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by Luke Baumgarten & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & A & lt;/span & s far as two tone, ska and new wave go, everyone in the ought-seven drops Madness as a major influence. While there's no denying they're a good cornerstone upon which to build pre-rock-steady edifices, they're not the only option.





Especially if you're an existing ska devotee looking to, ahem, diversify your sound a bit, THE ENGLISH BEAT offers a near perfect road map. Though it only lasted like three years in the early '80s, the band progressed quickly from downbeat ska (characteristic of Britain's second wave) to a janglier, poppier sound. The chase scene from Ferris Bueller was all them. So was "Save It for Later."





We know it's a big deal mellowing out those skittish rhythms, and you might have to get rid of a trombonist or three, but there are any number of large Midwestern state universities just waiting to snatch them up. They'll be fine.





-- LUKE BAUMGARTEN





The English Beat at the Big Easy on Wednesday, March 7, at 8 pm. $20. Visit www.ticketswest.com or call 325-SEAT.





& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & I & lt;/span & t wasn't so long ago that the only place in Nashville you'd find Chucks was at Memorial Gymnasium (in team photos circa 1950). No longer, thanks to pop country harbingers RASCAL FLATTS, who are, to our knowledge, the first country act to rock Converse on an album cover.





That's culturally significant, and with the potential revenue such tacit endorsement might bring all across the South and Midwest, we're betting the embattled sneaks company is wishing it hadn't sold out to Nike. It's also indicative of genre perceptions that the band has worked hard to shape.





Despite plying well-worn pop tropes with only a hint of twang, the band hadn't charted a single above No. 21 on the Billboard charts. In 2006, with the release of Me and My Gang (heretofore referred to by me as simply The Chuck Taylor Album) and its single, "What Hurts the Most," the band finally cracked the Top 10, landing at No. 6.





-- LUKE BAUMGARTEN





Rascal Flatts with Jason Aldean at the Spokane Arena on Wednesday, March 7, at 7:30 pm. $60. Visit www.ticketswest.com or call 325-SEAT.





& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & U & lt;/span & nder the steady booking hand of (occasional Inlander photo contributor) Rhea Beumer (with occasional help from Spokane Hardcore), dainty little Empyrean is finding itself at Spokane's HXC vanguard.





And, like any good front line, the venue is hosting leading edge core. Though the bands playing next Thursday are all fairly solid, Boise's THE FRANKLIN COVER UP has hit upon something especially thrilling. If the transition between Ian MacKaye's metered, articulate sing/speak to the hyperventilatory scream/rant/scream dynamics of much post-hardcore is an attempt to add emotion to ideology (or perhaps substitute one for the other), the Franklin Cover Up has gone one further.





They've taken a step toward metal's use of voice as a sonic texture, while eschewing the detachment sometimes caused by metal's precision and glossiness, creating effectively a texture meant to communicate raw emotion. It's kinda sweet.





--LUKE BAUMGARTEN





The Franklin Cover Up with the Orangeburg Massacre and Don the Reader at Empyrean on Thursday, March 8, at 7 pm. $7. Call 838-9819.
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