Matthew Sweet at the Beachland Ballroom, Saturday, October 25
Let's face it: If you're a Matthew Sweet fan, there's been plenty of cause for concern. First, his solo output can only be described as sporadic since his '90s buzz-bin days. Then there's the "supergroup" move with the Thorns, suggesting he needed to join forces with (the inferior talents) of other songwriters for inspiration. Lastly, even though that romp with former Bangle Susannah Hoffs on Under the Covers was a treat, it was further evidence that Sweet wasn't able to write any new tunes without some help.
Sunshine Lies is Sweet's first solo record since 2004's sleepy Living Things, and it's good news and bad news for fans. The good news is that Lies features some of Sweet's finest songs in more than a decade; opener "Time Machine" storms out of the gates, thanks to a wall-of-guitar presence provided by old cohort Richard Lloyd. "Feel Fear" may well be Sweet's finest ballad ever, and the closing "Back of My Mind" is an almost psychedelic workout with superb melody and a great vocal. In between, it's dishearteningly hit or miss, and the misses (the embarrassing "Room to Rock" and "Burn Through Love," with its strange production choices) are some of Sweet's worst moments. Cutting gristle from the meat would have provided more punch. Although it's wildly inconsistent, the good ultimately outweighs the bad and marks Sunshine Lies as a welcome return, even if it isn't a complete return. The Bridges open at 9 p.m. at the Beachland Ballroom (15711 Waterloo Rd., 216.383.1124). Tickets: $18 advance, $20 day of show. - Chris Drabick
This has been an insanely productive year for David Byrne. He designed and assembled his Playing the Building interactive architectural/musical installation at New York's Battery Maritime Building and created a number of cool bike racks for the NYC Department of Transportation. Musically, He released the darkly evocative soundtrack for Big Love, the HBO series exploring a fictional Mormon polygamist sect, which may have inspired his new collaboration with Brian Eno, Everything That Happens Will Happen Today, their first work together since 1981's My Life in the Bush of Ghosts. Unlike the found-sound collages of Ghosts, the self-released Everything is an actual collection of songs - instrumental tracks conceived by Eno with lyrics and melodies by Byrne. The result is a fascinating convergence of folk rhythms, electronic pulse and gospel passion, all of it informed by the art-rock brilliance of its conceptualists. On his current tour, Byrne weaves a sonic tapestry consisting of these new songs and fresh interpretations of the Ghosts material, as well as the duo's earliest collaborations, namely Eno's production on Talking Heads' second, third and fourth albums. Expect wondrous results. The show starts at 8 p.m. at the Allen Theatre (1501 Euclid Ave., 216.771.8403). Tickets: $10-$55. - Brian Baker
Michelle Malone's strong, lean vocals and dirty six-string slinging earned her a rep and grassroots following, but it took time. She was inspired by her gospel-singing mother and received encouragement from her friends the Indigo Girls before signing with Clive Davis in the late '80s. Major label attempts to capitalize on her big voice by turning her into a pop star fizzled, and in the early '90s she played in a couple rock acts (Band De Soleil, Drag the River) before moving her name out front. In the dozen years since going solo, she's been revving a roots-rawk chassis down trails blazed by the Stones. Her Southern-fried, mud-caked country-blues sizzles like pork sausage fueled by Malone's soulful wail and tasty licks. Her last two albums (2003's more country-flavored Stompin' Ground, highlighted by folksy, Band-biting "Cypress Inn," and 2006's bloozy boogie fest, Sugarfoot, whose polished production doesn't diminish its dirty muscle) have been excellent. Malone's revelatory live performances outstrip any of her records, rivaling Lucinda Williams for passion and bare-wire intensity. Le Concorde and Maura Rogers open at 8 p.m. at Wilbert's (812 Huron Rd. E., 216.902.4663). Tickets: $10. - Chris Parker
Previously held at Cain Park, the annual Geezeroo concert shifts venues to the more intimate House of Blues (308 Euclid Ave., 216.523.2583) for this year's fundraising event. Given the classic-rock acts on the bill (Jefferson Starship, Big Brother & the Holding Company, Quicksilver Messenger Service), the club should be perfectly suited to the bill, which includes two acts that played Woodstock. Well, at least some of the members of these refashioned bands can make that boast. Rounding out the lineup is former Jefferson Airplane singer Marty Balin, who'll perform with Cleveland Metropolitan School District students. The kids' artwork will also be auctioned off; proceeds go to arts programs at Cleveland schools. Doors open at 5:30. Tickets: $25. - Jeff Niesel
Shiny Toy Guns
Take equal parts synth-rock, new-romantic vibe and a dash of gothic drama, and you have a close approximation of Shiny Toy Guns. The Los Angeles-based quartet earned some well-deserved attention for "Le Disko," a new wave-inspired track off 2006's We Are Pilots. It made the rounds on radio, in clubs and, oddly enough, in an ad for Dancing With the Stars. In the two years since We Are Pilots' release, STG has gone through a lineup change, replacing singer Carah Faye Charnow with Sisely Treasure. It doesn't end there: "Ricochet," the lead-off single from the forthcoming Season of Poison, combines a rocket-blast of heavy guitars featuring Jeremy Dawson's technical skills. The musical prowess isn't limited to the studio: STG's live sets are known for their energy levels, enthusiastic fans and nearly blinding light shows. Jonzetta and the Delta Fiasco open at 7 p.m. at the Grog Shop (2785 Euclid Heights Blvd., 216.321.5588). Tickets: $15. - Norm Narvaja
Call the Higher musical steel, an alloy forged from elements of pop, rock, emo, punk and ultra-modern R&B, all melded through a white-hot determination. It's a constitution that's taken the youthful foursome where few bands ever go: from Las Vegas pretty boys to Epitaph Records signees to acclaimed national headliners. Initially a five-piece, the Higher has also proven itself more than capable of bending without breaking. As soon as their sophomore full-length, fittingly titled On Fire (and featuring contributions from Fall Out Boy's Patrick Stump), earned a diverse college following last year, original drummer Pat Harter left the band and caused a hefty amount of online drama. Five months later, guitarist and de facto spokesman Tom Oakes also left, choosing to concentrate instead on an electro-pop venture called More Amor. They may now be a quartet, but the Higher have regrouped and refocused, hitting the road after completing an upcoming third album, It's Only Natural, an effort emphasizing a "lot more rock" and subjects including death, life, love and the road. As frontman Seth Trotter recently enthused, "I think it's the best work that we've put out. This is going to be the record for the Higher." The Graduate, White Tie Affair and the Morning Of open at 7 p.m. at the Agora Ballroom (5000 Euclid Ave., 216.881.2221). Tickets: $12. - Julie Seabaugh
There's nothing quite like an election year to draw the more, ahem, fringe elements out of the shadows and into the public eye. What better way to mark a historic election year than with a GWAR tour? Beavis and Butt-head's favorite band is once again cutting a swath of mayhem across our fair nation with the Electile Dysfunction Tour. "It's politics by death sport," manager Sleazy P. Martini has remarked about the tour's theme. "The kind of election America deserves." There's much to be said about a band whose goal is to find new ways to offend even more people than before. Cut through the gallons of fake blood, debauchery and vulgarity, and you'll uncover a musically sound metal band. It also helps that GWAR focuses on the heavier aspects of the music: Strapping Young Lad's Devin Townsend produced their most recent studio release, the amped-up, muscular Beyond Hell. Expect GWAR to gleefully defile House of Blues (308 Euclid Ave., 216.523.2583) with Kingdom of Sorrow and Toxic Holocaust opening at 8 p.m. Tickets: $20-$23. - Narvaja
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