The Makers' claim to fame has been as mirror-shaded gong bangers hell-bent on riding white lines to a neon afterlife. It was a good gig, but it was only a matter of time before the quartet woke up junk sick and were forced to confront bleary-eyed the irreversible wages of gin. So Strangest Parade is head music with a hangover, a blown-out, nauseous rock record that is as ugly as Rock Star God was fabulous. The whole thing reeks of spilled liquor and stale cigarettes; calamitous ballads like "Calling Elvis, John, and Jesus" stumble over their own feet and trip into rickety choruses. Where Rock Star God was Ziggy Stardust, Strangest Parade is Nikki Sudden. Michael Shelley sounds horrified as he bellows echo-drenched realizations over filthy riffing guitars and thunderous percussion. The record alternates between sleazy, wailing rock anthems and fragile ballads like the piano-driven "Calling My Name," which sounds like an Exile on Main Street outtake. Uniting the songs is the unnerving sense of desperation. "I've been looking at the world like a dirty magazine," Shelley announces early in the record. No matter how awful the display and how deep the remorse, the Makers are going to keep looking and wallowing and regretting until the whole sad cycle puts them in the grave. J. Edward Keyes
The Makers play Chop Suey at 9 p.m. Fri., May 10. $8.
(Kill Rock Stars)
Quitting grinding long enough to lodge a few protests.
Gifted is the woman, like the Gossip's Beth Ditto, who can belt out songs about class politics and still sound bawdy. Till now, this Olympia-via-Arkansas trio kicked out stripped-down rock 'n' roll that was focused strictly below the belt. Not that their work was apolitical; it's inescapably political when a woman who proudly calls herself fat sings boastful tunes of seducing other women. On the new Arkansas Heat EP, the Gossip spend plenty of time in the sweaty backseat. But they also take a few breathers and comment on the world around them—without abandoning a sound raw enough to rock a Link Wray barbecue. In "(Take Back) the Revolution," Ditto allies herself with her laboring mom, warning Ma's boss, "You're gonna get what's comin' to you!" The title cut recounts the band's decision to quit a town that "hasn't changed since 1965." In language simple and sassy, Ditto conveys the emotional bruises that come with rejection, while urging others to stick to their guns: "To all my girls that are in Memphis now/I want ya (to) keep on anyhow/Cuz they may run us out of our hometown/But they'll never, ever keep us down." With Arkansas Heat, the Gossip manage to stretch themselves while still working with the most basic materials. Chris Nelson
The Gossip play two shows at Sit & Spin on Fri., May 10 at 5 p.m. (all ages) and 9 p.m. $7.