Land of the Lesbros
Yeah, it’s a bold display of cojones for a group of long-haired dudes to dub their band Lesbian. Certainly, it’s an attention-getting name, and people probably stumble across the band while searching online for something completely different. But it’s the music made by these Lesbros that should prove their worth in the world of stoner rock. The truth is, though, Lesbian is an auslander even in that rather hybridized genre.
Ignore the connotations of the name Lesbian; in this sense its most fitting meaning is “dynamic.” Most stoner/doom/psychedelic bands set vocals to simmering threat, then find a sweet riff and let it smolder itself out. Lesbian’s riffs don’t swirl away like smoke; they genetically reassemble themselves. Take “Poisonous Witchball”: It’s trotting along at a perfectly respectable sludgy pace when the sledgehammer riff turns into a bloopity bloop 16th-note guitar lick á la King Crimson. It’s only for a moment, but if you’re not expecting it, it makes you blink. The song chugs along again, and that riff keeps reappearing. It grows in strength, then morphs again into a darkly beautiful mood that would be perfectly at home on a Godspeed You Black Emperor! album.
Lesbian’s debut album, Power Hör, is only four songs yet clocks in at over an hour. The title track itself is more than 24 minutes long. With songs of that length, there’s destined to be a little too much self-aware posturing, yet that’s the nature of this particular beast. For my two cents, Lesbian is most interesting when the fast, heavy groove takes control. Lesbian, Rye Wolves and H.C. Minds play at 9 pm Tuesday, April 6, at Oak Street Speakeasy. 21+. — Vanessa Salvia
Assjack and the Horse They Rode In On
The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, but what it hits on the way down is anybody’s guess. Hank Williams III is a physical and vocal dead ringer for his legendary grandfather, but his version of country is run through the meat grinder of hardcore punk and thrash metal, and the results, variously, are a collision of “hellbilly” and cow punk that sound like some Southern fried mish-mash of Motörhead and Black Flag. Thin as a rail and covered in tattoos, Hank 3 is a latter-day folk outlaw, proudly carrying on the family name by singing those cocksucker blues for a brand new era of blue-collar carnies and snaggle-toothed malcontents. Hee-haw, pass the Bud and bring on the superfuzz.
Hank 3 & Assjack, Williams’ hardcore outfit, play anthemic, squealing, heavy-as-fuck hardcore that is tinged at the edges by the high lonesome country that his grandpappy all but created. Live, Assjack play punk like old cars throw a rod, creating an aggressive, darkly joyful noise that sounds like the grinding of metal on metal and the howling anger and pain such a grinding might induce. Rat-a-tat rhythms set the pace for chunky riffs and howling runs up and down the guitar neck, while young Hank barks and chants about familiar concerns: sin, drugs, deadbeats and getting screwed by motherfuckers. Hell, if that ain’t country music, what is? Hank III and Assjack play with Kyle Turley at 8 pm Saturday, April 3, at WOW Hall. $20 adv., $23 door. — Rick Levin
Where have Betty and the Boy been hiding? The Eugene duo — they count “various good friends” among the bandmembers, but the core is Bettreena Jaeger and Josh Harvey — sent us a low-key, hand-labeled CD that doesn’t even come up in iTunes. No track names here, which makes the whole venture seem, somehow, deliciously nebulous. Betty and the Boy make eerie, heartbroken, old-time lullabies (to steal a line from one of their songs), led by Jaeger’s changeable voice, which wisps and turns throaty as suits the duo’s banjo-sparked, accordion-sprinkled and slightly ragtag tunes. “Betty and the Boy are a classic example of the pretty-girl-with-plenty-of-baggage meets PunkRock-boy-with-a-bad-attitude love story,” their bio says. You can believe that, or you can suspect that most of those love stories don’t result in such compellingly forlorn songs. Some of the duo’s songs are in need of a little tightening up, but the best of their tracks carry an enticing weariness, a yawning, striped-tights-and-worn-bustles cabaret slinkiness. These are ballads for drowned soldiers and folk laments for a lost era, each one handmade, smudged and bittersweet. Betty and the Boy and Marshall McLean play at 9 pm Thursday, April 1, at the Wandering Goat (21+, free) and with Anticipate Pie at 8 pm Friday, April 2, at the Axe & Fiddle, Cottage Grove. (21+, $4). — Molly Templeton
In just a few weeks, Nick Jaina’s seventh solo record, A Bird in the Opera House, flies into the world, full of gently engrossing songs that resonate like soundtracks to travelogues; you can see sunlight flicker through the Greyhound’s tinted windows if you listen closely. A Bird in the Opera House is a sneaky record. You listen to it 17 times and think you don’t know it yet, and then, suddenly, you do. It’s “Another Kay Song” that does it: the muffled guitar, a repeating melody, Jaina’s vocals like a distant cousin to a Spoon song, a sense of tension rising whenever Jaina says “It doesn’t matter what you do / I’m blindly in love with you.”
The first single, “Sleep, Child,” is an unlikely lullaby, though lush strings seep in toward the end of the song; until then, it’s wonderfully restless. Jaina’s songs are singer-songwriter tunes decked out with extra instrumentation that’s lovely, but it’s frosting: Jaina’s knowing voice would carry even the simplest versions of these tracks. High and quavering in “Asheville,” resonant and rich in the tense, troubled “Theresa,” that voice seems to play characters that are changed, from track to track, by what Jaina describes. “Your eyes tell so many tales,” he sings on “Sebastopol.” These dozen songs, all heavy with a sense of place, tell all kinds of tales: mournful, jaunty, heartbroken, playful and wise. Nick Jaina and Leo London play at 9 pm Wednesday, April 7, at Sam Bond’s Garage. 21+. Free. — Molly Templeton
Bury Me Out on the Black Prairie
You may not have heard of Black Prairie, but there’s a good chance you know of them. Black Prairie features three-fifths of Portland’s The Decemberists: guitarist Chris Funk (he plays the square-necked dobro here) and bassist Nate Query incubated the idea of a primarily instrumental band, then recruited fellow Decemberist Jenny Conlee to play accordion. Violinst Jon Neufled from Jackstraw and fiddle player Annalisa Tornfelt joined them to hatch the project. Funk rather modestly describes it as a string band. It is so only inasmuch as a Bach composition is a keyboard jam.
Black Prairie’s debut album, Feast of the Hunters’ Moon, will be released April 6. Funk’s description is a little more accurate when he says the band “bridges the music of Clarence White and Ennio Morricone” in a way that defies genre characterization — in other words, folky bluegrass combined with haunting gypsy melodies outside the typical structures of such songs. There’s an almost classical aesthetic in the way several melodies within a song break apart and return together.
The album’s 13 tracks are mostly instrumental, but Tornfelt’s voice is so perfectly meshed with the dark beauty of the music that the band made the right decision in allowing her to sing on some tracks.
My personal instrumental favorite is “Atrocity at Celilo Falls.” Not only does the subject represent a heart-wrenching loss, but the song has the kind of sad beauty that curls itself up into every lonely, isolated space. The album’s 13 tracks feature mostly original material, but also include traditional songs, such as “The Blackest Crow,” a lamentation over two lovers parting. Black Prairie and Mimicking Birds play at 9:30 pm Friday, April 2, at Sam Bond’s Garage. 21+. $8. — Vanessa Salvia
Three Way Stereo, according to the band’s MySpace page, emerges from the heart of Eugene into yours. Their latest release, Everything Is, has just four songs, but its soothing rhythmic guitar melodies and understated percussion might be just the thing for mellowing out with your friends.
Be warned: If you don’t like The Strokes, run away, fast: These guys sound a lot like ‘em. The percussion at the beginning of “Bound to Fail” is identical to the intro beat in The Strokes’ “Alone. Together,” and hey, guess what? Three Way Stereo actually did cover The Strokes’ “Reptilia.” But the quartet seems to have this garage-rock charm you can’t miss: Kyle Everett, main singer and guitarist, actually sings rather than trying to sound just like Julian Casablancas. The other bandmembers, Eric Wenzel on guitar, Adrian Swindells on bass and Rick Buhr playing drums, balance each other out well, no musician trying too hard to outshine the others. They band has posted YouTube videos on their music page, in which they jam on a few of their songs, making music and having a good time doing it. Three Way Stereo’s influences may be clear, but they don’t try to hide that fact — and they still manage to create their own sound. Three Way Stereo and Shinto play at 9 pm Friday, April 2, at the Oak Street Speakeasy. 21+. — Darcy Wallace