The Black Halos

Acts Playing South by Southwest

SXSW Records

The Black Halos

The Violent Years (Sub Pop)

With one eye on the morbid romanticism of afterhours degeneracy and another on coliseum-rock salvation, Vancouver's Black Halos are continually mining for the perfect anthem. They're not afraid to dredge up time-tested pop hooks in the service of something that might coalesce a disparate audience long enough to sing along in unison like a bunch of drunken footballers. In an age where the roughest-sounding thing on Top 40 radio is Blink-182, this won't be easy. The Halos' second album might not make it out of a commercial station's mail bin, but that doesn't detract from the universal dime-store witticisms underlying a song like "No Tomorrow Girls." Anyone who's ever fallen in love with the tragic rock & roll beauty queen who rebuffs everyone with a shot or a snort will find plenty of truth here. "Like chasing a sweet silhouette," sings Billy Hopeless with a Stiv Bators growl, "the closer you get, the less you understand." The Violent Years also features a couple of songs bemoaning the sad state of rock & roll, "Lost in the '90s" lashing out at the lack of reverence for Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly with all the patriotic fervor of the V.F.W. denouncing flag-burners, while "Underground" decries the state of the scene like a hawk longing for a Cold War sequel. Though the concept of punk rock nostalgia is sinfully rich with irony, adherents to the Stooges/New York Dolls/Dead Boys school will find validation and vindication by such sentiments. (Saturday, March 17, Emo's Jr., 1am)

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