Bare Jr.

Acts Playing South by Southwest

SXSW Records

Bare Jr.

Brainwasher (Immortal)

Is this the same band that played on Boo-tay, Bare Jr.'s 1999 debut? That's what it says on the marquee, but fans of the first disc will note that most of the twang (and dulcimer) has been vacuumed out of these arrangements. There's little country influence to be heard here at all, having been bulldozed aside in favor of indie-rock Sturm und Drang. That said, Brainwasher may be just as good as its predecessor. Kicking off with a mushy string "overture," the title track stomps its way around Bobby Bare Jr.'s plaintive yowl, and it's not long into the album before the listener realizes that Bare the Younger has matured as a songwriter; ponder the central line of "God," a metaphorical tale of a fistfight with a preacher: "God doesn't even know my name." On the other hand, some of the hooks of Boo-Tay seem to have evaporated on Brainwasher. In keeping with the band's debut, there's a fair amount of aural chaos, random scraps of audio, tape loops, and such thrown into the mix (check the non sequitur break in "Devil Doll"), but those who got off on Bare Jr.'s gritty debut will be disappointed by Brainwasher's hammer-and-tongs direction, even though it may point the band toward a wider audience. There's growth here, even if some question the direction. (Friday, March 16, Stubb's, 9pm)

***

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