"...hotly amplified..."

In many ways, being in a band sucks. Whether it's your sixth or seventh search for a new drummer, your 100th seven-hour drive from one sketchy tour booking to the next or your one-millionth inhalation of Camel-toxic tavern air, serious rock musicianship offers many reasons to chuck it all in favor of quiet solid citizenship.

Ironically, though, these same herd-thinning challenges can elevate those bands that stick with it. Look at Portland's Pinehurst Kids. Here's a band that's logged its time, surviving membership fluxes, innumerable van rides and the odd critical brickbat to record and release an album that's by far the best and most varied of their three so far. Whether or not the hotly amplified and meticulously textured rock of Bleed It Dry appeals to you personally, you have to applaud the toil involved.

That's not to say this album can be brushed off with an A-for-effort. Bleed It Dry, recorded with Jackpot Studios meister Larry Crane, represents a huge leap in the band's studio work. The fiery energy of the stage show remains, all tanked up on volume and distortion, but there's a depth Minnesota Hotel and Viewmaster didn't really try for. The band has learned the power of easing off the accelerator now and again, a tactic that favors singer/guitarist Joe Davis' crisp songwriting. Elsewhere, a few blistering moments of head-snapping speed keep things from getting too damn sensitive and artistic.

College radio has already rewarded this cohesive effort with plenty of airplay; last week, Bleed It Dry ranked 23rd on the College Music Journal 200. But rock, she is a cruel wench, and she's about to pay back the Pinehurst Kids' achievement the only way she knows how: A lengthy summer tour looms, Davis plans a release party for a solo disc in late July, and then it will doubtless be time to do it all again. No rest for the wicked, as they say. Good thing that, if Bleed It Dry is any indication, it all pays off in the end. (ZD)

Pinehurst Kids play Berbati's Pan on Thursday, May 31. 231 SW Ankeny St., 248-4579. 10 pm. $9.


"...literate despair..."

After years incendiary self-destruction, punk's fever may have finally broken--
suddenly it seems everyone from Boston to Berkeley is singing brain-sick ballads. Today, for better or worse, we have emo. The damaged-poet romance, the shattered-life dreams, the lost-dog would be completely nauseating if it weren't for bands like Chicago's Alkaline Trio.

The A3 is able, somehow, to sketch out a literate despair without falling into cliché, the vocals wailing their poetic woe over skidding pop-punk guitars. This isn't Black Flag's martial hardcore, the blood-splatter sound of an underground guerrilla war. A3 is a smart bomb packed with nerve gas: clean, accurate, deadly. Guitarist/ singer/songwriter Matt Skiba is the
guidance system, steering the gleaming machine through lyrics like "New Year's Eve was as boring as
heaven/ I watched flies fuck on Channel 11," and "These times count down like boats and planes/ Some wash away in undertow, some plummet down in flames."

Ironically, Skiba sounds as if he's been infected by the very mental hardware that makes his songs so nimble. The vocals twist and soar like any great pop-radio smash should, but that's just a phantom image on radar--he's long since crashed to the Earth in a fireball of forgotten love and hungover mornings. And now he's spreading his invisible infection to you. Unpunk or not, depression rarely sounds this victorious. (JG)

Alkaline Trio plays the Pine Street Theater on Wednesday, May 30. 215 SE 9th Ave., 231-1350.
9 pm. $10.



Call it whatever you want: math rock, jazz-twinged instrumental pop, hypnotic indie moodcasting. Whatever. Chicago's Tortoise has influenced a generation of musicians, and echoes of its cerebral groove can be heard in Radiohead, Stereolab, Blur and a legion of Thrill Jockey labelmates. Five years after their masterful Millions Now Living Will Never Die helped bring a post-grunge about-face in U.S. indie-rock sensibility, Tortoise's new album is ironically called Standards, a wink to the band's somewhat contentious relationship with jazz.

Like their previous efforts, Standards is a multilayered composite of guitar, vibraphone, keyboard and computerized noodling. Despite their origins in underground rock, Tortoise recalls abstract jazz concepts in its limitless meandering and inspired instrumental expressiveness. Yet here there are no standards or conventional solo turns to provide framework, and the recordings are succinctly composed rather than freely improvised. In fact, the level of intricacy on Standards is a step beyond the band's previous albums. Unfortunately some of the serene, grounding simplicity of Millions Now Living and the equally superb TNT is lost here. But Standards remains a simultaneously mind-bending trip and ambient journey--a delicate balance that only Tortoise can pull off. (BL)

Tortoise plays the Roseland Theater on Sunday, June 3. 8 NW 6th Ave., 224-2038. 8 pm. $13 advance.

THE ASTRALWERKS SPECIAL by the Cockney Fruit 'n' Veg Man!

Apples and pears, two fer a paaand--come on darlin', don't squeeze the fruit, you'll bruise me plums! Now 'ave I got something special for you good people, and you'll be well pleased. Just picked up a bundle from this luverly bird over at Astralwerks Records, fresh and ready for when the family's 'round:


A nice cross between Travis, R.E.M. and a little bit of Cracker, me ol' china. Loads of soothing beats and great vocals to keep you wanting more. Chop it up and put it in a salad or just stick it on the stereo at your next dinner party. Luverly.


These lads are from Bristol, which gave us Massive Attack, Portishead and The Bristol Urological Institute. Good album--downtempo, sounds a bit like Underworld's little brother, and sometimes like that B-jork bird. Keeps you warm on them long winter days, kind of like asparagus.


My arse it is! This is what happens when you let Norwegians record music--didn't know whether to curl up and suck my thumb, wet meself or beat meself to death with a bag of kumquats! If you'd like quiet to be the new loud, pick this up. If not, come 'round to my gaff and the kids'll show you what loud is.


He's French, he's bald and he plays house music funky enough to have you eating baguettes, brie and apples in no time. This'll do nicely for a bum-shaking little collection that doesn't have you handbagging it with the dodgy fellas and birds. Now move along, love, stop fingering the aubergines! (MM)