Cold War Kids Are Back; Will Anyone Notice?

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Photo courtesy of The Press House
For a minute there, Cold War Kids looked like the saviors of intelligent, conceptual rock and roll. When their first album, Robbers and Cowards, was released in 2006, it caught most of us who follow indie-rock off-guard. It was slickly produced and unabashed in its stadium aspirations, but it carried the weight of thoughtful lyricism and progressive musical tendencies.

In other words, Cold War Kids looked poised to be the Phil Collins-era Genesis of the 2000s: Loved by many, huge in the mainstream and hated by a large group of too-cool-for-you hipsters. It all went wrong after a couple of hits and the band disappeared from the public eye. However, with new strong material under their belt, are the Kids making a comeback nobody has caught on to yet?


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The Five Best Concerts in Houston This Week: Watsky, Heart, Jason Aldean, B.o.B., etc.

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Photo by Gage Skidmore via Flickr
Watsky
House of Blues, October 21

Last year, the most badass statistical analyst you've ever heard of, Matt Daniels, released something called the Hip-Hop Flow Chart, which ranked several popular rap acts by vocabulary size. I pored over the results like a rap geek and wondered how could Daniels have missed this prolific word-monster. This year, Daniels' version 2.0 of the chart rightfully included San Francisco-based Watsky, and counted 5,651 unique words among the first 35,000 he rapped.

That slotted him alongside some of the very best, names like Aesop Rock (still reigning champ), Sage Francis, Immortal Technique and The Roots. Watsky's new album, All You Can Do, which features more smart and empowering raps from the San Franciscan, who always seems genuinely grateful to be able to do what he does. JESSE SENDEJAS JR.

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Charli XCX at Fitzgerald's, 10/16/2014

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Photos by Jack Gorman
Charli XCX, Elliphant, Femme
Fitzgerald's
October 16, 2014

Fans of British pop starlet Charli XCX who missed her show at Fitzgerald's last night are pretty well out of luck. We're not likely to see her in such a small venue again anytime soon. She's already too famous for the place.

That wasn't the plan, exactly. When her current club tour was booked, it was meant to help break the singer stateside as her new album, Sucker, hit store shelves. But now, after her hook on Iggy Azalea's "Fancy" helped propel her to household-name status over the summer, she is broken, baby. Her advance single from the new record -- the bouncy, synthed-out "Boom Clap" -- hit No. 1 on the Top 40 chart, prompting her label to push the release of Sucker back to December in order to prepare a much larger marketing blitz.

That blitz will almost certainly involve putting her on stages much larger than the one at Fitz. The old club on White Oak was packed past the rafters on Thursday night with a strange mix of radio-obsessed teenyboppers and synth-loving hipsters, illustrating the British import's unusual crossover appeal.


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VIDEO: Jose Figueroa Is Still Dancing

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Jose Figueroa is still dancing. The Channelview high-school teacher we told you about earlier this month, whose goal was not only to dance to live music every single night for a solid year but also to make a documentary film about it, says he's not much closer to recovering the equipment that was stolen from his car last month, but still believes he might be able to complete the project nonetheless.

Although Figueroa says the police still haven't been able to turn up any information that might lead to getting his stuff back, a friend has donated a video camera that should allow him to complete a crucial part of the process - the introductory video required of Kickstarter users to start one of the crowd-based Web site's fundraising campaigns.

"Not nearly as compact as my GoPro, but a very generous loan that I'm truly grateful for," he notes.


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Thanks But No Thanks, The Contortionist

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When the Contortionist released their first full-length record, Exoplanet, in 2010, they were one of the most exciting things to come out in the realm of progressive metal for a long time. Where the genre so easily verged into tired cliches or overused tropes, as in the later releases of bands like Dream Theater and Between the Buried and Me, the Contortionist had the right mix of heavy-ass death metal and progressive tendencies.

Now it's 2014 and their third album Language is hitting the stores and online distributors. However, after hearing the first two singles, I'm about ready to throw in the towel on this band. This has all been done before, and better.


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Houston's 10 Best Bars for People-Watching

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Photo by Ed Schipul via Flickr
Note: List is in alphabetical order.

AVANTGARDEN
A converted turn-of-the-20th-century house, AvantGarden is a bar, community venue and gathering point where creative and artistic people throughout the city come for poetry readings, live music, theatrical productions, independent-film premieres, art exhibits, improv comedy, cabaret, and more. The patrons here are sometimes described as hipsters, but the mostly friendly, non-pretentious people we have encountered here do not exhibit the more negative stereotypes of that sometimes pejorative label.

However, many customers here indeed have a flair for style and can dress pretty flamboyantly. For some serious people-watching, the best times to come are the customer-appreciation nights on Thursdays, when cheap drink specials bring in large and diverse crowds who gather in the patio/courtyard out back, which is illuminated overhead with sparkling lights, putting out a festival vibe.

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Ray Johnston Now a Baller With a Guitar

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Being a baller was his ultimate dream, but sometimes what you want isn't always what you get.

That's the case for former Dallas Mavericks player turned Texas musician Ray Johnston. His current album is called No Bad Days, and that's also his life's anthem.

"Thinking about the theme of the album No Bad Days, to me is the strongest song I've ever been a part of writing and I think it summed up my last ten years as far as getting a shitty diagnosis -- sorry, crappy diagnosis -- and doing my best to turn a lot of frowns upside down," says Johnston. "It was really dark for a while, man. Having leukemia five times in 12 years, there's a lot of pissed-off moments, but my parents wouldn't let me sulk."

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The 10 Best Concerts in Houston This Weekend: Skatestock III, Grindfest 2014, Brand New, etc.

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Photo by Anna O'Connor/Plowboy Records
Cheetah Chrome
Fitzgerald's, October 17

Alongside fellow contenders like Johnny Ramone, Cheetah Chrome became one of the titanic guitarists of CBGB-era American punk. His origins, though, erupted a few years earlier in down-and-out Cleveland, where he helped propel two groundbreaking units there: Rocket from the Tombs and the Dead Boys, who together fomented a warped sonic renaissance with tunes like "Sonic Reducer."

As his new memoir A Dead Boy's Tale: From The Front Lines of Punk Rock recounts, street smarts are a crucial part of Chrome's DNA. Hence, his swaggering new album, Solo (incredibly, his first-ever full-length solo outing), evokes a gritty spirit of survival without hauling along tons of sentimentality. With the Drunks, the Guillotines and Born Liars; see our interview from Thursday. DAVID ENSMINGER

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CBGB Survivor Cheetah Chrome's Creed: "Honesty and Quality"

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Photo by Anna O'Connor/Plowboy Records
Alongside fellow contenders like Johnny Ramone, Cheetah Chrome became one of the titanic, blistering guitarists launching the first wave of CBGB-era punk into the stratosphere of American culture. Yet his origins erupted a few years earlier in down-and-out Cleveland. As an authentic, no-bullshit rock and roll soldier, he helped propel two groundbreaking units there: Rocket from the Tombs, with David Thomas of Pere Ubu, and the Dead Boys, with his mate Stiv Bators. Together, these bands fomented a warped sonic renaissance and soon rendezvoused with history.

Since leading the attack with tunes like the Dead Boys' "Sonic Reducer," Chrome has taken a slightly crooked path by working with a variety of equally laudable figures, such as Ronnie Spector, Nico, Jeff Dahl and more recently New York Dolls alum Sylvain Sylvain, his partner in the Batusis. As his memoir A Dead Boy's Tale: From The Front Lines of Punk Rock recounts, street smarts are a crucial part of his DNA; hence, his new album, the swaggering Solo (incredibly, Chrome's first full-length solo outing), evokes a gritty spirit of survival without hauling along tons of sentimentality.

Rocks Off's David Ensminger reached Chrome on the road before his gig Friday at Fitzgerald's with Houston's Born Liars, the Guillotines and the Drunks.


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Girl in a Coma Grrrls Get Even Fiercer With Fea

Categories: Listen Up!

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Photos courtesy of Fea
Martinez, foreground, and Diaz, Lee and Alva , L-R, are Fea
Phanie Diaz doesn't want you Girl watchers to worry.

She's the drummer for one of Texas' biggest breakout bands of the past few years, Girl In a Coma. Her sister, Nina, is the band's guitarist and vocalist. While Nina works on a solo project, Phanie and the band's bassist, Jenn Alva, have unveiled Fea, their own side group that touches down at Mango's Saturday night as part of a month-long tour.

A mixed audience of Pearl Lounge regulars and curious Girl In a Coma fans got a glimpse of Fea this past summer. Once the music started, it was obvious these weren't the indie melodies the flagship band is known for.


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