Plus CD Reviews of C-Bo, Iron Maiden, and Trainwreck Riders.


No Midnight

(Spin Art)

Most rock bands will open an album with a blustery, attention-grabbing tune that to an extent sets the tone for what lies ahead. But San Francisco's Birdmonster are refreshingly atypical, instead choosing to baffle listeners' potential expectations at every turn, shifting their aesthetic slightly with(in) each song. The band's long-awaited debut, No Midnight, kicks off with "Skeleton Suit," a track that surges like the early, thrashier Replacements but halts suddenly, making room for "Balcony"—which displays some of the soft/loud/soft dynamics of Mogwai. On the latter, a melodica sings sweetly from some gentle folk ether. "'Cause You Can" and "Bar in the Back of the Basement" have tantalizingly pensive, angular melodies the Soft Boys or XTC would be proud to call their own, the dual guitars ringing like jazz cats playing Clash chords—then these Birds attack like the Minutemen at their most jovially pissed. Birdmonster's vocals are a tad rough, but in the best possible way, rich with restless zeal and a this-is-our-chance-now enthusiasm I heard in early recordings by the Jam and the Mekons (reminding me what drew me to this "punk rock" in the first place). Touches of drollery keep things clear of didacticism or pomposity. No Midnight is loaded with crafty unpredictability, but you'll be having too much fun listening to it to end up bothered and bewildered. MARK KERESMAN

Birdmonster play El Corazon, 109 Eastlake Ave. E., 206-381-3094, $8. 7 p.m. Sun., Sept. 24.


Money to Burn

(West Coast Mafia)

In a world of vitamin-watered-down gangsta rappers with suburb-dwelling, soccer-mom fan bases, C-Bo is a tall can of Steel Reserve—far worse for your health but more potent and intoxicating. This is a man with combined record sales of 3 million who once said in an interview that he'd have no problem shooting a cop in the face if he were a two-strike offender pulled over at a traffic stop. On Money to Burn, the ex-con's 15th album, he comes out blazing: "Who am I? C-Bo, the baldhead nut/If you ain't heard of him, then you is just a baldhead mutt." Guest appearances by Outlawz, Sean Paul, Lil' Cyco, Baby Bash, and others provide variety to C-Bo's murderous flow, and though the tempos occasionally approach crunk, nothing on Money to Burn screams "club anthem." Even "Walked in the Club" fits a ride around town in a scraper better than it does a dance floor. We do not suggest you do a drive-by to this album, but if you insist, "If You a Gee" and "I'm So Hood" sound appropriate. ERIK K. ARNOLD


A Matter of Life and Death


During their final set at last summer's Ozzfest, Iron Maiden were pelted with eggs and bottles thrown from the crowd by folks frontman Bruce Dickinson speculated were working for Ozzfest founder Sharon Osbourne, whom Dickinson had offended by declaring onstage that Iron Maiden would never deign to appear in a reality show à la The Osbournes. So it's tempting to consider the cover of Maiden's new album—which depicts the band as a battalion of skeleton soldiers flanking a tank aimed directly at the viewer—as a visual retort to skeptics who've written off the English heavy-metal pioneers as over-the-hill has-beens. The music on A Matter of Life and Death hammers home the same sentiment: Though the tempos have perhaps slowed a touch and Dickinson's upper-register wail isn't quite the thing of wonder it used to be, this is a proudly neoclassical effort from a band still energized by intricate dual guitar solos and grisly images of "remorseless shrapnel rains." If Dickinson's got yolk on his face, he's hiding it well. MIKAEL WOOD

Trainwreck Riders

Lonely Road Revival

(Alive Records)

It doesn't seem appropriate that Trainwreck Riders will likely get lumped into the alt- country taxonomy. Sure, the telecaster pluck and scrappy punk spirit call to mind the genre's forebears—certainly the distorted smear on "Find Your Way Home" suggests vintage Uncle Tupelo. But considering the color-by-numbers landscape of alt-country, the Riders deserve better. The band's invigorated vantage on the punk-country crossroads distinguishes it; after opening "In the Wake of It All" with standard-issue riffs and Highway 61 ethos ("It's late at night behind the wheel . . . "), guitarist Andrew Kerwin suddenly evokes the snarl of Richard Hell's Robert Quine. The looping motifs and wobbly vocals of "Through Unto the End" borrow from '90s post-rock. Simpler tunes like "Christmas Time Blues" are equally refreshing, and when on the chorus singer Pete Frauenfelde begs, "Take that noose and set me loose," he may as well be speaking about musical tags as much as anything else. NATE CAVALIERI

Trainwreck Riders play Crocodile Cafe, 2200 Second Ave., 206-441-5611, $10. All ages. 8 p.m. Thurs., Sept. 21. E

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