All right. Before we dive into the always controversial and titillating world of local reviews, let me tell you this: I went to see rockabilly shouter Robert Gordon at the fine establishment that is the Rockin' Horse the other night. Some of you were there, too, a handful of Gordon fans and the just plain curious. After a strong set from Flathead, Gordon's back-up band came out and ran through a few oldies to prime us, I assume, for stepping back in time to that golden era of rock. Then ol' Bob hit the stage, leopard-skin tux coat, cummerbund, heavily greased pompadour and trademark ears sticking out. He sang his hits, strong of voice but apparently weak on rehearsal; he cued the band repeatedly. I stayed for about 45 minutes, became bored, got out of there.

Then, a few days later, I received a fax from Tucker Woodbury, owner of the Horse. From the fax: "You might be interested to know that you witnessed the worst concert performance in Rockin' Horse history." Apparently, from what my sources tell me, Gordon left the stage after 55 minutes (he'd been contracted to do 90), at which point the dressing-room door was set upon by disgruntled fans. Gordon's booking agency not only canceled the rest of the tour after the Phoenix "show," but dropped the hiccupping has-been from its roster. Now here's the important part: Woodbury, right guy that he is, wants me to tell you that ticket stubs to the Gordon show can be used at any show for the remainder of the year. Allow me to recommend Tab Benoit and Sleepy LaBeef on September 8. With that excitement out of the way, it's showtime!

The second cut on Horace Pinker's CD Power Tools, "Punker Than GBH," contains this line: "Things are so retro now everyone has a favorite decade/I just can't decide/Hippies and Sixties disco and Seventies punks worship the early Eighties/I just can't decide."

Well, you don't have to listen terribly closely to realize these boys--bassist Bryan Jones, drummer Bill Ramsey, singer/guitarist Scott Eastman--are telling the truth. The four-year-old Tempe band works admirably under the torn, ragged umbrella of good ol' punk rawk, but it lets plenty of other elements slip through the holes. Bits of speed metal and thrash, even a little raw power-balladry on the hooky "Bottom Line" (there's even a guy doing background vocals!).

Pinker has just returned from a three-month tour of Europe, and has numerous stateside trips under its belt; this is one local band that can't be accused of never getting off of Mill Avenue, God bless em! Tools shows Pinker to be a first-rate punk band, or whatever you want to lump it into, with the requisite Tommy-gun rhythm section, Evinrude guitars and scream/shout/wail vocals. Right arm. Call 1-713-520-6669.

I forget how that nursery rhyme goes. You know the one: "Monday's child is full of crap, Tuesday's child is an idiot. . . ." Something like that. Anyway, my lack of knowledge leaves me unable to decipher the true inner meaning of what the band Thursday's Child is all about, but this much I can tell you: The Child sent in a three-song tape that's strong, no-frills alternative rock. Minor-key stuff, good songwriting, complete with some interesting dynamics. Vocals properly morose and snarling (though in the song "Martyr," staying in key seems a bit of a problem). Also, the young men of Child are all juniors at Saguaro High School; by the time they graduate, they could be a force. Call 443-3325.

From a new band named Shut Eye Smile comes a live tape of surprisingly decent quality, recorded at Gibson's. Things pretty much center on singer/guitarist/harmonica player (harmonicist?) Aaron, who has a mellifluous voice that--and I'm not just taking a cheap shot here--reminds me of Elton John phrasing like Eddie Vedder. The tunes are midtempo, big on storytelling lyrics--a kind of Gin Hot Workshop amalgamation. Call 858-9557.

And I Am knows what it's doing. If awards were given for clarity of vision and professionalism--and sometimes they are--this band would win hands down. The music AIA makes is alternative, heavily textured, lightweight, KZON-ready rock, the kind of stuff Sting has been churning out the last few years. And damned if any of the tracks I heard couldn't stand up next to anything the ex-Police man has done (check out the catchy "War on the Inside" if you don't believe me). Excellent production, and perfectly heavy-handed vocals from singer Peter Forbes. That's a compliment. Call 759-9427.

I reach into the mailbox, and what do I come out with? A tape from a band named Screamin' Seamen. What could this sound like? Far from the punk-joke band that you might expect, SS is a balls-out, driving guitar band, kind of like what X turned into after its first album. There's a spastic jerk of the head to Sabbath (or is it the Allmans?), which the Seamen more than get away with on the appropriately titled "Jamin Hard." Listening to this stuff makes me want to be in a dark, smoky bar on my fifth beer. But then I always . . . just kidding! Call 969-4269.

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