Hard-core Thursday has a soft spot

Posted: September 13, 2002

The Plea For Peace/Take Action tour - behind the release of a two-CD compilation of hard-core/new-garage artists - brings Thursday to the Electric Factory on Saturday. Partnered with the National Hopeline Network's 1-800-SUICIDE program, Plea has a mission to inform young adults of the group's quick-connect crisis centers.

The Cure-meets-Fugazi sound of Thursday, the toast of New Brunswick, N.J., consists of blunt, hard-core melodies complemented by emotional stories told with grand complexity that are, often, shockingly optimistic.

"New Brunswick is a depressing place - the economic climate contrasted by frat guys partying on one street and people living in the shadow of Johnson & Johnson on another street," says singer and songwriter Geoff Rickly. "It made you want to express that disparity, made you want to express how you felt."

The band is made up of five old friends, but you can credit Rickly with intelligent songs such as "Understanding in a Car Crash" and "Paris In Flames" from Full Collapse. This is hard-core that is smart and passionate without stooping to pathos.

"I feel like there's a side of me that writes what is not around in the rest of my life," Rickly says. Blame studies in English at Rutgers for his smart-bomb approach to writing. Blame buddies who also felt the need to make caring, intelligent rock without the flabby excess of "scenesterism" for Thursday's approach: The band's name is as starkly unobvious as its music and image. (There are neither band photos nor names on Full.) "It's sort of an ideological thing. The more you strip away your own identity, the more the music could just be pure," Rickly says.

There's something elegantly structured about his lyrics. His layered, conversational approach is best found on "Cross Out the Eyes." "The song is kind of a crossroad of different identity issues. A lot of our songs are intersected ideas," he says.

"Standing on the Edge of Summer" comes to terms with death and youth with shocking starkness. It's something that brings us around to thinking about Plea for Peace's mission.

"I think it's important to have genuine, sincere thought behind music, not posing and preaching," Rickly says. "Plea For Peace exposes punk and hard-core with serious thought behind it for people who need it.

"This band saved me - it let me talk about things in a way I never would have been able to. Sometimes you don't know where to turn. PFP is a lifeline."

Another Plea for Peace-affiliated band, Austin, Texas-based Recover, will hit the Troc with an art-rock approximation of emo-esque torpor, lending deep screams - courtesy of Robert Mann - to the airy hard-core found on two CDs: Rodeo & Picasso and Ceci N'est Pas Recover.

Recover, Midtown, Taking Back Sunday, Armor For Sleep, at 7 tonight at the Trocadero, 10th and Arch Streets. Tickets: $12. Phone: 215-922-5483.

Plea for Peace Tour with Thursday, International Noise Conspiracy, My Chemical Romance, Common Rider, Lawrence Arms, at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Electric Factory, 421 N. Seventh St. Tickets: $15. Phone: 215-627-1332.

Jimmy Johnson

On guitar, Jimmy Johnson's writhing lines and penetrating attack make for some of the most unruly, cocksure electric blues this side of Buddy Guy. But his vocals - pure, solicitous, and almost uneasy - have much in common with classic soul. Johnson's dual careers in the business explain, and resolve, this contrast. He spent much of the '60s as an R&B session musician; younger brother Syl, who first cut "Take Me to the River," was one of Hi Records' strongest recording artists. (The brothers teamed for this year's Two Johnsons Are Better Than One on the Conshohocken-based Evidence label.) In the mid-'70s, Jimmy Johnson returned to his first love, the blues. He then had the good fortune to release 1983's ferocious Bar Room Preacher at the height of a renewed interest in the music, establishing him late in life as one of Chicago's undisputed masters.

- Nathaniel Friedman

Jimmy Johnson at 5 and 7:30 p.m. Sunday at the Walnut Hill Inn, 6110 Germantown Ave. Tickets: $20. Phone: 215-849-5465.

The Rolling Stones

Sure, they haven't made a classic album since Some Girls in 1978. And right, 59-year-old, hip-gyrating Mick Jagger long ago became a parody of himself. And yeah, with tickets that range from $50 to $300, the E Trade-sponsored Licks tour is priced to put a dent in your portfolio, as well as your wallet.

Yet Charlie Watts remains the most elegantly concise rock drummer ever. Even now, Keith Richards' and Ron Wood's guitars can cut to the quick. And beyond the the prancing, Jagger is able to deliver the musical goods. With only a greatest-hits album to promote, the Rolling Stones are digging into a bountiful and bluesy back catalog that comes closest to defining exactly what rock-and-roll is. If the sight of near-retirement-age relics is embarrassing, then close your eyes. If you do, I bet you'll notice this: The Stones still sound great.

- Dan DeLuca

The Rolling Stones at 8 p.m. Wednesday at Veterans Stadium, Broad Street and Pattison Avenue. Tickets: $50-$300. Phone: 215-336-2000.

At 8 p.m. Sept. 20 at First Union Center, 3601 Broad St. Sold out.

At 8 p.m. Sept. 22 at the Tower Theater, 69th and Ludlow Streets, Upper Darby. Sold out.

Wire

From the blunt, threadbare art-punk of Pink Flag, to the minimalist buzz of Chair Missing, to the anguished electronic elegy of 154, Wire - within three years of its 1976 start - laid the groundwork for all post-anything rock. Colin Newman, Bruce Gilbert, Graham Lewis and Robert Gotobed became the Beatles of jarringly austere but aggressive anthems, influencing the likes of My Bloody Valentine, Radiohead and Husker Du. The London-based quartet has broken up, famously, several times and reunited for several rare recordings (including the brand-new Read & Burn 1 EP and a soon-due full-length) and rarer tours. Like Wire's fines songs - a pre-speed-metal "12 XU," the vibrantly morose "Lowdown," the sizzling "I Am The Fly" - Read is dependent on stoic vocalizing, monochromatic chord structures, and deceptive simplicity that's elegant and Teutonic.

- A. D. A.

Wire with Oxes, DJ Peter Prescott at 9 p.m. Thursday at Gasoline, Eighth and Callowhill Streets. All ages. Tickets: $15. Information: www.soundway.com or 215-925-3032.

Drive-By Truckers

Southern rock lives. With Southern Rock Opera (Lost Highway), one of the best, if underappreciated, albums of 2001, the Drive-By Truckers offer a raggedly heartfelt but clear-eyed paean to the music and the culture that spawned it. The two-CD set, rich in detail and sweep, also traces the story of the greatest of all Southern-rock bands, Lynyrd Skynyrd, right up to that last, fateful plane ride. "Let There Be Rock," one number commands, and the Truckers, employing Skynyrd's three-guitar lineup, take every opportunity to deliver.

- Nick Cristiano

Drive-By Truckers at 9 p.m. Thursday at the Khyber, 56 S. Second St. Tickets: $10. Phone: 215-238-5888.

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