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Hammerhead Can Make Going Deaf A Pulse-Pounding Pleasure

Noise marauders Hammerhead and the Gnomes of Zurich drop their sonic bombs on the Northern Corner on Monday night.

Both bands hail from Minneapolis, a city once known for its twangy pop bands; now it festers with brooding, contusion-laden music.

If you think Northwest rock bands are dark and heavy, you obviously don’t own an album by either of these bands - or any of the bands on the Amphetamine Reptile Records roster.

True to its name, Hammerhead can pound. Yet there’s more to its racket than careening riffs, distortion pedals and titanic rhythms.

Hammerhead unearths scores of eerie tones, be it creepy machine-like noise or just strange guitar noodlings. In addition, it layers melodies, albeit fragmented, over the quaking rumble.

In other words, Hammerhead makes going deaf an exhilarating and rewarding experience. The band’s eccentric albums, “Ethereal Killer,” “Into the Vortex” and “Duh, The Big City,” are proof.

Whether TV viewers realize it, many have been exposed to Hammerhead’s aural assault. The band’s songs regularly turn up on MTV’s “Buzzkill.”

“Someone who has something to do with the show is a fan,” says Paul Erickson. “They used ‘Earth, I Won’t Miss’ on their ads, which were running constantly. Now if they’d just put a video on there.”

No Amphetamine Reptile band has had a video shown on MTV.

Gnomes of Zurich ascended from the wreckage of Janitor Joe, a band which played with Hammerhead in Spokane three years ago.

The pulverizing Minneapolis trio disintegrated after the loss of bassist Kristen Pfaff.

If that name sounds familiar, it’s because she played bass for Hole and died of a heroin overdose in Seattle two years ago.

“At the time we put out our first album (“Metal Birds”), she got the offer to join Hole,” drummer Matt Entsminger said in a recent phone interview. “The replacement we got, Wayne Davis … just kind of wasn’t working out. Consequently, between an East Coast tour and going to Europe, we got rid of him and got Kristen back in the band.

“That was never a full-time thing. She was debating whether or not she wanted to leave Hole, because Hole was pretty inactive in the wake of (Kurt) Cobain’s suicide.”

With Pfaff temporarily filling in, Janitor Joe hit the road. When Entsminger and singer-guitarist Joe Breuer were convinced she wasn’t going to rejoin the band, they decided to disband rather than look for another bass player. Two days after Janitor Joe finished its final tour, Pfaff died.

By the time the band’s second album - titled “Lucky” and recorded before Davis’ departure - hit the streets, Janitor Joe had already split up.

After taking some time away from music, Entsminger and Breuer formed a new band with bassist Scott in 1995 called Gnomes of Zurich. The band has pounded out two 7-inch vinyl singles.

According to Entsminger, The Gnomes’ album, not due out until February, is every bit as aggressive as Janitor Joe’s music. But the trio has a slight penchant for melody.

“I’d say there is more of a dynamic element to it. Not everything is straight-ahead, in-your-face. We can ride the breaks a little more effectively than Janitor Joe was ever able to,” says Entsminger.

The hail of noise will rain down at 10 p.m. The cover is $3. So what if it’s a weeknight?

Bowl-o-rama

Despite the fact it’s booming in Seattle, bowling hasn’t gained cache among chic scenesters in Spokane.

Whether they roll the ball down the lane or not, though, scenesters see bowling attire as hip faux fashion. People are donning bowling shirts as if they were the only acceptable nightclub uniform.

Local scene-crawlers should have their shirts washed and pressed (if they aren’t 100 percent polyester) by Saturday for a concert featuring California ska band Let’s Go Bowling. The band will be skanking at Outback Jack’s with the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies and Reel Big Fish Saturday. The three are in the midst of a six-week nationwide tour.

Let’s Go Bowling is attracting a lot of attention these days, not because of band members’ low bowling scores but rather because they’re hanging-ten on the third wave of ska revival.

Ska, the Jamaican speedy forerunner of reggae, washed up on American shores during the ‘60s with the Skatellites, Desmond Dekker and early Wailers. (Yes, before the Wailers veered to reggae and changed their name to Bob Marley and the Wailers in the early 1970s, the band forged ska.)

Taking a cue, Let’s Go Bowling traverses the familiar traditionalist route. It owes its sound to ska’s early days, meaning it isn’t a punk rock combo masquerading as skankers.

Jamaican bands and especially English ska bands (The Selecter, The Specials and Bad Manners), which encompassed the second wave of ska, are obvious reference points in Let’s Go Bowling’s sound.

The band’s latest recorded contribution, the LP “Mr. Twist,” will please any ska purist. The horns are burning and bright. The guitar chops are sharp and swift. The drumming is snappy and syncopated. And the harmonies are tight and assertive.

At the same time, the album isn’t by-the-numbers ska. There are Latin and jazz influences cultivated in the music.

“A lot of people think that ska is a very limiting music but in reality it’s not,” said vocalist-guitarist Paul Miskulin from a tour stop in Pittsburg this week. “We’re just barely scratching the surface of what we can do with it.”

Music starts at 9:30 p.m. The cover wasn’t available at press time.

Sounds from Saturn

Saturn’s Flea Collar is as quirky as its name indicates.

The band, which stops at Ichabod’s North on Tuesday, mutated from off-kilter punk-rock trio, Victim’s Family, which broke up two years ago.

Whizzing and whirling like a tornado over a plain of styles, Saturn’s Flea Collar sucks everything up in its path and violently spits it all out, making quite a pleasant mess on its maiden long-player, “Monosyllabic.”

If that’s not a sufficient way to describe the trio, think Captain Beefheart. Think Frank Zappa. Think Naked City.

For those enamored of twisted and erratic clamor, “Monosyllabic,” available on Alternative Tentacles, is an ideal companion.

And as Jello Biafra, former Dead Kennedys singer, current Lard vocalist, spoken-word artist and Alternative Tentacles champion, professed: “Well, the name is better than Her Majesty the Baby.”

Oakland’s Fetish opens. This band features ex-members of False Sacrament.

Jazz + Funk = Junk

San Francisco’s Junk returns to the Mars Hotel on Sunday and Monday. This four-piece combo whips up an eclectic stew of funk, jazz and atmospheric music. It’s all instrumental and it’s candy for the ears. Times and cover charges were not available. Call the club for details.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo


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