Bella Fayes guitarist-singer Lael Alderman has endured some bruising encounters with the beast that dwells within the music industry. The tale has been told here and elsewhere--the wining, the dining, the signing, the dropping. In contrast to so many who've attempted the same journey, Alderman has not faded into coulda-been-a-contendah artistic afterlife. The Truth in a Beautiful Lie is the latest album to show off the Portland popster's knack for writing sweet songs and delivering them with style and intelligence. There's no musical revolution afoot here, but there are worse things in life than good pop songs. The truth in a beautiful lie--hey, they could be talking about the music industry itself, and the occasional pearls it conceals. Zach Dundas
The Bella Fayes play Friday, May 31 at Dante's,
1 SW 3rd Ave., 226-3360. 9 pm. $6.
Castaways and Cutouts
Portland songwriter Colin Meloy crafts short stories, and luckily he has an excellent band to help punt them into circulation. For he is guilty of a certain romantic sensibility--a taste for roguish characters, crazy settings and improbable adventure--that today's book publishers punish with exile to the genre racks. With the Decemberists, Meloy gets away with his bold narrative high-wire act, spinning tales of harbor whoredom, lost Legionnaires and gut-shot French Canadians. The band wields a palette no less vivid; the punchy hard pop of "July, July!" yields to "A Cautionary Song," a mordant accordion-driven folk dirge. It's a transition few would attempt, but the Decemberists bring it off--just one of the successful stunts here. ZD
The Decemberists play Saturday, June 1, at Blackbird, 3728 NE Sandy Blvd., 282-9949.
9:30 pm. $6.
Dual is local improviser-about-town Doug (Office Products) Theriault and NYC/PDX composer-player-character Ed (Blindfold) Chang, who shrewdly describes the caustic union as an exercise in "assault-and-battery improv." Song titles sound like settings on Satan's blender--"Puncture," "Tenderize," "Flay," "Serrate," "Emasculate"--and Theriault's fingers-in-the-Cuisinart guitar work chops up ragged scraps of feedback, detuned plonks and seizure-inducing fretwork. Chang shoots out rapid-fire beams of radioactive electronic noise, defibrillating beats and monster-movie samples. All told, as refreshing as a slap in the face with a razor...the best way to wake up in the morning, really. John Graham
Ex-Owls and Joan of Arc members make up the trio Friend/Enemy, whose beat-poetry lyrics ("I want the parents to whisper the kids carving my name into their arms for how I dipped her") are delivered in what can only be described as a bracing squeal. When the singer gets his voice more or less under control, it can sound pretty good--giddily surreal angst set to dissonant guitar, organ, banjo and pedal steel work. Katherine Sharpe
The former kings of three-chord garage rock prolong their affair with prog-rock pomp and circumstance. But while both 1998's brash, Kinksy Psychopathia Sexualis and 2000's plush Rock Star God sounded like the work of a band testing the limits of new-found range, Strangest Parade is an exhausted, unfocused mess. The Makers once cared for little but well-sharpened hooks. The playing still sparkles, but the songs are just gone, lost in hazy, ill-disciplined '70s camp and directionless '60s psychedelia. When the best ideas on an album of overblown rock odysseys are found in several minute-long acoustic interludes, you have trouble on your hands. Whether you call this an aberrant failure or a sure sign of a once-great band sliding into eclipse depends on how charitable you're feeling. ZD
The Makers play Friday, May 31, at Berbati's Pan, 231 SW Ankeny St., 248-4579. 9 pm. $10.
Seattle's soul-rock hybrid Maktub returns with its unique sound, drawing inspiration from everyone from Al Green to the Doobie Brothers. Picking up where its 1999 debut, Subtle Ways, left off, Khronos finds Maktub skillfully and impressively treading over the same melodic, pseudo-'70s pop-rock ground. Still, the band never challenges itself, or its fans, leaving Khronos a little spineless. David Walker
The Golden Vessyl of Sound
Dude, I can almost hear the water bong burbling. Stony guitars and lots of synth make big sounds, like sci-fi cities rising out of the mist. This is 100 percent-pure prog cheese, by way of Pink Floyd (chanted vocals are used on some cuts), but if you suspend your scoff reflex you might find passages that draw you into the exuberant, wide-eyed, trippy energy of it all. KS