Heartbreak and hangovers.

This week's column is sponsored by Advil. Or at least it will be if the stupid non-aspirin makes the Gnome lose this godawful hangover, one of those creepers that greeted your troll-like correspondent a full hour after he woke up thinking he was in the clear. It's Gnome-body's fault but mine, you might say. You see, the lure of Budweiser is too damned strong when the Tractor's hosting an amazingly twisted country hoedown. The night was Thursday, and as a full-house crowd entered, Neko Case was onstage as part of the Corn Sisters, mumbling something about Ice Cube before launching into a Louvin Brothers song. At least, that's how the Gnome remembers it this hazy day-after. Oh yeah, given the bizarre, twangy brilliance of the Corn Sisters, only one man could have followed: Ithaca, New York's truck-driving troubadour, Johnny Dowd. He dedicated songs to his mom, the audience, Ol' Dirty Bastard, and even himself, when he wasn't singing love songs that more often than not involve atonal, relentless passages that sounded like a cross between the Birthday Party and Buck Owens.

Am I done yet? OK, useless Advil's out of the running for the Gnome's lucrative endorsement. Maybe coffee will help. If only there were a Starbucks nearby. . . .

So after ranting and raving about their album, Pillow, this crafty columnist felt compelled to check out Little Champions in a live setting, and the Crocodile provided just such an opportunity last week. This Seattle-by-way-of-Bellingham quartet has some terrific songs that step over all sorts of lines. Catchy melodic tunes digress into repetitive, sharp-edged passages. Basic new wave-style songs veer into complex guitar solos. Male-female vocals intertwine, either abrasively or gently. Best of all, the Li'l Champs—as the Gnome likes to call 'em—bring to mind a host of other bands, but only fleetingly, so as not to sound derivative. Your box-eared correspondent heard traces of Sleater-Kinney, the B-52s, the Pixies, and Throwing Muses, to name a few. For those who don't trust a Gnomey commentator with a guele de bois— that's French for "mug fulla wood," or hangover—youze can check out the Li'l Champs at Gibson's Saturday, January 22, or if you're the procrastinating type, wait till they open for Death Cab for Cutie at the Breakroom on February 12. You betcha!

You can reach the Metro Gnome at metrognome@seattleweekly.com

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