CONSPIRACY OF OWLS/CLOVERS
When you think of Detroit, you think of 8 Mile, Motown, the White Stripes, and Edward Furlong cruising in an old Volvo in Detroit Rock City. What you don't think of is dreamy psychedelic pop, like the kind made by the Motor City's Conspiracy of Owls. The band mines the vintage melodic-rock vibe of '60s Beach Boys records on its recent self-titled album, which features 15 songs that blur the line between psych-rock and synth-guided bubblegum pop. There's also a firm 1970s rock influence in the band's music, but the nostalgia is never derivative. Conspiracy of Owls make summer music, for sure — the type of tunes that sound sweet with the top down. But there's still plenty of reason to check them out this weekend, even with the first snow of the season already on the ground. Brand-new indie rockers Clovers open the show. And judging by their appearance — T-shirts and Chucks — they wear that indie-rock tag proudly. Dirty denim is decidedly the dress code here, but you'll score some extra points for black-rimmed glasses. — Jara Anton
With Nights. 9 p.m. Friday, November 26. Happy Dog. Tickets: $5; call 216-651-9474 or go to happydogcleveland.com.
The Gories — singer-guitarists Mick Collins and Dan Kroha, and drummer Peg O'Neil — formed in Detroit in the late '80s with their primitive noisemaking skills applied to a reductive-blues version of garage rock. It's fitting that the band's primal stomp sounds so simplistic, since none of the members knew how to play their instruments before starting the group. Does the Gories' blueprint — guitar, drums, no bass, and a straightforward approach to bluesy rock — sound familiar? The Gories inspired many of their hometown's garage bands. Unfortunately, their seven-year run never amounted to much more than cult worship, and they eventually slipped off the radar. But for those in the know, the Gories provide a little bit of revisionist rock history. They may not have directly influenced all of the bands that sound like them, but they certainly paved the way and laid much of the foundation. So the next time you listen to the White Stripes or the Black Keys, go ahead and tip one to these missing links. Better yet, check them out on their current reunion tour, their first since splitting in 1993. — Nicholas Hall
With the Alarm Clocks and Silver Sparrows. 9 p.m. Saturday, November 27. Beachland Ballroom. Tickets: $15; call 216-383-1124 or go to beachlandballroom.com.
Sure, HotChaCha have been out of town touring for much of the past three months, but the quartet has made the most of its time at home. Besides opening for the Breeders and A Place to Bury Strangers, the noisegaze hell-raisers released a terrific new EP, Fantastic Static. It's a sonic leap ahead of last year's album, The World's Hardest Working Telescope & the Violent Birth of Stars. Guitarist Mandy Aramouni's slanted, goth-tinged riffs are even more distressed. The frenzied howl "Traffic" and bull-charge "Naked Glass" feel like being caught in a windstorm. Bassist Heather Gmucs and drummer Roseanna Safos keep the foundation urgent and frantic. So does singer Jovana Batkovic, who bellows and coos like a hybrid of Kim Gordon and Kelley Deal, with the occasional nicotine-stained Courtney Love impression adding cracked color. Batkovic's voice is buried in the mix, and while that would sink many records, here the submersion enhances the music's ominous tint. Fantastic Static recalls early '80s groups like Siouxsie and the Banshees and newer bands like Land of Talk, but it never directly apes any of them. It's a testament to HotChaCha's continuing progression. — Annie Zaleski
10 p.m. Saturday, November 27. Happy Dog. Free; call 216-651-9474 or go to happydogcleveland.com.
THE BIRTHDAY MASSACRE
If Decemberunderground-era AFI replaced Davey Havok with a female singer, they might sound something like the Birthday Massacre. In the past decade, the Toronto troupe has become a leading light within synth rock and goth circles, thanks in part to four albums and tours with bands like Mindless Self Indulgence. On the recent Pins and Needles, the Birthday Massacre don't stray far from their core signifiers: haunted-mansion keyboards swirling around jagged guitar slashes, drill-bit drum programming, and singer Chibi's ethereal-anime vocals. In many hands, such minor-chord gloom-and-doom becomes monotonous and overwhelming, but Pins and Needles' subtle stylistic shifts rescue it from dramatic overload. The album dabbles in New Wave dance parties ("Control"), stomping electro-pop ("Shallow Grave"), '80s-teen-movie synth swoops ("Always"), and industrial-metal churn ("In the Dark"). Chibi's variations in tone and inflection — from sweet and innocent to dramatic and swooning — are ever-so-slightly manipulated with digital dust, which adds the perfect amount of otherworldliness to the band's music. — Zaleski
With Black Veil Brides, Dommin, and Aural Vampire. 6 p.m. Sunday, November 28. Peabody's. Tickets: $17; $15 in advance; call 216-776-9999 or go to peabodys.com.
As alt-rock lemmings go, you could do a lot worse than Neon Trees, which Brandon Flowers anointed with an opening slot on a Killers tour because they sound like his band, only straighter and even more shameless. And as far as earworms go, the urgent chorus of their hit song "Animal" beats anything by the Bravery and so many other synth-lovin' bands that sound like they time-warped from the early '80s — even if it does borrow its riff from the Rakes' "The World Was a Mess but His Hair Was Perfect." But the rest of the Utah group's debut album, Habits, is more troublesome. Their latest single, "1983," relies on even more "whoa-oh"s and adds a rockabilly riff to the mix. And their incessant pleas to go back to the year when Duran Duran and Culture Club were selling records don't sound all that sincere. The best thing mohawk-sporting frontman Tyler Glenn could do at this point would be to just come clean and write an autobiographical tune called "The World Was Indeed a Mess and Our Hair Is Far From Perfect." — Dan Weiss
With New Politics and Young the Giant. 8 p.m. Tuesday, November 30. House of Blues. Tickets: $15; call 216-522-2583 or go to houseofblues.com.
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