Band of the Month 

Akron's Houseguest is good company.

Houseguest's pop shuffles and sashays with off-kilter grace, like a defiant drunk finding his way home. Guitars shamble and rumble with repressed power, rising in hooky swells that call to mind Guided by Voices, Beat Happening, and the Feelies.

Next week the band will release High Strangeness, its debut LP, on Audio Eagle, the label of childhood buddy Pat Carney. "We don't hang out with anyone we didn't go to school with, actually," says lead singer Ted Mallison.

The Akron quintet -- whose members are all Firestone High graduates -- began with a group of friends recording songs on each other's answering machines. "We'd write these songs in 15 minutes, then call people we knew and play them over the phone," Mallison says.

Calling itself Website, the collective assembled its recordings on Circa '88, an album released by We're Twins Records.

Despite its lo-fi home-recording beginnings, Houseguest has developed a reputation for its outrageous live shows, which often end with band members and audience stripping.

"When we first started playing out live, we would keep playing until our adrenaline would crank into overdrive, and we would take all our clothes off," says Mallison. "And then other people started taking all their clothes off and then coming up onstage."

The shows are now completely out of control, as was evident when Houseguest played the Audio Eagle showcase at the Lime Spider a couple months ago. As many as a dozen people climbed onstage before the band's set was even halfway finished. The club was packed with so many rambunctious fans that one young lady got knocked down and kicked in the face. (She was all right, and Houseguest compensated her with a bunch of free swag.)

"People were crowd-surfing," says bassist Gabe Schray. "I'm like, 'Is this happening?' That was the first time I felt it was out of our hands . . . though I like the dichotomy of playing a kind of faggy pop and people throwing elbows."

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