Young for Eternity
Judging by the available evidence—publicity photos, magazine articles, blog gossip—Billy Lunn and Charlotte Cooper of the Subways genuinely enjoy each other's company. They're young and in love and play in a madly hyped U.K. sugar-punk outfit that's appeared on The OC; as dates go, playing sold-out rock shows sure sounds hotter than seeing Brokeback Mountain for the 16th time. Even if they tire of each other, though, singer-guitarist Lunn and singer-bassist Cooper should really consider staying together, since their audible postadolescent chemistry is what gives the Subways' music its kick. In the best tunes on their catchy, thrashy debut, Lunn shouts out his lady like they're playing their own private bedroom show: "You are the sun," he rhapsodizes in "Rock & Roll Queen," "You are the only one." "With You" tingles with puppy-dog sincerity, with Lunn admitting, "My best days are with you/They're so easy"—a uniquely teenaged way of describing romance. Elsewhere, as in the title track (where Lunn thanks God for Dracula because "he sucked the shit out of me"), the Subways do an uncanny impression of the Vines, a grungy guitar band no one necessarily needed to be reminded of. MIKAEL WOOD
The Subways play with the Gunshys at the Crocodile Cafe, 2220 Second Ave., 206-441-5611, www.thecrocodile.com. Free. All ages. 8:30 p.m. Thurs., March 30.
Run the Road, Vol. 2
This is the sound of growing pains. It's impossible to hear Run the Road, Vol. 2 without being diverted by the fact that this is the follow-up to grime's best-known compilation—and that this is a make-or-break point in the genre's lifespan. The post-rave detritus that fueled the first installment's sonic explosion has burned off. Here, the production is tighter and smoother, from Crazy Titch's deliberate "World's Gone Crazy" (with producer Davinche's U.S.-style hip-hop supplemented by Katie Pearl's neo-R&B stylings) to the melodic subtlety of Miss Beats' "Saw It Coming." The youthful exuberance of the original volume has grown into aural professionalism; bland competency could be next. Lyrically, too, the album strives for maturity, exulting mastery of technique (Low Deep's "Get Set") and business ambitions (Dynasty Crew's "Barefaced Dynasty"). The tendency is exemplified by JME's "Serious." This "simple musical lesson" fills out as we're taught that there's more to rhymes than "shanks, money, shanks" and that "major labels don't want killers"; but the chorus' gloss on "Lean Back" keeps conscious rap from bogging down the pop. Yet the collection is strongest at its roughest and least slick. Acoustic guitarist Plan B "talk[s] morbid just to make you feel awkward" in the murder tale "Sick 2 Def" and proves himself this edition's talent to watch. The nasty number is pure horror—blended with an uncommon understanding of narrative responsibility. Sway's "Up Your Speed," with its sound effects and kids-with-toy-cars onomatopoeia, is a novelty tune in the most winning sense of the phrase. But for the most part, Run the Road, Vol. 2 reflects not the jubilant exertions of youth at play but the slow ache of adolescent muscles at the end of the day. Here's to letting 'em rest up for the next chapter. KRISTAL HAWKINS
Brash young traditionalists intent on saving heavy music from the image-conscious trend mavens they view as enemies of the form, Demiricous call their hard-boiled thrash "street metal," which, given their hometown of Indianapolis, at least beats "corn metal." One, the band's debut, is a vigorously prosecuted crash course through meat-and-potatoes metal: crunching guitar riffs, booming kick-drum beats, bass lines that move nimbly without threatening anyone with a groove. Singer Nate Olp has a flair for the sort of typically overheated imagery that sells material as philosophically gloomy as this. In "Hellraisers," he claims to run "like a vomit firework"; in "Ironsides," he inveighs against a "septic God whore." And Olp's social science is startlingly concise: "Fuck this," he roars in "I Am Weapon," "Compromise is a blueprint for disaster." Yet Demiricous seem so occupied with keeping their music free of concessions to style—"no fuckin' hairdos, ex-girlfriends or lame shit," they guarantee in One's anti-screamo press notes—they nearly forget to have any fun, which means that digging the album sometimes feels like sitting through a community-college lab section: all work, no fire. At a moment when the band's trad-metal competition includes an act like Avenged Sevenfold (who sound like a strip club imploding), this scholarly approach leaves something to be desired. MIKAEL WOOD
Demiricous play with Still Remains, Nodes of Ranvier, and If Hope Dies at El Corazon, 109 Eastlake Ave. E., 206-381-3094, www.elcorazonseattle.com. $10 adv. All ages. 7 p.m. Mon., April 3.
Lights and Sounds
It was Yellowcard's sophomore pop-punk album, Ocean Avenue, that catapulted these Jacksonville, Fla., guys into the TRL spotlight. But even their debut, One for the Kids, was more stylized than the zippy, two- dimensional, multiplatinum Ocean Avenue. On their third album, Lights and Sounds, Yellowcard have gone to great lengths to prove that they are much more than mall-punk jam masters, testifying via severe earnestness, an orchestra, woodwinds, Black Eyed Peas' Printz Board on trumpet, and a Dixie Chick. "Make it new but stay in the lines," sings Ryan Key on the title track, a furious dash that highlights the annoying conflict between creativity and commercial appeal. The pressing need to present an identity—any identity that doesn't end with three chords and a snare—is audible. Even the bubble-punk tracks are meatier and darker than they've been in the past. Then there's the beautifully fluid "Grey," the sparse, dusty "City of Devils," and the quirky, jazz-influenced "Two Weeks From Twenty," about a young, slain soldier—almost literally Yellowcard's "Wake Me Up When September Ends." The band sounds most assured when it combines a sweeping string section (arranged by Yellowcard violinist Sean Mackin) plus heavy guitars and Key's pubescent voice. "Waiting Landing" and "Martin Sheen or JFK" evoke the image of a sweaty crowd waving its cell phones like lighters. Yet "How I Go" could be a David Gray song: a father-to-son emotional confession with a 25-piece orchestra and Natalie Maines harmonizing on the vocals. Yellowcard might not know who they are just yet, but at least they have a good idea what they aren't. JEANNE FURY
The thing about being a pioneering team of producers with a lovingly canonized Eric B. & Rakim remix, your own record label, and a toolbox full of DIY-ethos video toys is that eventually you are expected to put out your own albums. To say that Coldcut—Matt Black and Jonathan More—have been otherwise preoccupied is to understate things; Sound Mirrors is their first full-length of all-new material in nine years spent mostly on multimedia projects and mix CDs. They've roped in a lot of guests for this one—and unlike 1997's reasonably decent Let Us Play!, Mirrors tends to smother its serviceable beats with the remnants of a decade that hasn't aged well. It's rarely a good sign when the first voice on the album belongs to Jon Spencer, still yelping like a remedial Charlie Feathers on "Everything Is Under Control," and Black and More's rock-oaf beats don't do much to flatter Mike Ladd's more-trite-than-usual tirades ("Television incision on the frontal lobe/Capitalism all mind control"). The bhangra-tinted "True Skool" (featuring Roots "please let grime fade away quietly" Manuva) and "Boogieman" (with Amiri Baraka) feel more tepid than their beats let on. And while Annette Peacock's deadpan sneer on "Just for the Kick," Mpho Skeef's histrionic turn on the disco-dub "This Island Earth," and Robert Owens' performance on "Walk a Mile" help stir pleasant nostalgia for hardcore techno, acid jazz, and Chicago house, respectively, the fact that the only tracks on Sound Mirrors with any sense of energy skew retro is disheartening. NATE PATRIN
"Cry, baby, cry," Fovea Hex founder Clodagh Simonds sings on Bloom opener "Don't These Windows Open," her buttery brogue afloat on a star-dappled cloud of zither (hers), fretless bass (Brian Eno's), and voices (hers, Eno's, Laura Sheeran's). "Cry for your father." Trapped like living human arteries in black marble, madness and grief course through her stately cant, all the more poignant for their containment. Incarnation management mini-epic "We Sleep You Bloom" finds Simonds shedding her hedge druidess' cloak to harmonize with fellow weird sisters Sheeran and Lydia Sasse. While earthier than its predecessor, the song's instrumental bed is no less mysterious. To wit: How the hell did composer Carter Burwell (Fargo, Being John Malkovich) end up adding "disappeared piano" to Simonds' keyboards and Cora Veunus Lunny's violas? Ask Eno, his harmonium-contributing brother Roger, or better still, the Hafler Trio's Andrew MacKenzie, who mixed this EP, number one in a series of three. You could even put the question to Stephen Malkmus, whose live cover of Simonds' 36-year-old "The Poet and the Witch" appeared on Dark Wave. Simonds has been flickering in and out of the limelight's margins ever since her stint with Irish folk-rockers Mellow Candle in the early '70s, gracing tracks by Thin Lizzy, Mike Oldfield, and (most recently) sound artist Russell Mills with down-to-earth otherworldliness between disappearances. Who knows how long she's been working on this thing? Sure, clumsy antecedents—ranging from Eyeless in Gaza to Current 93—abound. But the singer's got such a knack for marrying traditionalist tropes and melodies with up-to-the-minute-after-this-one experimentalism that you'd think she was born with eternity in her gut. ROD SMITH