What's a garage-rockin' scuzzbag to do when everybody knows the secrets behind those old three-chord tricks? Can raw, primal thump-'n'-thwack evolve into something new while remaining raw and primal? In with the new buzz, yes -- but out with the old? The past few years have seen a whole mess of bands ask these musical questions. The Hives, the Mooney Suzuki, the White Stripes and the Von Bondies hit the jackpot with varying amounts of pop sheen, R&B sweat, heavy guitar noise and naive experimentalism. The musical roots are planted firmly in sneering '60s faux blues, but nobody back then sounded like this. Can we call this stuff "post-garage" yet?
The Catheters are the latest entrants in the sweepstakes. If they lack the effortless melodic sense of the aforementioned bands, they bring plenty of rhythmic spring to the party, and they are indeed wild and crazy guys -- just listen to frontman Brian Standeford's convincing yowl. The title and cover art of the Catheters' new one, Howling...It Grows and Grows!, are bargain-bin psychedelica, but forget such fripperies: The band comes out of its corner screaming and spitting. Past lyrical concerns like "Teenage Trash" and "The Kids Know How to Rock" are left behind in favor of tortured existential blurts such as "Ravenous Animal" and "We Are So Cold." This is one Seattle "garage" band whose sound would be more at home in late-'70s Ohio alongside bands like the Pagans and early Pere Ubu. The next big thing? Who cares? -- Jason Toon
The Onion once ran the following headline: "Ska Band Outnumbers Audience." Maybe the members of Cougars, who morphed from a ska band into the eight-piece punk monstrosity they are today, decided that if they were going to outnumber the audience, they might as well kick the asses that showed up. With two guitars, a keyboardist and a frickin' horn section, Cougars have a sound that overpowers most speakers and must peel paint live: It's the sound of an avalanche careening down a mountain, a nonstop, fast-paced rumble of rock. Vocalist Matt Irie rides down the mountain on top of it all with a strong caterwaul that might be the only thing stopping the music from collapsing entirely.
Cougars may not outnumber the audience Wednesday night at the Rocket Bar, but they will definitely overpower the crowd. Earplugs recommended. --Jordan Harper