And You Heard the Red Sparowes in the Gutter
Red Sparowes’ 2005 debut, At the Soundless Dawn, received mixed reviews upon its release. It was blasted mainly for its swollen, hour-plus length and unrewarding arrangements. Consider that the audition, the internship. They’ve grown, and for the better, although perhaps their latest, The Fear is Excruciating, But Therein Lies the Answer, encroaches upon the orbit of bands like Isis and Pelican to an even greater degree. One thing’s obvious: They’ve (thankfully) ditched their habit of annoyingly long song titles (averaging a length of 24.87 words on their second album … I counted) in favor of a leaner 3.5 words. If you have that much to say, guys, I’d love to see what you would do with lyrics.
Past songs were often so long, any energy that snuck in would dissipate. This batch of eight songs is briefer, yet not deflated. “In Illusion of Order” peaks halfway through, with a languid Pink Floydian riff that drags you under. A lap steel guitar provides warmth on “A Swarm” — that penchant for bringing in idiosyncratic guitar noises hasn’t changed. If you choose only one song to analyze, try “Giving Birth to Imagined Saviors.” It begins minimally, then straight off swoons and grows. Simple sounds build into a rich climax — there’s no wait for the song to coalesce into something interesting.
Though Red Sparowes is commonly called “heavy rock,” that’s a bit of a misnomer. If “heavy” means trading metal’s typical toolbox of bombastic riffs and raw sonic aggression for a gentler touch, a broader set of moods, then so be it. Red Sparowes, Caspian and Fang Island play at 8 pm Sunday, May 2, at WOW Hall. $10 adv., $12 door. — Vanessa Salvia
Building a (Musical) Robot Army
When you’ve become as successful an artist as Pat Metheny, here are your options: 1. Keep doing the same old same old, and watch fans gradually dwindle along with the quality of your copies of copies, or 2. Change the rules of the game in hopes that new challenges will spark new creative responses. Plug in the post-pinnacle works of Paul McCartney, Mozart, Miles Davis, REM and other stars to see the varying possible outcomes. The most commercially successful jazzman of his generation has never been afraid to try option two every few years between option one-style releases, for better (As Falls Wichita…) or worse (Zero Tolerance for Science). On his ambitious new Orchestrion solo album and tour, Metheny really changes the rules by going all steampunk, working with techies and engineers to contrive a new version of the 19th-century “orchestrion” comprising several keyboards, drum kit, marimbas, “guitar-bots,” a panoply of percussion, tuned jugs and bottles played by air blasts — all driven by solenoid switches and pneumatics. Yet for all the computer-controlled contraption’s varied textures, as soon as the 17-time Grammy winner begins playing his guitar, it instantly sounds, for better or worse, unmistakably like the chiming, tuneful Pat Metheny music he’s made for 35 years. Pat Metheny and his eight-ton traveling robotic mini orchestra perform at 7:30 pm Sunday, May 2, at the Hult Center. $35-$65. — Brett Campbell
Cut and Paste
Javelin sounds like the music your iTunes might make, if it could take scissors to its favorites among your lifetime’s worth of MP3s. The genre-melding, half-familiar, goofy-serious songs made by the Brooklyn duo leapfrog and skitter like leaves in an electronic wind; melodies and riffs rub up against each other and transform into something that’s as often background noise as it is ear-snagging audio cleverness. No Más, Javelin’s not entirely new record (several tracks from last year’s Jamz n Jemz are revamped here), will seize your attention, seep into your head and then let you go again, content, in its strange, pieced-together fashion, to let you come to it on your own terms.
“Vibrationz” has some of the summery sizzle of Starfucker’s Jupiter, but none of the drive in that record’s best tracks. Javelin does pick up the pace later, but the overall tone is laid-back, uber-cool, poolside and partying. No Más changes directions as often as it can: “Mossy Woodland” plays with strings and rainstorm sounds, a brief, fey diversion; “Oh! Centra!” references Salt-N-Pepa’s “Push It,” sounds like it’s constructed largely from Super Mario snippets and involves a chipmunky vocal that suggests MC Chris on helium (and making fewer Star Wars references, though the shit about seeing the wizard and doing the barrel roll wouldn’t be out of character). No Más is often washed with the skritchy sound of vinyl, a retro shorthand that works maybe better than it should. Javelin plays at noon Tuesday, May 4, at the EMU Amphitheatre, UO. Free. — Molly Templeton
The Dude Abides
You’d think that a guy who’s written more rhymes about weed than Snoop Dogg — and has comparable skills on the mic — would have no problem breaking into the mainstream. When it comes to X-rated party raps about weed and women, there are few MCs who can rival Houston original Devin the Dude. Sadly, he hasn’t managed to hit the same commercial success as some of his contemporaries. Six albums and a lot of prominent cameos just haven’t managed to bring the Dude up and out of the underground. Even if this is the first time you’ve ever heard of Devin the Dude, though, chances are good that you have at least heard him on a little album you might have heard before. It’s called The Chronic 2001. Devin the Dude appears on “Fuck You,” one of the lesser-known, most underrated tracks on Dr. Dre’s seminal and commercially explosive magnum opus. And even though he’s pushing 40, Devin the Dude just put out the latest in a long line of weed-centric albums, Suite #420. For those who aren’t familiar with the Dude’s catalog, I recommend starting with DJ Eleven’s free, downloadable Devin the Dude mixtape. It’s been making the rounds on the Interwebs lately, and it’s the sort of thing even the Dude’s devotees will want to look up. The mix basically plays like a greatest hits comp, complete with samples from a film about another, more famous Dude: Jeffrey Lebowski. Now there’s something everyone can get behind. Devin the Dude and the Coughee Brothaz perform at 9 pm Wednesday, May 5, at WOW Hall. $13 adv., $15 door. Sara Brickner
Everything’s Easy for Girlyman
Tell Arnold Schwarzenegger he’s a girlyman and you’d better duck to avoid his left hook. But for Girlyman, the description is perfect. It epitomizes the Atlanta-based band’s annoyance with traditional gender roles.
First, there’s guitarist Doris Muramatsu, seemingly the “girliest,” a woman who likes nail polish and knitting. Then there’s Nate Borosfky, a man who wears lipstick and bowties. And Tylan Greenstein, a woman who decorates her body with tattoos, neckties and vests. They recently welcomed drummer J.J. Jones, a woman who remains a bit of a mystery. Muramatsu and Greenstein were best friends in second grade, while Borofsky eased in during their college years in Brooklyn when they all shared an apartment. (Their first rehearsal was scheduled for Sept. 11, 2001. The events of that day convinced them of the need to have fun, and not take themselves too seriously.)
Their familiarity with each other has enabled tightly meshed three-part harmonies that enhance all of their songs. Girlyman is a bit like the Indigo Girls with a twist, or an upside-down Peter, Paul & Mary. Each member writes, sings and plays a range of instruments including acoustic guitar, djembe, banjo, baritone guitar and mandolin.
Girlyman’s fourth studio album, Everything’s Easy, was released last July. The group collaborated with comedian Margaret Cho, co-writing songs for her upcoming album Guitarded. Cho says Girlyman “genre bend as fearlessly and flawlessly as they gender-bend. It’s the music of my heart and soul. Girlyman is the future and the past and the present.” Ah-nold can stuff it. Girlyman and Coyote Grace play at 8 pm Thursday,
May 6, at Cozmic Pizza. $10. — Vanessa Salvia