Love, Smokes lead local roundup

Synth pop femmes and roadhouse rogues lead the way in this month’s roundup of local releases:

LOVE PENTAGON, “Love Pentagon” (lovepentagon.com): Love Pentagon’s tunes sound like daydreams — all curlicues of whooshing synth and breathy coos that swallow any clouds from the sky — but they’re formed from the stuff of nightmares: dying of ennui, problem solving with cheap wine, growing up in the circus and, uh, unicorns.

Equal parts whirring pop and dark-hued Krautrock, Love Pentagon’s tunes are twitchy, tempestuous and full of hairpin turns. From indie disco rave-ups to ominous space pop drones, the band utilizes a bright palette of sounds (hand claps, glockenspiel, chimes, clanging sound effects) to haunt dance floors like the ghost of Julie Ruin.

THE HOLY SMOKES, “Never Give It Up” (Rank Outsider Records): Jeff Koenig’s harmonica barks like the neighbor’s dog, angry and nonstop. It not only powers the band’s hard-boiled whiskey rock like a 454 big block, but it also supplies lots of subtle shading and many of melody lines on the Smokes’ latest, which sounds like ’50s sock hop rock driven through the gutter and crashed into the nearest bar.

“I’ve been livin’ in sin, but I’ll never give it up,” Koenig howls with dust in his throat on an album that’s all about hanging tough, no matter what. Big walking bass lines, pounded piano and hip-shakin’ guitar go down smooth then explode in the gut, just like the hooch that fuels these dudes.

VARIOUS ARTISTS, “Viva Rock Vegas.Net”: Navigating a compilation disc is always like traversing a minefield: Careful where you tread, lest you lose a limb to some crappy modern rock band with lyrics that could’ve been cribbed from the diary tucked beneath your kid sister’s mattress.

That said, this collection is a solid overview of some of Vegas’ youngest and most marketable bands, from nationally touring acts (The Higher, Escape the Fate) to popular local radio rock (Searchlight, Away Station). Check out the impossibly earnest piano pop of The Cab, the vein-busting metalcore of By Death Design, the curled lip raunch rock of The Strip and the underrated post-punk of You In Series for proof that the kids are alright.

SLAVES OF THE SON KING, “Run Like Hell” (slavesofthesonking.com): This go-for-broke trio trades in the kind of sun-baked punk rock and roll that’s evocative of callused hands and weary livers. The band’s hard-eyed, blue collar jams are like a favorite concert T-shirt: familiar, well-worn and all the better for it.

Anchored by frisky drumming and the cannonball guitar of frontman Kelly English, who solos all over the place, the Slaves favor gritty, midpaced rockers about drinking hard, working harder and struggling to meet the demands of adulthood as a husband, father and provider.

“My wife’s telling me I’m almost done,” English laments on the sufficiently combustible “Detonate.”

This disc should convince her to hold on just a little longer.

Jason Bracelin’s “Sounding Off” column appears on Tuesdays. Contact him at 383-0476 or e-mail him at jbracelin@ reviewjournal.com.

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