The Rockabilly Bash Jan 28

The smell of pomade pervades at BC's.

[ROCKABILLY] As I walk into BC's American Saloon Saturday night for the "Rockabilly Bash," the Juke Joint Gamblers are wrapping up the last song of what must have been a fast, strong set of roots-conscious rockabilly. I know this because pompadours are bouncing and neck tattoos are twisting.

The next band sets up, carefully hanging a bedsheet banner reading "Whitetrash Whiplash" behind it. The crowd remains mostly seated and in conversation, skeptical of the upcoming set even before the players announce they're from Seattle. Whitetrash Whiplash validates the crowd's trepidation by playing a steady stream of one-gag "redneck" songs. They hand out boxes of macaroni and cheese as shakers in a feeble attempt at crowd participation. Toward the end of the set, everyone in the band is singing, "That girl shuure looks good in yella"—they're all on key, but something is definitely flat. The set ends, and the drummer pulls the banner down. It's a lonely sight.

Soon the Cha Cha Show is on stage, leadman Matt Plank filling the space between verses by saying "uh-huh" and "baby" a lot. The Elvis routine isn't really working until his first guitar solo, and suddenly everything looks effortless. He plays with style and power, channeling this immense respect for the history of American music through his fingers. As the band starts in on the Clash's "Brand-New Cadillac," the middle-aged guy in the pearl-button shirt is shaking it alongside the tattooed swing-dancing twentysomethings, and I'm thinking maybe there's more to this music than pompadours and neck tattoos. CASEY JARMAN.


Suspended Animation (Discourage Records)

Rectangles do sound like the New York Dolls. Not necessarily a good thing.

[SYNTH PUNK] Unlike punk bands who use keyboards to sound poppy, such as the Epoxies, Rectangles employ a synthesizer that is low and distorted, taking the place of a bass player while occasionally fulfilling a melodic role. Played by Courtney Crusher, it sits prominently in the top of the mix, holding notes between grace-boops in the style of what has become a common Portland phenomenon: the effectively one-handed, perhaps even one-fingered, keyboard player. But, with little virtuosity, Crusher is able to make "Suspended Animation," this EP's title track, sound quite angular, alternately emulating 8-bit Nintendo songs and the warble of a 1950s UFO.

At a recent live show, Rectangles scoffed at my comparison (in a show listing) of Crusher's synthesizer to the New York Dolls' use of piano. I stand by this assessment, reinforced by this seven-inch's "Wrist Slit," on which the monotone synth is coupled with Johnny Thunders-style blues guitar. In addition, vocalist Donny Fight's fat-lipped, spitting style of singing isn't too far from David Johansen's, and there's a hint of Ben Weasel in it, too. Fight's voice has a lot of attitude, but when it cracks on "Broken Lenses," a song about the demise of a pair of glasses, he playfully reveals that, at least to some extent, he's posturing.

Although Fight does a good job of not letting you listen to this record complacently, and the synthesizer is used creatively, the songs themselves aren't particularly memorable. I like that the Suspended Animation EP is a rough-sounding punk record, but would it have killed Rectangles to break their tough, sharp, pseudo-futuristic personae long enough to include an anthemic hook or two? JASON SIMMS.

Rectangles play with the Epoxies, We Are Telephone and the Punk Group, Saturday, Feb. 4, at Dante's. 9:30 pm. Free. 21+.

Rectangles play with the Epoxies, We Are Telephone and the Punk Group, Saturday, Feb. 4, at Dante's. 9:30 pm. Free. 21+.