Previews

REVEREND HORTON HEAT

Showbox at 8 p.m.

Fri., Sept. 12, with the Blasters and BR5-49. $22 adv./$25.

Rockabilly licks cranked out at the speed of an '80s metal god. An upright bassist who stands on his instrument and beats it like an old rug while keeping perfect time. Songs about drinking, bad women, cocaine, hot rods, steaks, andwhat else?the devil. The Reverend Horton Heat has been cranking out his brand of over-the-top psychobilly since the late '80s, crossing punk and rockabilly ࠬa scene pioneers the Cramps. My own first experience with his music came when "Marijuana," from the Reverend's 1992 debut, Smoke 'Em If You Got 'Em, jumped out of the playlist one afternoon on KCMU (the old KEXP). A great song with a great sounda reverb-drenched surf instrumental, interrupted twice by the raspy Heat saying "Mar-i-juan-a"it stood out from the sea of grunge and alterna-pop surrounding it, unpretentious and as inviting as a desert island to a shipwrecked sailor. 1993's The Full Custom Gospel Sounds of the Reverend Horton Heat remains Heat's high-water mark, a psychobilly opus with excellent guitar playing, nice lo-fi production (essential for old-style rock and roll), and alternately hilarious and slightly spooky songs about insane groupies, being pursued by the devil, and finding a treasure trove of cocaine. As Heat grew more popular, overzealous sound engineers started polishing off the edges of his music (for example, listen to the squeaky clean production on 1998's dismal Space Heater); only recently has he returned to the stripped-down, less-produced sound he started with. But he will never let you down live. JASON GOODER

LOW SKIES

Chop Suey at 9 p.m.

Thurs., Sept. 11, with the Turn Ons, the Standard, and Poseur. $7.

They may have grown up under the big sky, but these days the members of country quintet Low Skies call Chicago home. Their clean, pressed take on the genre rinses away the dirt and grass stains, like Cormac McCarthy dolled up in Armani. Perhaps the presence of the Windy City's famous gargoyles plays muse and maiden to the band's gothic two-step: Despite the general claustrophobia of city life, their debut, The Bed (Flameshovel), due in October, is drunk on atmosphericspart Zen koan, part whiskey soda. Christopher Salveter's drowsy howlthink Jeff Buckley meets Jeffrey Lee Piercecalls out to the afterlife, while his band slowly turns a wake into a hootenanny. The lap steel takes center stage on "This Is Where You'll Be Staying." Flecked by a sparse marching drum, Salveter takes the listener on a sad lover's waltz around the coffin. The narrative of "Palmyra" drips with remorse like a Chevy leaking diesel. "So I ran to your home in Texas," Salveter drawls remorsefully. "I found you dead/I kissed you on the eyelids . . . I spent too much time in Texas." While Salveter's tone can both kick up dirt and frost the windows, his bandmates add a definitely urban style to his traditional-sounding tunes. After all, even when you're approaching the noose, you should still shine your shoes. KATE SILVER

HANSON

Showbox at 7 p.m.

Wed., Sept. 10. $20 adv. All ages.

Considering the groundswell of hype surrounding wistful Texan dream-popsters Eisley and chuckleheaded Tennessee boogie- rockers Kings of Leonboth young, sibling-centered acts for whom long hair is a virtuethe time might be right for the resurgence of the sweet-voiced, well-meaning Hanson brothers, obviously the Strokes of the last teen-pop era and the most creative, influential spellers I can think of pre-Nelly. The brothershunky Taylor, mature Isaac, and goofy Zac, if you don't recallare on tour supporting Underneath Acoustic, a new live-in-the-studio CD they're selling on their Web site that reportedly previews their forthcoming overdubbed-in-the-studio album, Underneath. Somewhat surprisingly, that'll only be their third proper full-length since MMMbopping to fame and fortune in 1997, as some impatient doofus at Mercury convinced the brothers (and their handlers) to squander their precious cultural currency releasing a humdrum live album, a pointless "indie"-rarities set, and a Christmas disc that still gets play every season under my personal mistletoe. The years have sapped quite a bit of the zippy joie de vivre from Hanson's music: 2000's This Time Around featured guest shots from lame ducks Jonny Lang and John Popper (Blues Traveler), lending nominal juice to tunes in serious need of sweetness and light. And Underneath promises creative input from Carole King, Michelle Branch, and Barenaked Lady Ed Robertson, none of whom I can imagine wearing a lamp shade as a hat. On the other hand, the brothers also received songwriting help from Matthew Sweet and former New Radical Gregg Alexander, two seasoned pros with knacks for rejuvenating clients' iffy careersso maybe Hanson can rescue themselves from the middle of nowhere. MIKAEL WOOD

 
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