From their name, the New Pornographers (Vancouver; mintrecs.com) could be mistaken for a speed-metal band. They're actually named after a Jimmy Swaggart book (Music: The New Pornography), and they take after the same Top 40 forebears cited by the Deathray Davies and Swag. Their album, Mass Romantic (Mint), is so giddy that Ray was compelled to climb onstage with them at SXSW to sing an old Kinks song, "Starstruck." The occasionally muddy club sound didn't help, but the clear, sweet vocals of Neko Case sure did.
Okay, had enough pop? How about a little . . . speed metal?! Before you head for the door, consider that BlöödHag (Seattle; hiscorearcade.com/bldhg.htm), according to its "synopsis," plays "short biographies of science-fiction and fantasy authors. Let them inform, entertain, and pummel you with their unique brand of balls-out educational metal: Edu-Core." I let 'em do exactly that. In their Retro Teacher uniforms, they wielded songs from their upcoming, self-released Necrotic Bibliophilia, threw paperbacks into the crowd, and otherwise demonstrated why someone has made a documentary on them called The Faster You Go Deaf, the More Time You Have to Read.
My fave discovery, however, was Brassy (Manchester, England; brassy.com). Watching singer/guitarist Muffin Spencer (Jon's sister) cheerlead the band left me imagining that Lene Lovich had been reborn as a hip-hop rocker, or that Chrissie Hynde had gotten happy feet. And hearing the band rally behind her - think MC-52's - left me remembering what David Byrne said about performing, because no matter how good the studio Brassy is on Got It Made (Wiiija/The Beggars Group), the live Brassy is sharper, tighter, and ultimately more alive. In addition to its gig, the band opened the trendy closing-night party thrown by Spin magazine, which should tell you something. I'll tell you this: when Brassy comes to a club near you, go, and take your air guitar as well as your dancing shoes.
Switch to Sexy Finger Champs (Austin; sexyfingerchamps.com), and you must "think Harlem Globetrotters meet Sailor Moon," according to their SXSW blurb. Toons, indeed: singer Kerri Beets not only aced the theme of Pokémon Jigglypuff but also dared an audience member to stick his hand in a bag and taste the contents, which turned out to be the Powerpuff Girls cereal (or, as she insisted, "It's just Rice Krispies with Pop Rocks!"). There were tunes, too, not only sounding like the power-pop-and-punk girls and guys the Champs are but also heading South of the Border and into the Caribbean. All this and more is on their self-released Trash Hits the Rock. Talk that trash: "In his uniform, so red / Not a single hair on his head / I want to f--k Jean-Luc Picard!"
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