Somehow, of my own inexplicable doing, I got sucked into watching the CMT television series Gone Country (don’t ask, I have no good answer to offer). But after following it for nearly an entire season, I’ve managed to glean some truths from it. Besides the fact that Nashville is sooo far removed from the country ethos these days that it’s heartbreaking (nice fur coat, John Rich), here they are:

1. When it comes to Twisted Sister’s place in rock history, prima donna Dee Snider is one jaw-droppingly delusional motherfucker.

2. Drunken idiocy, flatulence and … bedwetting??? Man, Bobby Brown is a disgusting person.

3. That Carne – whoops, Carnie Wilson sure is annoying.

4. Maureen McCormick, however, is annoying times 10, not to mention the most sexually pent-up woman in America. Speaking of sex, it’s possible that no one will masturbate to her young visage again … ever.

Yet all of these prove the most surprising truth of all: that there are apparently worse things and worse people than Sisqó.

The Beat

March 7 was the CD release party for local act the Oaks at the Social. Best known for arriving on the scene with a manifestly humanitarian thrust, they’ve recently been dedicating greater focus on their musicianship: a necessary development if they’re to have any traction as a band. This set was proof positive that their live sound is where the most dramatic evolution has taken place. Where they once floated innocuously, they now stand with more poise, thanks largely to a stronger rhythmic presence. Though narrowing, the gap between the way they transmit in person and the way they do on record still remains considerable. To watch them play live is to truly understand what their potential is. If their next album can capture their much more decisive live dynamism, they’ll be in business.

Opening was inimitable Jacksonville songstress Christina Wagner. Acoustic music, male or female, tends to be a playground for pusses. Not so with Wagner. Showing an effective balance of vulnerability and the kind of strong, darker emotions typically glorified in men, she is the voice of feminine empowerment. This outing revealed increased country notes in her repertoire, a thing that suits her remarkably well.

The night before, the MySpace Music Tour was packed butts to nuts at Club Firestone. Hm, wonder how all these people even heard about the show? Anyway, headlining was the much-ballyhooed Justice. The French duo pumped their sticky, colossal disco-house from atop a big elevated stage rig blinking with lots of red lights and a huge lit version of their trademark Jesus cross. Totally bangin’ music, but it was a good thing they brought some interesting stage props. Without that, they would’ve been just another couple of knob-twiddlers, aka: one boring-ass show. As with any live dance act, how much they were actually doing in the way of live music creation is suspect. Hearing and seeing how evocative their music was in front of a crowd, however, is a testament to the power of a well-crafted song. The French totally own the club scene right now, but Justice alone is the king of the new school of dance music.

Speaking of, Firestone is hosting a screening of the Daft Punk film Electroma March 13.

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The Dirtbombs We Have You Surrounded (In the Red) Another rousing dose of gritty, soul-licked rock & roll goodness from the Detroit-based source of some of the most soulful garage rock ever made.

The Diggs ctrl-alt-del (Sugarspun) Brooklyn outfit conjures the very best of intimate mid-’90s indie rock in their pitch-perfect melodies, crafting an amazingly consistent album.

Tall Firs Too Old to Die Young (Ecstatic Peace) Half-lidded yet dynamically lithe, the gentle, spacious indie rock here achieves a sweet semiconsciousness akin to a more medicated Pavement.

Whiskeytown Strangers Almanac [Deluxe Edition] (Geffen) One of the greatest alt-country albums of all time gets the deluxe treatment. Expanded with acoustic versions, unreleased tracks and covers, it’s definitely for the completist. But revisiting even the unvarnished takes makes many of their followers look like hacks in comparison. It’s unquestionably some of Ryan Adams’ most inspired work.

Black Hollies Casting Shadows (Ernest Jenning) Scooter dudes, prepare to boogie. The electric rock & roll of these Jersey mods could raise the dead.

Junkie XL Booming Back at You (Nettwerk Music) A comprehensive handbook to what’s thumping dance floors today.

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About The Author

Bao Le-Huu

Music columnist.
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