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Guns, blazing

| October 25, 2011

An aging hair-metal band and an up-and-comers’ hip-hop tour. Which do you think involves beefing and guns, and which is just one big party? All that, plus Frank Turner and The Envy Corps.

If you dig complicated histories with lots of names and dates, you can dig into the New York Times’ “Disunion” Civil War blog, or read up on L.A. GunsWikipedia entry. You come out of the latter thinking one of two things: either Tracii Guns (who joined with fellow Sunset Strip outfit Hollywood Rose to form Guns N’ Roses) doesn’t care who, he just wants to rock with anyone available, or he thinks lead vocalists are vastly overrated and to be treated like Kleenex. L.A. Guns aren’t the only band with competing lineups on the road, nor are they the only of ’80s glam persuasion to do so. But the chaos surrounding membership and what that’ll eventually mean for their legacy needs streamlining . . . the perfect time for an acoustic live album! Acoustic Gypsy Live (Favored Nations) puts on-again/off-again vocalist Jizzy Pearl at the mic for a spin through mostly early portions of the band’s catalog. The highlight among these straightforward, stripped versions is a brief covers detour, one of “Love Hurts” but also an unexpectedly soulful “In These Arms Of Mine.” (Wednesday@Reggie’s Joint with 20 Shades, Alcheystone, and Pipe.)

While the march of indie-rock into mainstream consciousness has been ongoing and perhaps inevitable, less predictable has been the indie audience’s embrace of mainstream and gangsta hip-hop. Freddie Gibbs noticed his new fans immediately, while the Pitchfork Music Festival has hosted as many hardcore spitters (GZA, Clipse) as backpackers. Headlining the Smoker’s Club tour (and making his 200th Chicago appearance since Pitchfork this summer), Currensy straddles this line of psychedelic risk taker and one-dimensional stoner rapper. His latest mixtape, Pilot Talk, could potentially be pretty rock ‘n’ roll, too, in that what’s soooo sllllooooow and mellow on mp3 will get a disproportionate injection of life on stage. Sharing top-billing is Big K.R.I.T., who made his name with mixtapes that cast him as a Deep South outlier to more established hip-hop camps, though tracks like “Country Shit” and “Sookie Now” edge him closer to a mainstream breakthrough. (Which should come now that he’s Def Jam property.) Lastly, while he’s not on some of the tour’s posters, Chicago/Cali splitter Paypa spends as much time rhyming over rock beats as soul and funk on his Henny On The Rocks tape, which means his versatility helps his lighter-complexioned fans in and gets him compared to Kanye (with a subtly sturdier flow). (Thursday@Congress with Method Man, Smoke DZA, and Fiend.)

Frank Turner‘s transformation into a folk-rocker after the demise of his hardcore-punk band Million Dead isn’t a surprise so much as the accent on his Englishness. He’s not some tea-sipping pedant who’ll flip on you for spelling judgment with an extra “e,” but a fist-raising post-pubrocker in the vein of Billy Bragg and The Pogues. England Keep My Bones (Epitaph), whose title quotes Shakespeare, aims to keep one fist in the air and the other clenching a pint of bitter. “English Curse” is the clearest extrapolation of his redefined m.o., but he also sympathizes with dead-end girls in dead-end bars with references to John Peel and an ambivalent regard for his country’s gradual loss of religion. (Wednesday@Bottom Lounge with Andrew Jackson Jihad and Into It Over It.)

Sneaking east on static waves from the Iowa frontier, The Envy Corps have rededicated themselves to the Midwest after a failed attempt to become British on paper as well as wax. Having existed in and around Ames for 10 years, the band were adroitly picked out by Vertigo — a boutique arm of Mercury Records in the U.K. The Envy Corps even moved to England to solidify their fanbase, with good reason other than their business contract: their sound. Done with transatlantic business for the time being, the new, self-released It Culls You melds post-Hail Radiohead, Absolution Muse, and the bubbling basslines that drew attention to The Killers and The Stills. (Wednesday@Subterranean with Library Ghost, The Dirty Pigeons, and Dan Tedesco.)

— Steve Forstneger

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