Keith Urban is one of those country artists you don't hear much of unless you're tuned in to his bracket of stardom. Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood, and even Brad Paisley have made significant crossover leaps that straddle both their home genres and the anything-goes tornado of pop music. But Urban's steam-cleaned honky tonk has never made much noise in the mainstream. Maybe because he's an occasional cornball who calls his songs "kids" and makes huge cheesy hooks out of simple lines like "I want to kiss a girl, I want to hold her tight." He also married Nicole Kidman, lost a Grammy to Swift, and occasionally writes a killer song. Both his singing and songwriting improved a little on last year's Get Closer. Check out the reasonably lusty "Shut Out the Lights," with its U2-sized guitar break, or the power-pop lite of "Put You in a Song." After all, what's an ordinary Nashville careerist to do besides fine-tune his songs as they get bigger? — Dan Weiss
With Jake Owen. 7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 21. Quicken Loans Arena. Tickets: $25-$78; call 888-894-9424 or visit theqarena.com.
Detroit bands are influenced by not only the Motor City's rich musical history, but by whatever is stirring the community's pot at any given moment. When the Suicide Machines began in 1991, they grabbed inspiration from their hometown's punk past while also channeling its garage and pop heritage; their name was lifted from the headlines (Jack Kevorkian's check-out devices for the terminally ill). The quartet played a blistering brand of melodic punk/ska/pop that went from serenely contemplative to aggressively explosive in less than four seconds — just like Detroit's automobiles, the city's other suicide machines. Although they broke up on tour while supporting 2006's War Profiteering Is Killing Us All, the Suicide Machines are regrouping to finish what they started. A farewell tour? The late Dr. K is smiling and moshing somewhere. — Brian Baker
With American Werewolves, Dead Words, Wreak Havoc, Brazen Rogues, Labor Force, and Roller Rockers. 7:30 p.m. Friday, July 22. Peabody's. Tickets: $15, $13 in advance; call 216-776-9999 or visit peabodys.com.
Taking Back Sunday
Over the past decade, Taking Back Sunday have released five albums featuring a revolving door of members. Their most recent record, a self-titled album that came out a month ago, includes the original lineup that played on the 2002 debut, Tell All Your Friends. "There's a certain chemistry that the five of us have," says bassist Shaun Cooper, who left in 2003 but returned last year. "This album is way more refined. We're far better musicians." Taking Back Sunday played a big role in defining pop-punk music in the early '00s. But unlike the up-down-and-back-again tempos found on their other albums, Taking Back Sunday sounds more concise, flowing effortlessly from song to song — an outcome of the original band's reformation. Songs like "Faith (When I Let You Down)" and "This All Now" tackle the group's pop-punk roots with a decade of hooks behind them. "It's more succinct, more to the point," says Cooper. "And it captures more of a timeless record." — Courtney Kerrigan
7 p.m. Saturday, July 23. House of Blues. Tickets: $27.50-$35; call 216-523-2583 or visit houseofblues.com.
Don't dismiss Torche as just another stoner-metal group. Their sound is much more complicated than that. The Miami band's latest album, Songs for Singles, unleashes an unyielding torrent of the members' individual tastes: overdriven dirge rock, high-minded prog, and even a touch of pop. Singer and guitarist Steve Brooks and bassist Jonathan Nunez are relentless in their riffs, and drummer Rick Smith carries the force of a cannon blast with every hit. For proof, just take a listen to the sonic rampage "Cast Into Unknown." While other bands tend to meander over the course of an album, Torche stay determined and focused throughout Songs for Singles, which clocks in at less than 30 minutes. With tunes this powerful, that's more than enough time to keep fans engaged. If Torche sound this killer on record, their show in the close confines of the Grog Shop should be something just short of lethal. — Norm Narvaja
With Big Business and Helms Alee. 8 p.m. Saturday, July 23. Grog Shop. Tickets: $14, $12 in advance; call 216-321-5588 or visit grogshop.gs.
After 2009's soggy, unwieldy, and overstuffed The Hazards of Love, the Decemberists scale back on their new album, The King Is Dead, flipping through '80s indie-folk heroes like R.E.M. and 10,000 Maniacs with a spirited jingle-jangle. Not that we don't (occasionally) love Colin Meloy's sprawling tales of hard-boiled mariners and lusty woodland creatures, but the compact radio-ready songs on The King Is Dead reveal a new side of a band that always took itself too seriously. With no big overreaching themes getting in the way of the songs, the Decemberists sound like they're having fun instead of showing you how smart they are. The new songs are also great summer tunes, perfect for an outdoor venue like Jacobs Pavilion. And don't worry, snobby NPR fans and old-school indie rockers: The Decemberists are playing some older material too, just in case 16-minute tales of salty seafarers are more your thing. — Michael Gallucci
8 p.m. Tuesday, July 26. Jacobs Pavilion at Nautica. Tickets: $25-$50; call 440-247-2722 or visit livenation.com.
Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.