Franz Nicolay, Skeletonwitch, Imperial China, Terror, Alphabet Army, Sea Trio.
With his Salvador Dal� mustache, dashing suits, oft-present accordion and cheeky grin, Franz Nicolay resembles either a charming busker on Prague's Charles Bridge or Dick Dastardly as played by Jon Lovitz. Or maybe both. You probably know him as the wine-quaffing multi-instrumentalist for the Hold Steady (he also plays in World/Inferno Friendship Society), but at the moment he's touring behind a new solo disc, Major General, which merges Hold Steady-ish anthemic bar rock with Old World melodies and cabaret-style melodrama. Witness Nicolay and his crack band--which features Dresden Doll Brian Viglione on drums as well as members of Demander and Nanuchka--dig into that new material with gusto. (Michael Alan Goldberg)
Ali G asked, "Why are skeletons always involved in evil stuff?" Athens, Ohio-based "blackened thrash metal band" Skeletonwitch, although neither skeletons nor witches, up the ante with titles like "Sacrifice for the Slaughtergod," "Feast Upon Flesh" and "Soul Thrashing Black Sorcery." And they've got a guitarist named Scunty. Their logo is a skeleton with a beard. All hail Skeletonwitch. (Steven Wells)
Contrary to public opinion, Washington, D.C.'s rock 'n' roll business didn't shut down entirely once Fugazi went on hiatus some years back. To wit: Imperial China, a trio from the D.C. hipster enclave of Mount Pleasant, carry on the city's long and proud tradition of slashing, experimental post-punk that's equally brainy and ballsy. You know a band means business when they wear their guitars mere inches below their chins; the better to rock out mathematically, you know? These guys create fierce grooves, turn on a dime, throw some weird electronic flourishes in for good measure and shimmy about onstage like they took dancing lessons from Guy Picciotto. Viva la Washington! (M.A.G.)
Barked sub-doggerel; vinegar-shot-fast wanking guitars; the 1,000-yard stare of the drunken Scotsman--testosterone, authenticity, petulance, 'tude--all performed in front of a thrashing mob of semi-naked young middle-class American males who are too thin to make the football team and so attend gigs to get their man-on-man "no-homo" violent sex action in the mosh pit instead. It's hardcore. Like the blow job, it's nothing new, but when done well, it's always a pleasant distraction. And nobody sucks metaphorical rock cock as hard as Terror. (S.W.)
The name "Alphabet Army" has always made me imagine all the letters in alphabet soup marching one by one out of the bowl, wearing berets and armed with little guns and bayonets. Though Alphabet Army's debut CD, People Are Alone and Happy, shows the duo enjoying Alpha-Bits cereal instead of Campbell's, the aesthetic remains the same. They and their music are quirky, goofy and completely endearing. Blending Ratatat- and Daft Punk-like electronica with Queen's sense of melody and Weezer's pop rock, Alphabet Army create music that's danceable, catchy and cheerful. They have no qualms about referencing imaginary friends and monsters, but never come off immature or cloying. (Katherine Silkaitis)
Local three-piece Sea Trio bill themselves as "improvised ambient electronic jazz," and I thank them for summing things up so aptly. Taking their cues from the likes of Sun Ra, fusion-era Miles Davis and Boards of Canada, Sea Trio--synth-and-beat wizard Ephraim Asili, keyboardist Andy Schwartz and clarinetist Jennie Portney (along with the guest players that frequently turn up)--concoct heady, immersive soundscapes that veer from noisy and propulsive to gently skittering, billowy and hypnotic. (M.A.G.)