Love and Affliction
I for one didn't hold enormously high hopes for last year's debut by former (and recently re-engaged) Mission of Burma bassist Clint Conley's outfit, Consonant. Conley has been candid in interviews about the lack of musical inspiration he'd been contending with since Burma's breakup nearly two decades ago, and in the intervening years he's found professional success as a producer at a local Boston TV stationnot exactly the makings of a roaring return to post-punk, unless you happen to find great excitement in (yawn) Robert Pollard's dual life as an elementary-school teacher and a tireless lo-fi journeyman. But 2002's Consonant was a great surprise, a wiry, acutely melodic blast of tightly wound indie rock that actually seemed to cull a sense of purpose from Conley's "real life" as a working stiff and father to two young daughters. (Imagine Spoon in 10 or 15 years and you're getting close.) Onstage at New York's Knitting Factory after the album's release, Conley practically beamed with enthusiasm, totally stoked to rediscover such a visceral creative outlet. The group's new follow-up, Love and Affliction, doesn't really share the debut's this-is-what-it-feels-like frisson, which is to be expected since Conley's now somewhat submersed in day-to-day band life again. That's resulted in a higher degree of synergy among Conley's bandmates, who include underground ringers Matt Kadane (Bedhead, Silkworm) and Chris Brokaw (Come, Pullman), but it means less of that unexpected spontaneity. Still, Conley can manage a unique moment of ingenuousness when he wants to: "I rush to beat the school bus," he sings about his children in "Cry." "Can't stand another hour without their smiles." MIKAEL WOOD
Consonant play Chop Suey with Evan Dando and Mike Johnson at 9 p.m. Sat., Sept. 20. $12 adv.
You get exactly two seconds to settle into your seat before the Popular Shapes propel you out of it. Their debut album begins with a single strummed chord, but it shimmers in silence just briefly before the breakneck chaos ensues. For the next 20 minutes, fans of D.C. hardcore, smartass art-school punk, shock therapy, hydroplanes, and carnival rides will be compelled to jerk, spasm, and seizure. This is not music for sitting down. Frontman Nicholas Brawley, who (here comes the disclaimer) works about a hundred feet from me in the Weekly's art department, transmits urgency, sly wit, and joyful nonsense. "Defrost! Defrost!" he screams on one song; sing-talks, "All the best things are up too high," on the next; and pulls out a surprisingly melodic, "This is the hardest part/Just finding the size," immediately after that. While Brawley deals with delayed emergencies and pancake breakfasts, the guitar is played as if Chuck Berry over-caffeinated, the bass hammers nails into geometrical progressions, and the drums punch holes in aluminum siding. Probably because of the hyperactivity and spastically screamed non sequiturs, some have had difficulty taking in the Shapes onstage, but Bikini Style (which was excellently recorded by Kurt Bloch) ought to break it down for them. The local boys are actually quite simple; they take pop apart like it's an old windup clock, then put it back together in a series of speed trials before throwing it Jackson Pollack-style against the wall. Luckily, we get to listen as the loose screws hit the floor. LAURA CASSIDY
Love You Just the Same
(Misra) Centro-matic start off Love You Just the Same, the Denton, Texas, band's seventh album, with the exact same building-block drumbeat that opens Swedish rockers the Soundtrack of Our Lives' recent surprise radio hit "Sister Surround." From there, "The Mighty Midshipman," Centro-matic's tune, piles on different chords (sadder and more contemplative), slightly different instruments (a woozy fuzz-guitar solo), and a much different vocal from frontman Will Johnson (a parched Texan drawl instead of a Scandinavian whinny), but the end result is essentially the same: vintage guitar rock played with the natural gusto of shaggy music nerds who believe in the therapeutic possibilities their big record collections offer. Typically, this is where I'd tell you why Johnson's songs stand out from the increasingly crowded indie field, why his version of sozzled Replacements swoon and baked Superchunk roar is better than those by all the other young dudes with similarly bruised hearts. But it isn't really; I like Love You just the same as Icky Mettle or Harmacy or Mag Earwhig! (but not the same as Perfect From Now On or Foolish). Which is what's kind of great about it: Johnson's just this guy banging out heartfelt rock songs with his friends down in Texas for a devoted audience who eat them up (seven albums, or do I mean seven albums?), but mostly for himself, the most passionate record geek he knows. It's the soundtrack of his life; we just get to listen in. M.W.
Centro-Matic play Tractor Tavern with the Long Winters at 9 p.m. Tues., Sept. 23. $10.