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Shedding the Suits 

Dustin Lanker believes swing was the antidote to grunge. Or, at least, it was a scene for kids to retreat into when they got tired of Doc Martens and infrequent bathing. "I feel like clothing from previous eras is more dignified," He says, "part of [the revival] was just people longing to groom themselves well." People had been waiting for it, he believes, but without broad social acceptance, people kept the ubiquitous early '90s slacker gear (flannel) on. "At that point, people needed [good grooming] to be OK. To know you're not going to be yelled at as a freak."

That clean-cut revisionism might be too simplistic, but it seems like as good a reason as any for the inexplicably quick rise of bands like Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, the Squirrel Nut Zippers and the Cherry Poppin' Daddies.

Lanker played keyboards and organ for the latter, which rocketed to multi-platinum success with Zoot Suit Riot. Funny thing was, though, despite having a name that sounded like a swing-revival band and cashing in on the hysteria, the Cherry Poppin' Daddies didn't even play that much swing. They played a wide range of legacy music. Zoot Suit Riot, for its part, had been largely pieced together from previous records. "The hard core Daddies fans know it's not all about swing," Lanker says.

The swing label stuck, though, and it has remained ever since. That's both good and bad, says Lanker. The platinum name recognition fills clubs and, he mentions, "you want promoters to know you're a professional." Having that band name in your press release is a great way, then, of getting gigs.

But for his new band, Visible Men, who play the B-Side Saturday, there's been some unintended zoot suit backlash. Pitchfork, the music webzine kingmaker that single-handedly created the buzz that turned the Arcade Fire into indie darlings last year, savaged Visible Men's new album Love:30, not because of their sound, but because of their press kit, which briefly mentions a connection to the Cherry Poppin' Daddies.

"They had like three paragraphs about the press release and one about the actual music," Lanker recalls. "The problem is," he continues, "You've got one release that goes to both promoters, who want a band to be as popular as possible, and to music critics." Critics who, it seems, might not like bands aping their past projects for easy popularity.

Once he had calmed down, David Raposa, the Pitchfork contributor who reviewed Love:30, gave a pretty positive assessment of the album. "I like a lot of what's happening here, at least when the tempos are peppy," he wrote, adding, "Having the range to flip from jammy organ blues to zippy doo-dah to sad balladry (in the same track!) is always good. And I'm a sucker for downtrodden love-sucks sentiments sung in a plaintive voice, even if the stew's a smidge overcooked at times." He also compared Visible Men to Elvis Costello and XTC. So, if you take away the three paragraphs of raging anti-swing vitriol, you've got about as positive an album review as & uuml;ber-hip Pitchfork has ever given. "We've always tried to make it very clear that we're not the Cherry Poppin' Daddies," says Lanker, still sounding a little confused.

All this madness, and he doesn't even like zoot suits. "My personal favorite [suit styles] aren't even highlighted by the swing movement. I enjoy a lot of even earlier styles," Lanker states flatly, adding, "I'm personally more into suits from the '60s. I like more distinguished styles, straight lines and tapered legs, not all baggy and billowy." Well said, Mr. Lanker. That, God willing, will be the last we ever speak of zoot suits.

Release Party Weekend | There are two big CD release parties for local bands this weekend. Both Five Foot Thick and Mourning After have new music in the pipeline, and they've graciously decided to offer it to the world loud as hell and drenched in gin. Play your cards right you vicarious rock stars and you might not have to sober up until Sunday.

When Five Foot Thick first took over Spokane's metal scene, it was as a kind of regional Korn, fusing metal and hip-hop in the way that was so fashionable at the time. For Blood Puddle, their second album, they pushed past the zeitgeist into more fertile territory, turning out a technically flawless record that eclipsed their first in every way (rap-metal, for its part, soon wilted and died, hopefully forever). It was like a step back in time to the fundamentals of metal.

For their third album, This Cold Life, drummer and de facto spokesman Silas McQuain says to expect some drastic changes, including "way more straightforward metal, like the music we all grew up listening to." Until Friday night at the Big Easy, it will remain unclear whether Five Foot Thick's version of the music we all grew up listening to is closer to Pantera or Metallica.

Given their track record of steadily moving to metal's roots, though, it might mean a total push back to the genre's golden age. Silas won't say anything explicit, though there is one tantalizing detail. "You can expect some guitar solos," he says. To find out if Silas means some churning, Master-of-Puppets-style guitar solos, you'll have to go see the show.

Then you can hit the afterparty Five Foot Thick is throwing at Fat Tuesday's. It starts once the release party at the Big Easy wraps up, and provides a nice segue to Saturday's events.

Five Foot Thick plays at the Big Easy on Friday, Sept. 9, at 7 pm. Tickets: $9.45.

There's some pretty good money to be made in that pissy-pants region of popular music that's not quite goth and not quite emo. It's just, you know, gloomily sad and vaguely punk, and the 12-year-olds eat it up like Harry Potter- brand Jelly Bellies. These days, in fact, if you're a young white male, pretending to be suicidal is pretty much the only way you're making TRL. With apologies to Ryan Cabrera, not even dating Ashlee Simpson makes you popular, dude.

It would be easy to place Mourning After in that Emo category. With the weepy homophone in the band name and album titles like "Waiting for Our Lives To End," it certainly seems they're going the way of Good Charlotte. But Bill Powers, who plays bass, is quick to dispel that notion. "I'll admit, [the name] does kinda have an emo tinge, but that was three years ago and emo sounded like a good idea at the time. We don't consider ourselves emo. We're straight up rock 'n' roll," he says. Each time he repeats the word "emo," he sounds a little more disgusted.

They have a new four-song EP set to drop at the show Saturday at Fat Tuesday's. It's self-titled because, Powers says, they'd gone through a lot of changes, and this EP is a kind of restart for the band.

"We're not emo because we don't cry our music," Powers adds. "I didn't hear the new EP and start crying, OK? I hear our music, and I want to party." Mourning After is hoping you'll hear it and want to join in, too.

Mourning After plays at Fat Tuesday's on Saturday, Sept. 10, at 7 pm. Tickets: $5; $7 at the door.

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