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Lowlifes and cheap beer

Firestarter
Firestarter
Mangrove

Here are former members of Japanese punk bands Teengenerate and American Soul Spiders exploring their poppier influences. I hear flickers of Manic Street Preachers, the Records and Generation X, and bassist Sammy’s wearin’ a 20/20 T-shirt on the CD sleeve, if that tells ya anything. Highlights include “Trashy Dreams,” “Keith Richards Man,” and an obligatory pass at the Eddie & The Hot Rods classic, “Do Anything You Wanna Do.” These guys obviously dig all the ginchiest jazz and their hearts are undoubtedly in the right place, but the lyrics remain endearingly goofy-brilliant: “There ain’t no Hollywood, no party, no Blondie, no masquerade in a small town in Japan.” Wow, boys, I know the feelin’… Seek this out at firestarter.m78.com/.

Jo Dog & Paul Black’s Sonic Boom
Sundown Yellow Moon
Black City

Diamond Dogs
As Your Green Turns Brown
Feedback Boogie

While the mainstream sell-out press keep shoveling Andrew W.K. or the Hives down your throat, yours-reliably is here to tell you the whole truth and help you “get good” in time for summer.

Here are some helpful hints on how to host the best damn spontaneous afternoon drinking reception on your block. First, you’ll need to start buying fireworks at every opportunity. Next, invest in some Super-Soakers and a baby pool, but not from Wal-Mart. Then, track down these discs by authentic ’70s style sauce kings, the Diamond Dogs and Sonic Boom. When I say “’70’s style” I don’t mean like Ryan Adams or Sheryl Crow. These cats borrow from the raunchy, good-times rock of that era, but they borrow with taste and grace and add their own thing to it, revitalizing it. Remember these names: Diamond Dogs and Sonic Boom. Put ’em in your CD player along with some AC/DC, P-Funk, Led Zeppelin, and Van Halen. Hit random play. Call everybody you know who doesn’t steal and tell ’em to bring a bottle and two girls. Fill the baby pool with ice and two cases of Carling Black Label (cans only). Play this stuff loud. Break out the harmonicas and acoustic guitars. Allow the girls in cut-offs to sit on your lap.

Polite society would frown upon you putting all your fireworks into a metal garbage can and setting it ablaze. Please remember that horseplay turns into horseshit and it’s all fun and games until somebody loses a bra. Sonic Boom’s “Sippin’ Away” and the Diamond Dogs’ “Singin’ With the Alley Cats” will appear on every mix tape I make for the next few months. One of the Diamond Dogs is also in the Hellacopters if that means anything to you, but in my humble opinion, the Diamond Dogs are where it’s at. Surf to www.blackcitymusic.com and www.feedbackboogie.nu/.

The Hangmen
We’ve Got Blood on the Toes of Our Boots
Acetate Records

If you ain’t already hip to the Hangmen buzz, chances are you and I are participating in two very different rock ’n’ roll subcultures. A lot of folks are under the illusion that “rock ’n’ roll” has anything to do with the Hard Rock Café and Joe Walsh and that museum in Cleveland. They’re wrong. The Hangmen crank out raw, unrelenting raunch akin to the Heartbreakers (not Tom Petty) and Lazy Cowgirls and especially the Gun Club. Hollywood’s purest sleaze merchants boast both the sneering street poetry of fallen singer Bryan Small and the articulate guitar savagery of Coma-Tones kingpin, the dynamic Mr. Jimmy James. Mostly, the lyrics catalog the hard truths and low times of life on the dark side of Badsville (“Desperation Town”) but they’re capable of astonishing tenderness too (“I Luv U”). Their current lineup also features the charms of Angelique Congelton (ex-Darlington), the coolest girl bass-player since Heather Fremling from the Jeff Dahl Group. Live CDs usually suck. This is an exception. Catch this band on tour with Social Distortion … all they need now is to add the Lazy Cowgirls to the bill. Tops. Surf to www.acetate.com.

The Leaving Trains
Emotional Legs
Steel Cage Records

The Leaving Trains are a darkly psychedelic West Coast punk institution, led by a tormented poet named Falling James. The Trains are well known for dark humor, half-lit, misfit-romantic sensibilities, ethereal harmonies and keen social observations. On this, its most recent mash note from the Silverlake underbelly, Falling James yearns for once-beloved, long-lost people and places and rails against the murderers and corporate malefactors who own the mass media and abuse us with these dumb and dumber leisure options, crooning: “The celebrities we’ve been assigned are all inbred, bland and fake/Real charisma you’ll never see on your TV … .” Falling James is a sentimentalist weirdo who identified with preteen characters on the TV show “Freaks & Geeks” so much, he penned a tune about them called “Dumb as a Crayon.” Also starring Melanie Vammen from the Muffs and Koko Puff from Sluts For Hire, the Leaving Trains perform dreamy dirge-pop, both funny and bittersweet, for smart people with hearts in their chests. Surf to www.steelcagerecords.com and www.artnet.net/~leaving-trains/.

The Isaac Mizrahi Show
Oxygen Channel

This is one of my favorite TV shows along with “Musicians” on Bravo and “Frontier House” and “Now With Bill Moyers” on PBS. Isaac is a charmingly neurotic, chain-smoking gay designer and on this show he plays diva-hag to beautiful people like Iman, Parker Posey, Famke Janssen and the Go-Go’s. While he and his guests inhabit this glamour-drenched, nauseatingly sensational champagne dream — and I usually revile artsy rich people with their shrinks and dieticians and grotesquely exaggerated sense of entitlement — what makes this show so entertaining is that in spite of all his accomplishments and wealth and privileges, poor Mizrahi here seems really touchingly childlike and alone. I respect both his giddy exuberance and his courageous vulnerability. Kindness is always the subtext of his show and somehow he can make the good life seem so … human(e). Since I’ve become a complete shut-in, Isaac here’s one of my imaginary friends. Say hello at www.oxygen.com.

Sugar High
Saccharin & Trust
Thousandaire Records

While frequently billed as a “power-pop” band, Arizona’s Sugar High’s songs aren’t quite short, sharp or snappy enough to probably qualify in the eyes of skinny-tied power-pop purists. Perhaps they’ve just been miscategorized. What Sugar High seems to excel at is the same earnest kind of radio rock that made groups like the Gin Blossoms and Soul Asylum and the Goo Goo Dolls famous in the early ’90s. Singer Adrian Evans’ stirring songbook is invested with a painful melancholy, longing, and “been there” despair that speaks straight to the heart of me, especially in these uncertain times. “Used To Be” and “Wreck Myself” immediately pulled on my heartstrings, evoking memories of my own lost loves, regret, bad behavior and missed opportunities. File under: “Emotional Road Trip Sound Tracks,” and try not to run up anybody’s phone bill begging her to come back. They don’t come back. Visit www.sugar-high.com.

The Paybacks
Knock Loud
Get Hip

Sexy Paybacks singer Wendy Case is clearly the premier holy pop savior all we über-sensitive and halfway-conscious real-rock fans have been so desperately pining for since I don’t know when. Where were ya, Wendy? We were all startin’ to worry you weren’t gonna show. I fell in love halfway through “Just You Wait” and by the time she started singin’ the na-na-na’s in “Black Girl,” I was trying to figure out if she seemed romantically available. Here she is, kids, Wendy Case, just in time for summer — an incredibly soulful composer of energetic hard-candy anthems we ain’t heard the likes of since Peter Case and Chrissie Hynde and Robin Zander lost the knack for catchy hooks and started peddling fluff and livin’ on their laurels. The Paybacks are what you need when in a Cheap Trick mood on an unemployed afternoon drivin’ round, sunglasses on, windows down. This is a shot in the arm to get you through those rough nights and loathsome tiny hours. So get rid of the PlayStation, fer fucksakes, buy a $10 pair of Converse on sale and play Knock Loud top volume every day. Get some sunshine. Sit on the stoop. Nap in the weeds. Drink iced coffee and listen to the Junk Monkeys and the Paybacks! I’ve got no other plans. Drop in at www.thepaybacks.com.

E-mail Dimitri Monroe at letters@metrotimes.com

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