The Boss Martians

With Thee Shams and Fast Mattress. Saturday, April 3, at the Beachland Ballroom.

Kelis, with Britney Spears and Skye Sweetnam Gund Arena, 100 Gateway Plaza 7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 1, $42.50/$62.50/$78, 216-241-5555
The Boss Martians' sudden evolution from surf-punk to pop-punk seems to have paid off in a big way. The 10-year-old Seattle group is attracting more attention than ever before: The track "He'll Be Around," from its latest album, The Set-Up, was featured in a recent episode of the teen drama One Tree Hill, and Little Steven of Bruce Springsteen/The Sopranos fame has been singing the band's praises in the pages of Rolling Stone and on his syndicated Underground Garage show.

Singer-guitarist Evan Foster and organist Nick Contente formed the Martians in 1994, and they spent the first six years cranking out twangy, reverb-laden covers of surf standards like "Pipeline" and "Surfin' Bird," as well as original Nuggets-sounding material. In '98, Foster decided to explore his pop influences a bit more. He and Contente formed a side band called Mystery Action and released the hooky, Cheap Trickish album Here's to Another Year on MuSick Records, their current label. Profoundly inspired by the experience, Foster decided to incorporate this new sound into the Boss Martians. The result was the band's critically lauded album Making the Rounds, on which Foster surprised many old fans with vocals that were highly reminiscent of This Year's Model-era Elvis Costello.

But The Set-Up has proved to be the band's true breakthrough, on which Foster has most successfully combined the catchiness of Graham Parker/Nick Lowe pre-new wave with the bittersweet lyrical venom of early Costello. Hopefully, Foster, Contente, and the latest incarnation of the Martians haven't completely abandoned their surf-instrumental leanings: There's room in their repertoire for the Ventures thing too.

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