Making Seattle safe again for the anthemic rock chorus.
Is it possible for a band to combine all the necessary ingredients for solid '90s rock while defying attempts at categorization yet still be unable to rivet us to the stereo for an entire full-length record? Taking Lila (pronounced lee-lah) into account, we have to answer, "Yes." Amaranthine, the full-length debut from this Seattle quartet, was lovingly produced and recorded by Greg Markel, has eye-catching cover art, and is on a strong local label—all things that merit our attention. Resulting from that careful studio time, the wispy vocals come across powerfully, the guitars suitably crunchy, and all the while the bass and drums gallop along at a reliable midtempo rock pace. The music weaves in and out of soul-rending Radiohead dirges ("Subliminal"), lofty Sunny Day Real Estate posturing ("Amaranthine"), and MTV anthemic choruses ("Storytime") without ever sounding exactly like any of them. Lila are unpretentious and authentic; hard-working local boys putting together hard-working local rock for hard-working local folk. Unfortunately, something about that works to make Amaranthine, well, dull. This is something we've seen all too many times before. Like a recurring appointment on the pages of a full engagement calendar, it fades into the back of the mind, becoming more background noise in already busy lives. We know it's there, know exactly when it will occur, and don't begrudge it when it happens. But at the same time, we don't really care all that much, either. Tizzy Asher
PEDRO THE LION
It's Hard to Find a Friend LP
The Only Reason
I Feel Secure EP
Welcome reissues double knot The Bearded One's history and future.
On the eve of Pedro the Lion's hotly anticipated (in this case, that overused modifier is accurate) new album Control, we get modestly reupholstered re-releases of their first full-length and second EP. Aside from the requisite remastering and graphic design overhaul, the selling point is three bonus tracks from Pedro's first single at the end of Secure. In addition to two sharp acoustic favorites ("Invention" and the punchy anthem "Big Trucks"), we get a live B-side, "Diamond Ring"—the kind of mournful snow globe that vocalist/guitarist David Bazan practically has under patent. Revisiting these barely toddler-age releases is an opportunity to chart Bazan's impressive songwriting growth. Pedro often comes off as a melancholy, library-quiet sieve for one man's relationship with his god. A carefully administered bombast is more prevalent on 2000's Winners Never Quit but punctuates Friend occasionally, particularly during "When They Get to Know You, They Will Run," which, ironically, exemplifies Bazan's most inclusive work. "Put on whatever makes you attractive," he shrugs. Good to know that he practices what he preaches. Andrew Bonazelli
SLAUGHTER AND THE DOGS
Beware Of . . .
Where have all the boot boys gone?
The last time that Slaughter and the Dogs were really ripping shit up, I was eating Cheerios in a high chair. But being a baby was boring, and so is the new Slaughter and the Dogs record. It kills me to say that; they're icons—the first English punk band to put out a record, a band that beat out the Pistols and the Buzzcocks and the Clash, and a band whose street-punk classic "Where Have All the Boot Boys Gone?" became the anthem of a then fledgling Oi! movement. The tracks on Beware Of are too slow, too polished, and too dated, but I don't blame Slaughter and the Dogs. They face this dilemma: How to take a formula that was generic even in its prime and make it worth anything 25 years later, after everyone and their brother has ripped it off. Think of it, 25 years of bad-toothed hooligans in leather jackets aping your sound. Where do you go from there? The only good news to come from this record is that there is a supporting tour, and one can hold on to the possibility that these songs will, at minimum, evoke a memory of that awesome legacy. I fucking hope so. Mark Driver
Slaughter and the Dog play Graceland on Wed., Jan. 30 at 6 p.m. $8, all ages.
We've heard it all before, so please don't say it anymore.
I was a senior in high school when Concrete Blonde's Bloodletting, with the single "Joey," was released. Twelve long years—and, for Johnette Napolitano and company, four marginal studio albums—later, Group Therapy, their comeback release, is a dated, painful reminder of just how much has changed. Crisp, clean production now sounds like schlock, synth organs only sound cool when they're bashed up against something dirty, and lines like "I'm in a world of chronic discontent/ screaming metal and burning rubber/ always shoving and raping and cursing each other"—especially when placed high and dry in the mix—are the stuff that embarrassing midlife crises and emo-boy manifestos are made of. What Concrete Blonde have done is to closely replicate the lean, sharky textures of the late '80s, but the overly honest, polished clean lyrics and tin-can hollow isolation-booth sounds honestly weren't that interesting the first time around. Sure, songs like "Joey" and "God Is a Bullet" were teen movie soundtrack slick when we were kids, and they sounded good as hell when we belted them out in our bedrooms. But now, with the benefit of perspective and bitter adult acumen, they're just flat. If the album has strong songs, the couple that contain that Johnette-patented Latin flair are them. And if you really push me to the limit, I'll admit to some guilty pleasure in "Roxy," but that's really only because it's truly "Joey" redone and I am, at heart, a sentimental sucker—just not quite sentimental enough to stomach all of this. Laura Learmonth
Concrete Blonde play the Showbox on Wed., Jan. 30 at 8 p.m. $16.50 adv.