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Twang and Bang

There's a full slate of news and shows worth mentioning this week, and it starts with word of the impending release of No Sense in Runnin', the debut from local postpunk twangers Truckers on Speed. The group, which recently changed its named from Shoeless Joe, spent the better part of the past winter recording the 10-song disc at Larry Elleya's Mind's Eye Studios. (Read our full verdict on the album in this week's Music Reviews)

The band will mark the event with a performance/party at the Mill Avenue Long Wong's this Saturday, April 8. The evening's bill is an inspired pairing of TOS and the Valley's other pre-eminent alt-country combo, Chicken.

Featuring members of the defunct Pig Iron, Chicken is a raw and eclectic mash of styles and influences. For those who've never heard the band, we encourage you to get there early to check out what can only be described as a Johnny Cash meets Motörhead skronk. The bulk of the group's material is composed of catchy originals with lyrics that frequently traipse into Son Volt territory -- but in a good way. Fair warning, don't be surprised if Chicken's songs frequently veer from maudlin trad country rhythms to a galloping metallic stomp -- musical gear-shifting that would make both Lemmy and the original Man in Black proud.

Truckers on Speed's CD release party featuring Chicken is set for Saturday, April 8, at Long Wong's in Tempe. Showtime is 9 p.m.

Roadhouse Blues, Well, Pop, Actually: A trio of the Valley's finest pop merchants will offer up their wares at a special New Times Music Showcase preview party this Friday, April 7, at the Arizona Roadhouse in Tempe. One of the Roadhouse acts representing the inaugural "Pop" category is Haggis -- fresh off a victory in the national Sam Goody Bandemonium competition. The bill also includes Sugar High, still enjoying attention from the release of its debut EP, Ice Cream Anti-Social, and the Zen Lunatics, whose three new hilarious Live at the BBC CDs chronicle the group's mythical heyday as U.K. radio darlings. The show begins at 9 p.m.

Tea and Sympathy: An update to last week's Tales of the Highway Patrol piece on local punk trio The Peeps. For those who missed it, the Peeps were heading to Southern California for a mini-tour when they miraculously emerged without significant injury from a crash on I-10 outside Quartzsite. It seems that a bad case of whiplash wasn't the only thing that came out of the incident. The ladies made the right decision to get a different set of wheels and forge ahead to play their scheduled L.A. date. In attendance at the show was none other than Mr. Long Gone John, the self-proclaimed "anti-mogul" and head of venerable indie label Sympathy for the Record Industry.

It seems Long Gone John was so taken by the band's post-accident performance that he decided to offer the Peeps a deal right on the spot, which, after some careful consideration, they've decided to accept. The offer is both a pivotal career stepping stone and an obvious badge of honor for the group, as Sympathy has long been a pillar of garage, punk and other uneasy listening music.

Equally pertinent is Sympathy's unyielding dedication to the promotion of female bands. Last year it released Alright, This Time, Just the Girls, a retrospective documenting the veritable slew of influential lady rockers who have graced the label. This august company includes the likes of Hole, Red Aunts, Geraldine Fibbers, Holly Golightly, the Chubbies, and the Detroit Cobras. The Muffs, another label alum and female-led act that graduated to major-label status, recently returned to the Sympathy fold with their amazing odds and sods compilation Hamburger.

The Peeps will enter the Cave Creek studio of D.I.Y./punk legend Jeff Dahl this month to begin recording their full-length debut -- likely a self-titled affair -- for Sympathy. Though the track list isn't final, front woman Paula Monarch says the group plans to record 14 to 16 songs, including one cover, likely the same cut the group will lend to an upcoming Nicky and the Corvettes tribute album. No word on when the disc will be available, though a late summer or early fall release is likely.

Rhythm and Bruise: Speaking of Mr. Dahl, the former Angry Samoan will open a Hollywood Alley show on Saturday, April 15, featuring a headlining set by maximum rock 'n' soulers the Bellrays. Despite a fiercely independent attitude toward the "biz" side of the music industry, the L.A.-based Bellrays have made inroads on the national scene (including a truly amazing set at last year's SXSW so compelling that it even had journalists queuing up to buy -- gasp!!! -- copies of the band's CD). Led by the twin charms of shouter Lisa Kekaula and the Kramer/Asheton/Williamson-informed fretwork of guitarist Tony Fate, the group has often been compared to Detroit protopunkers the MC5 (had they been fronted by Aretha Franklin or Etta James). Perhaps a manic Janis Joplin is a more apt comparison for Kekaula, as those who've seen her perform -- furiously banging and bruising her body with a tambourine -- can attest.

In addition to their last album, 1998's Let It Blast, the Bellrays have recorded two full-length cassettes -- an eponymously titled debut and 1993's In the Light of the Sun -- as well as the Wall of Soul seven-inch, all on their own Vital Gesture label. The band is readying a full-length follow-up to Blast, which will be available in the fall.

For those who like the idea of seeing a band with the same impact as a swift kick in the nuts from James Brown, or one that sounds like a bus full of Motown singers being steamrolled by Black Flag, the Bellrays show is not to be missed.

The Bellrays are scheduled to perform on Saturday, April 15, at the Hollywood Alley in Mesa, with Jeff Dahl. Showtime is 9 p.m.

Required Reading: Bash & Pop feels like getting in on the love fest (see "Vinyl Jeopardy" and Dischord) for the newly released motion picture High Fidelity. Based on the 1995 novel by British author Nick Hornby, the book and movie are a sort of Gone With the Wind for music geeks.

While the film has earned near unanimous praise for its deft adaptation of the Hornby tome, it's also earned kudos from music types for loving name checks of obscure clubs, bands and record stores. In addition, the picture gives a major plug to something near and dear to our hearts, Magnet magazine, the Pennsylvania-based music bimonthly. Though anyone who blinked probably missed its brief appearance in the movie, the publicity still from the flick shows star John Cusack reading a copy of the April '99 issue with Sleater-Kinney on the cover.

What's our interest in trumpeting the Magnet cameo? Aside from the fact that our very own Fred Mills is an associate editor with the publication, Magnet's recent rise is heartening, as it's taken over the mantle of "Best American Music Magazine" after the demise of Option last year. As its motto, "Real Music Alternatives," indicates, the Magnet mission is to give well-deserved attention to musicians largely ignored by mainstream publications. Unlike most similarly intentioned 'zines, Magnet manages to do it in the most aesthetically pleasing manner -- full color, brilliant photography, clean, stylish layout.

If that isn't enough, it also boasts the hands-down most entertaining and insightful music column in the free world, The Back Page, penned by Phil Sheridan -- a contributor whose full-time job is, of all things, a sportswriter for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

How a small, independently owned suburban Philly operation stands poised to take its place among the great journalistic institutions in rock 'n' roll is a compelling story, and one that New Times will be documenting in the coming weeks. For those who've yet to glimpse a copy, Magnet is online (at www.magnetmagazine.com) as well as being available at finer music and bookstores everywhere.

Contact Bob Mehr at his online address: [email protected]

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Bob Mehr
Contact: Bob Mehr