February 4, 2011 in Features

Knitting Factory packs in trio of heavy hitters

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Plain White T’s takes it back to the wonderment of youth, Against Me! holds it together in the present, and Lucero brings it home to its roots.

Each of the three bands coming to the Knitting Factory Concert House, 919 W. Sprague Ave., over the coming week has its own share of attached baggage.

Plain White T’s, with Parachute and Miggs (tonight at 8; $20, through TicketFly, 877-435-9849 or www.ticketfly.com): Plain White T’s is yearning for the younger years on its latest album, while showing maturity in its songwriting.

“The Wonders of the Younger” finds the band taking lyrical retreats to more nostalgic times, recalling the marvels of mystery laid out in a quasi-concept record.

Released at the end of 2010, the album was inspired by a Las Vegas performance of Cirque du Soleil’s “O,” where lead singer and chief songwriter Tom Higgenson was enthralled with the imagery of dark wonderment.

A desire to evoke similar feelings of awe led to the creation of “The Wonders of the Younger.” And while every song doesn’t overtly repaint reminiscence – as do “Welcome to Mystery” and “Cirque Dans La Rue” – it’s the pursuit of the unexpected that frames the album.

It balances the hard-rocking pop-punk that made Plain White T’s a favorite on the Warped Tour circuit with the more acoustic-laden love songs such as the twice-Grammy nominated “Hey There Delilah” and “1, 2, 3, 4.”

Overall, the arrangements are more dense, and the songwriting is more epic. It’s sort of the opposite approach of 2008’s “Big Bad World,” where the band stripped everything down to the bare essentials.

Among its explorations into new territory, the album also features guitarist Tim Lopez’s first lead vocal, on the first single, “Rhythm of Love,” which he also wrote.

Since its release in December, the album hit No. 1 on the iTunes Rock Album chart, and “Rhythm of Love” has sold more than 300,000 digital copies.

Against Me!, with Cheap Girls and Fences (Saturday, 8 p.m.; $12.50/advance, $13/day of show, through Ticketfly): 2010 was a turbulent year for Against Me!

Shortly after the release of its fifth studio album, “White Crosses,” the band suddenly canceled a tour, severed ties with its label and replaced its drummer.

Now that the dust has cleared, the band is back on the road, turning its attention back to “White Crosses.”

The album shows Against Me! once again straddling the line between the mainstream and the underground, splicing arena-rock bigness with punk-rock rawness.

The group canceled its fall tour, just before kicking off a run in Australia, for what was reported as vague reasons at the time. It was later revealed that the band was leaving Sire records, its first major label, which also released 2007’s “New Wave.”

“White Crosses” picks up where “New Wave” left off, once again reuniting Against Me! with veteran producer Butch Vig (Green Day, Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins) and polarizing punk and pop aesthetics while salvaging the essential elements of both.

Entertainment Weekly said of the album, “Whaddaya know, it is possible to merrily sing along with lines like, ‘We were bashing our brains out on a kitchen cabinet.’ ”

Lucero, with Ari Shine (Thursday, 8 p.m.; $13/advance, $15/day of show, through Ticketfly): For Lucero’s sixth full-length album and major-label debut, the Memphis country-punk rock band dug deep into its hometown roots.

The album’s title, “1372 Overton Park” is the address of the Memphis loft in which the majority of the band lived, practiced and recorded music. (The space has its own pre-Lucero history as the legendary karate dojo where Elvis Presley once took lessons.)

Released in 2009 on Universal Republic Records, “1372 Overton Park” dipped into the Memphis soul sound that has informed the band over the years, featuring horn arrangements by renowned Memphis session player Jim Spake (Al Green, John Hiatt, Solomon Burke, Cat Power).

After hearing the initial tracks laid by Spake, the band decided to indulge in the flashes of Memphis history it was hearing in the horns. Yet the album retains the punk and rock overtones that Lucero has established as its signature over the five previous records.

While maintaining his band’s pace of playing upward of 200 shows per year, Lucero leader Ben Nichols also released his first solo album in 2009, “The Last Pale Light in the West,” and continues to co-star on MTV’s “$5 Cover,” a series about the Memphis music scene.


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