minutes After. But while they certainly borrow from current hard-rock trends, Grynch's five members perform with a real awareness of the classic elements that make metal such an enduring genre, and they don't skimp on musicianship on the assumption that they play so loud no one will know the difference. Jonny Hanson's lead vocals are especially gripping as he alternates between hypnotic crooning, spoken word and extended periods of roaring so wildly animalistic your vocal cords quiver just hearing him abuse his own.
Grynch has been kicking ass in the Battle of the Bands scene and is ready to take it to the next level with the release of their latest full length album. Check out the rumored-to-be-wicked live show at their CD release with The Athiarchists and Lucid at 8 pm Friday, May 18, at the WOW Hall. $7 adv., $8 door. — Adrienne van der Valk
Old-Timey Elitists Be Damned
Punkgrass — if this neologism is yet to be coined, we have the elaborate picking, strumming, fiddling and pummeling of Sid and Fancy to thank for it. About two years old, this brainchild of bassist Aaron Donaldson and drummer Kyle Jackson grew out of a mutual appreciation for the seemingly disparate genres of punk and bluegrass. Donaldson explains that both communities have their own elitist circles with very strong opinions about their identities and would probably scoff at a fusion sound that married both styles. But fans who fall somewhere in between the two genres have really caught on to Sid and Fancy's frenetic energy, he says.
"We hit the middle crowd well — the people interested in bluegrass and punk," Donaldson says. "But the elites haven't really been too responsive." While Donaldson says Sid and Fancy hasn't yet played any exclusively "punk" concerts, the band has played a bluegrass festival in Yachats. There, the reality of Sid and Fancy's uniqueness set in as the band was worked in amongst bluegrass legends. The audience, mostly a fuddy-duddy 50-60-year-old demographic, wrote them off as simply another rock band. "They told us to turn our instruments down!" Donaldson says.
Sad! But how can you really hate on a band that blends the frenetic pace of punk rock with the pastoral lilt of a banjo? Fixing dynamic punk rhythms with old-timey instruments — the banjo, the mandolin, the fiddle and even the acoustic guitar — creates a dramatic shift in aural color that evokes some of the aesthetic of other punk hybrids (like Irish punk and cowpunk) but still pushes forward a very Appalachian-esque sound.
With a new EP released this February, this fresh sextet stands poised to spike this town's moonshine with a whole lotta adrenaline. Just like a Sparks! Sid and Fancy plays with The Wages of Sin and Mark Mallman at 10 pm Saturday, May 19, at Diablo's Downtown Lounge. 21+ show. $6. — Steven Sawada