There won't be a better show in Phoenix this summer than this one. That's because these three bands realize a concert is meant to be something more than vomiting up tracks from their latest slab. All three are driven by an appreciation of rock's theatrical qualities. This goes double for the boy/girl piano-drums duo Dresden Dolls. Singer/pianist Amanda Palmer and drummer Brian Viglione have the look of a flapper and her would-be mime/pimp (capturing the underlying aggression with which he deals with his kit), while describing themselves as Brechtian Punk cabaret. Their broad, piano-driven melodies certainly have a Weimar feel, but the band members attack them with a New Wave spunk fueled by Palmer's headlong lyrical dystopias (best expressed in her twin songs of gothic displacement, "Coin-Operated Boy" and "Girl Anachronism").
While the Dolls have developed a sturdy buzz, . . . And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead is trying to determine if there's life beyond underground sainthood. The Austin quartet built a reputation in the mid-'90s for frenetic sets and equipment-smashing stage sprees, while working a Texas-fried nexus of Sonic Youth, Birthday Party, and Helmet. Shambolic, art-metal experimentation and sweltering performances put the band's name on the lips of anyone who'd seen it, delivering a major-label deal with the millennium. On its latest album, Worlds Apart, Trail of Dead continues to move beyond At the Drive-In, in favor of an epic approach that soft-pedals the wall-shattering music head-butts for a supple elegance. At times, these swirling numbers stumble into pretension, but they never lack for ambition, nor do they deserve the sellout recriminations of their more jar-headed fans.
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Of course, no one deals with that shite more than former Refused singer Dennis Lyxzen, who's one of the biggest Marxists this side of Billy Bragg, and can be seen after gigs patiently, if wearily, acknowledging to self-righteous, freshly minted punks the need to sell albums so he can continue to buy guitar strings. Leading The (International) Noise Conspiracy, Lyxzen's sidestepped the proto-punk crush of fellow Swedes The Hives for a little more soul. The (I)NC's low-end rhythms sizzle with a horn-powered bounce that re-imagines Stax in the Stooges' image, channeling the punch of The Saints and a sly political rhetoric besmirched by Lipstick Traces.