That's why I'm thankful for this week, because two of the bands are playing music quite unlike all the rest. That's about two more than usual.
Iron Fanboy's got potential, playing sloppy punk supposedly in the vein of the Ramones. The vocalist needs some studio magic, though the songs available are rough mixes -- he tends to err on the flat side of the note more often than not. There are some guitar fills that are nicely reminiscent of Modest Mouse, but Iron Fanboy needs a good deal more practice before it's ready for primetime, so to speak.
I will go on record as saying Starflight Ambush is one of the first bands that I enjoy for its own sake, rather than relative to the rest of the competitors. Going for a Diary-era Sunny Day Real Estate sound, but with a bit more distortion, Starflight Ambush has well-written lyrics and some definite technical skill. The vocalist does suffer from a case of the Morrisseys, including some unnecessary British inflection on a couple of songs, but a sin that small I'm willing to forgive.
Billy Versus gets tons of bonus points for being the first band with a female vocaalist, with a definite Sleater-Kinney feel. The music isn't as all-out rock as S-K, with an acoustic number that sounds suspiciously like Metallica's "One," but like Starflight Ambush, I think Billy Versus is one of the best bands to come through the contest so far.
Hail the Gunfire is the obligatory hardcore Christian band. Jesus may be hardcore, but this repetition is starting to get ridiculous. They sound like all the others that have come before (see: Gates of Graceland, Deadhorse Express). I like them better than their compatriots (particularly their song "I'd Buy Africa..."), but I can't understand a damn word, as usual, and the screaming is grating.
Electric Warriors finish the night, playing a fairly traditional mix of '70s blues rock, going for the gruff and grizzled approach vocally (an approach that doesn't work so well when you're a teenager, but at least they're trying). Decent, but forgettable.
Billy Versus or Starflight Ambush, please win. I implore you. I need someone to vindicate my complaints, and either of you would do nicely. You've set yourself apart from the rest of the pack already -- keep heading down your perspective paths and you're going to do extremely well, Rawk title or not.
RAWK Final Four Round Three featuring Iron Fanboy, Starflight Ambush, Billy Versus, Hail the Gunfire and Electric Warriors at the Service Station on Saturday, Feb. 2, at 6 pm. $8; $10 at the door. Visit ticketswest.com or call 325-SEAT.