Have these guys seen Anger Management yet? Not that they should or anything (actually, not that anyone should, since Adam Sandler movies will be proven any day now to be the root cause of SARS disease), but damn, this is one bitter band. Downtown Popular are normally an electric outfit, but on this acoustic troika of songs, which makes all the bad relationship karma suffered by singer Charles Ward burn that much deeper, you can understand every last seething, pissy syllable he growls. Apparently not quite over the person he broke up with in "No Novocain," their best song (so good it wound up on the most recent Weeklycompilation CD), Ward and the band want to spread the misery around a bit more. And so we have the deceptively bright, catchy "Change Back," all happy-sounding until you hear lines such as "This time/Is the last time/I ever let a woman devour me" (and yeah, that can be interpreted in innumerably different ways). As much as it stings, it's still a rollicking pleasure, and they further mine that-bitch-done-screwed-me-over terrain on "One Step" with this bit of prose: "Sitting here, just looking for reasons to keep myself breathin'/I'm leaning right over the edge/One step and I'm dead." Swirling around that is a dour faux blues, full of descending chords that trudge depressingly onward for nearly six minutes. Yeah, you might want to kill yourself by the end, but you'll at least want to do it with drama. "Trading Punches" supplies a bit of the old ultra-violence—"Trading punches is what she thinks that fun is/And I could play all night"—and joyfully satiates the testosterone-addled. Yet in perusing their website, we think we've uncovered the source of Downtown Popular's inner tumult: seems they've somehow become tight with Wyland, of all people. How rock & roll is that? No wonder they're so conflicted—good, but conflicted.
Downtown Popular open for Berlin at the Coach House, 33157 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano, (949) 496-8930. Sat., 8 p.m. $23.50.
OC and Long Beach bands and musicians! Mail your CDs and tapes (along with your vital contact info, plus any impending performance dates) for possible review to: Locals Only,OC Weekly, P.O. Box 10788, Costa Mesa, CA 92627-0247.
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