BY JEFF LEVEN
Just when you thought you might dig in and work a little, the beginning of winter brings with it the warmth of buzzing amplifiers, over-packed clubs and an absolute embarrassment of musical riches. Here is some of the best Beantown has to offer in November:
November 8 — Alien Ant Farm (Axis) and Better Than Ezra (Avalon): Treat yourself to some good ‘ole pop rock! While it’s been a while since “Good” brought them mass airplay, Better Than Ezra has kept on keeping on, making great records without all the old hype. If your pop tastes are a little crunchier, opt for Alien Ant Farm, whose punchy, kinetic take on Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal” has been dominating the airwaves of late.
November 9 — Social Distortion (Axis): While a geriatric Iggy Pop is playing across town at the Avalon tonight, those seeking a true punk experience would do well to check out the rebirth of Mike Ness and Social Distortion. Having come to terms with a grim legacy of addiction and the death of Dennis Dannell, Social D is back to push their brand of rootsy, honest, ripping punk rock. They play the Paradise on the 10th and 11th, as well, but best to catch them in the smaller venue of the Axis if possible. November 11 — Rahzel (Middle East): In the midst of all the shameless bling-blinging and P. Diddy absurdity, the Roots are some of hip hop’s true messengers, due in no small part to the talents of Rahzel, whose solo work carries on in the same creatively soulful vein.
November 13 — Taj Mahal (Roxy): Blues, folk, calypso, country, jazz — he’s played it all. A musical encyclopedia for the ages, Taj has been there, done that, and only gotten better for it.
November 14 — Cake (Orpheum): One of California’s coolest musical exports, Cake mixes scratchy guitars, dead-pan vocals and the odd trumpet (or, in the case of “The Distance,” toy whistle) to create the ultimate slacker-lounge-garage extravaganza. Witty covers, tasteful sarcasm and an enduring sense of vibe round out the package. Hip, hot and just so much fun.
November 17 — Jack Johnson (Paradise Rock Club): If you like the college acoustica of Dave Matthews or Ben Harper or the wit and angularity of Elliot Smith, you will absolutely love Jack Johnson. One of Hawaii’s best-kept musical secrets, Jack Johnson could well be the find of the year. His debut album Brushfire Fairytales is, quite simply, a masterpiece of smooth songwriting, impeccable guitar and Sunday afternoon tranquility.
November 18 — Pernice Brothers (Paradise Rock Club): Also on the list of bands-you’ve-never-heard of that I can’t stress enough are the Pernice Brothers. Having graduated from the earlier alt. country of the Scud Mountain Boys, Boston’s Pernices have become modern music’s foremost purveyors of lush, note-perfect, gorgeous power-pop. Their most recent album, The World Won’t End, is, quite simply, a revelation — all love and jangly guitars, tinged with just a touch of morbid humor that might unsettle the would-be law student. “Contemplating suicide or a graduate degree …” sings Joe Pernice on “Working Girls,” a song about an overworked office temp. Hmm …
November 20 — Psychedelic Furs, Echo and the Bunnymen (Avalon) or Queensryche (Orpheum): Another tough toss-up. On the one hand you have the Furs, who realized that the advent of the synthesizer need not kill the guitar as we know it in the 80s when that was still very much in question. On the other hand you have Queensryche, who transcended hair metal and kept prog rock alive when that was still very much in question. The Furs wrote “Heartbreak Beat,” which was absolutely sublime. Queensryche’s “Silent Lucidity” isn’t bad either. Perhaps Echo and the Bunnymen, titans in their own right, could be the tie-breaker? November 24 — Bob Dylan (Fleet Center): Need I explain? And, for the record (no pun intended), even these days his live show, featuring one of his best touring bands since the Hawks, has the potential to overwhelm the most jaded Bob-o-phile. Just go and give yourself a little something extra to be thankful for.
November 30 — Dixie Dregs (Paradise Rock Club): More than just a vehicle for uber-guitarist Steve Morse, the Dregs are an overwhelming example of the proposition that jazz and Southern rock need not be polar opposites. Oh, and while we’re at it, Steve Morse is amazing.