Local Wire

Cover Me

Local AC/DC cover band TNT is getting some (big-ball-size) love from the object of its worship. Last fall, members of AC/DC's road crew -- in town for the band's show at America West Arena -- managed to catch TNT's pre-concert set at Jackson's downtown. They were sufficiently impressed to invite the band backstage to pal around with Angus and the boys, and the meeting was such a success that AC/DC has given the green light for TNT to record one of its unreleased songs. This week the band heads into Tempe's Mayberry studios -- with ex-Gin Blossom Robin Wilson producing and engineering -- to lay down the track.

The song, "Down on the Borderline," was originally recorded during sessions for AC/DC's 1988 long player Blow Up Your Video, but has never been released in the U.S. TNT will be completing the song for inclusion on its debut disc, a proposed album featuring covers of other AC/DC rarities.

Speaking of tribute acts, this weekend yields the first performance from the long-anticipated Mystery Tribute Band. The premise behind the group is fairly self-explanatory: Each month the group will take on the look and sound of a different big-name act -- prospects are rumored to include Behind the Music cheeseballs Chicago, Styx and Journey -- but won't reveal who it is until showtime.

The project is being spearheaded by some of the same folks who brought you the Paul McCartney and Wings tribute extravaganza Bluebird. Fliers for the upcoming Mystery Tribute Band show have included photos of the Honeycombs and Canned Heat, but that appears to be a bit of a red herring. Sources have tipped that the group will have a more royal bearing. Insider info tells us the band being honored is a British outfit (Hint: They will rock you) from the '70s and '80s (Hint: They are the champions) known for its operatic productions and flamboyant front man (Hint: The singer had an overbite that could scare small children).

Whatever its identity, the Mystery Tribute Band will be taking the stage this Friday, August 10, at the Emerald Lounge along with Tucson's beloved fatback funksters The Pork Torta. Showtime is 9 p.m.

Number 54 With a Bullet: In a rare instance of reality reflecting pre-release hype, the folks in the Jimmy Eat World camp are jumping for joy after receiving sales figures for the band's new album.

According to first week SoundScan numbers, the Valley group's DreamWorks debut, Bleed American, sold more than 29,500 copies, good enough to place the band at No. 54 on the Billboard Top 200 album sales chart -- in austere company, right between the Shrek soundtrack and Jaheim's Ghetto Love.

The figures wildly exceeded the band's own somewhat cautious expectations, which had been between 12,000 and 15,000. A special, introductory price tag (as low as $6.99 at retailers like Target) helped the album fly out of stores during its initial week of release.

Still, the numbers are but a mere fraction of the nation's top seller, 'N SYNC's Celebrity, which shifted a staggering 1.8 million units over the first seven days. However, in Arizona, where Bleed American did its most brisk business, the record managed to claim second place, again bowing to the rock 'n' roll monsters of 'N SYNC.

Jimmy Eat World has just finished up a couple weeks' worth of dates on the East Coast leg of the Vans Warped Tour and is now heading to Los Angeles. There, the band will rehearse with utility players Rachel Haden and Brian McMahan in preparation for further stadium dates with Blink-182 as part of the Edgefest, before beginning their own headlining U.S. club tour in September.

On Monday, JEW will make a national television appearance on CBS' The Late Late Show With Craig Kilborn. Locally, the program will air at 12:05 a.m. on KPHO-TV Channel 5. -- Bob Mehr

Byrning Down the House: There, on one corner of Sixth Street and Congress Avenue, stood Ray Davies, hiding behind don't-fuck-with-me shades. Just across the street stood David Byrne, camouflaged from head to foot in khaki, his omnipresent red backpack draped across his shoulder. Davies looked larger than life, in a way -- like a Rock Legend, holding his head high. He walked slowly, perhaps so passers-by who recognized him could bask in his reflected glory. The Kinks' front man seemed ageless, immortal, even in the blindingly bright springtime sun; he really had them, at least those of us who stared and glared as he made his way through downtown Austin. Byrne, on the other hand, looked as though he was trying to be the invisible man. He moved through the crosswalk and down the sidewalk as quick as lightning; he and Davies passed each other, without exchanging so much as a nod -- maybe they didn't see each other, maybe they didn't want to be seen. With Byrne, it was likely the latter: Only a few hours earlier, he had spoken at the Austin Convention Center as part of the South by Southwest Music Conference and explained, softly and eloquently, that he became a musician because he could barely speak to others without a microphone in front of him and an instrument in his hand. Rock 'n' roll allowed him to stop being shy, a malady that one presumes has never afflicted the garrulous Ray Davies. Had he not become a musician, perhaps David Byrne would have been a full-time visual artist. Or a mime.

It's difficult to reconcile this quiet man with the one who stands onstage and plays the part of the entertainer so deftly -- be he the freak in the giant suit, the would-be Latin lover crooning in Spanish or the wanna-be Philly soul man channeling Gamble and Huff. He's the ultimate contradiction, the reserved intellectual reconciled with the extroverted emotional, which is what makes him at once such a heartwarming genius and such a chore for the listener to deal with. That is, half the time you find yourself listening to his records, and half the time you find yourself listening at them. They play with your heart, but only when they're not too busy dialing up the brain. His records aren't as joyous as he thinks they are, not as smart as he wants them to be. If he'd stop worrying about the latter, the former would follow -- meaning, he should stop worrying about the head and concern himself more with the hips. Even his best solo offerings (Uh-Oh, Feelings) feel like rushed term papers or rough sketches fleshed out by a man who truly loves music -- his label-of-love, Luaka Bop, offers the very best in global eclecticism -- but doesn't seem terribly zealous about getting that across.

Of course, he would disagree with that. Writing on his Web site of his latest multiculti offering -- Look Into the Eyeball, which I've listened to a dozen times without feeling it once -- Byrne insists it's the result of his desire to seduce both body and mind.

"I had been wondering if there might be a way to include the warm, lyrical, beautiful, emotional sounds and associations of strings and orchestral parts with groove music and beats for the body," he writes. "I want to move people to dance and cry at the same time."

But the result isn't a whole lot of fun. I'd rather listen to Tom Zé or Waldemar Bastos or Los Amigos Invisibles -- all Luaka Bop recording artists -- than hear their influence on the traveler who wanders through their music, gathering bits and pieces to show the white folks back home. It's not an issue of authenticity so much as it's a matter of: Byrne just ain't as fun or funky as he thinks he is. Listen only to the version of "I Zimbra" on the forthcoming Sessions at West 54th and the original on Fear of Music. The Heads' take is orgiastic, the sound of art-school tribespeople working out their ethnomusic education by bum-rushing the dance floor. Byrne's solo version is less frenzied, more withdrawn -- too smart, in other words, for its own good. Musicians will tell you they don't know where the good songs come from; they just form in the heart, and hope only the mind can transcribe them. With Byrne, it's the other way around, which is a shame, because the man was and could again be the master. Free your mind, Dave, and our asses will follow you anywhere. -- Robert Wilonsky

David Byrne is scheduled to perform on Thursday, August 9, at the Web Theatre. Showtime is 7:30 p.m.