Hey, Square Pegs, bust out all your horizontal stripes, pull on your checkerboard Vans, buy a skinny tie and some really stupid-looking sunglasses, and get ready to get freaky, 1980s-style. Just as the retro-sound of the East Coast's Electroclash movement was positioning itself to become the new old sound of the future, here come Portland, Oregon's The Epoxies to remind us that new wave always belonged to the left coast. From their cover of the Professionals' "Join the Professionals" to originals like "Need More Time," the Epoxies glorify the sticky romanticism and terminal boredom that defined new wave and channel the best aspects of Josie Cotton, Sparks, Berlin, and Blondie. Their wonderful "We're So Small" is one of the best nuclear-disaster songs since the Louvin Brothers' "Great Atomic Power." Frontchick Roxy Epoxy does herself up like Siouxsie but sounds like Debbie Harry and yelps like Terri Nunn over bouncy guitar riffs and lots of space-age synth. If this is the '80s retro all the kids are talking about, then bring it on. Just check all parachute pants, Members Only jackets, and "Let's Hear It for the Boy" singles at the door, please. The Epoxies are at the Hi-Tone on Wednesday, September 10th.
While on the subject, have you ever wondered what it would have been like if all the '80s new-wavers actually got along with the '80s hardcore fanatics? Then you might want to check out An Albatross when they come to "DIY Memphis" above Precious Cargo on North Main on Saturday, September 6th. It's either the most incompetent thing I've ever heard or pure dada genius. I've yet to figure it out.
For reasons I can't quite explain, I derive a great deal of pleasure from the fact that there is a band named Mastodon, and they write songs with names like "Where Strides the Behemoth," "March of the Fire Ants," and "Trampled Under Hoof." I'll admit, the pleasure is mostly but not entirely ironic. The Atlanta-based headbangers have done the undoable. They have taken all the tropes of classic metal (with a dash of Southern rock) and recast them into something new but strangely familiar. Their music is apocalyptic doom-rock with a Rush complex seasoned with tricks pioneered by Metallica, Sabbath, and Iron Maiden, with the occasional nod to Sonic Youth and '80s hardcore. Mastodon is a throwback to the days before metal was all burble and screech -- when it had classical pretensions and was constructed in grand movements; when it was not so much angry as epic. Of course, all the sword and sorcery imagery is silly, and those with a low tolerance for gnome rock may want to steer clear. But, hey, even Zeppelin had a weakness for that Middle-earth stuff. Mastodon is at the New Daisy with Murder One and Throat Wednesday, September 10th.
Memphis' Gamble Brothers, who took home the grand prize at the Disc Makers' 2003 Southeast Region Independent Music World Showcase, celebrate the release of their new CD, Back to the Bottom, at the Hi-Tone on Friday, September 5th. As soul/funk fusions go, the Gamble Brothers are about as good as it gets. Unlike other jamcentric bands, the songcraft doesn't end when the extended solos begin. -- Chris Davis