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Acting family

| June 12, 2012

Angie Mead and Stephen Howard have been threatening a Redgrave album for about a year, and while National Act ain’t quite a full-length, it’s worth celebrating this week. Also in town: Morning Parade, Band Called Catch, and The Hundred In The Hands.

Redgrave, the name, might refer to the venerated British actors’ bloodline, an institution with a higher quality-per-generation ratio than the Royal Family. Mead and Howard may tangentially appear to enjoy traditional guitar rock, but when they plug in things start to smell like melting plastic. Borrowing what sounds like a Howard family heirloom (the baritone guitar from his other band, Pinebender), the duo play like the house is burning down around them and they’re going to stick it out so the club owner can’t cheat them out of a check. So she can be heard above the din, Mead has dropped her gentle coffeehouse voice for a blues howl that’s evocative of Heartless Bastards, but much less reverent. (Wednesday@The Whistler with Angela James.)

Like “garage,” the British’s idea of “indie” differs from that of their counterparts in American music. The word’s origin does denote independent labels, but in the ’80s, when British indie was in its pomp, indie was a “genre” that ranged from The Smiths to The Fall. The U.K.’s standards shifted in the ’90s to adjust for Britpop, and later seemed to adopt the increasingly empty U.S. description. It was that shift that led to the recent coinage of “landfill indie” by British journalists, a catch-all for the tsunami of indistinguishable, somewhat effete guitar bands who formed in the wake of Coldplay, Death Cab For Cutie, Arcade Fire, and The Killers (give or take a Bloc Party). And it is this context with which Morning Parade are burdened. Their Astralwerks debut contains several hummable, worth-exploration entries, but the whole package has been processed in a Viva La Vida sheen that tacitly admits it all sounds the same. If they’re going to justify sounding like an arena band, they’ll have to prove it to the clubs first. (Friday@Lincoln Hall with Walk The Moon.)

When they first started passing around recordings, Band Called Catch didn’t seem to have more potential than a staple on the street-fest circuit and ownership of a monthly gig at Martyrs or Joe’s. The Story, however, is the tale of a band who recognize the opportunity that confronts them. Though occasionally speaking in a DMB-inflected H.O.R.D.E. accent, the eight-song mini album plays up the interplay between vocalists Tim Frank and Jess Lyons. Increased attention to melody in the title track and “Here I Come” has also pushed the band beyond fallback A/B rhyme schemes, and, in true testament to growth, there might be seven people recording but you don’t always have to hear each one. (Saturday@Metro with Cobalt & The Hired Guns, How Far To Austin, and Midwest Hype.)

Threatening, ethereal, and even funky, The Hundred In The Hands might have one of the more cumbersome names in recent memory, but the quality of their Warp Records debut says we’ll have to get used to it. Red Night often sounds like it uses its basslines to keep rhythm and also knock you off balance like the drunk who’s freestyling next to you in a cramped club. In the album’s scheme, the title track pauses momentum while still carrying an omen for the malevolent dance-pop to come. “Stay The Night” opens with choral harmonies before diving into Tricky’s post-millennial underworld, clawing relentlessly at terrain like tank treads and destroying all in its path. “Faded” bops along comparatively, as much as one can do so underwater; “Recognise” grinds much more seductively, even if Eleanor Everdell glassily worries, “I don’t recognize you.” (Friday@Empty Bottle with Pressures and Vorhees.)

— Steve Forstneger

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Category: Stage Buzz, Weekly

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