- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 3, 2002

A couple of bands play the 9:30 Club this week mining familar musical soundscapes for mileage. One seems to be trying to breathe new life into a stale genre while the other seeks to remain true to a style that was all the rage a few years ago before dying a faddish death.

The oddly named Hoobastank comes to the 9:30 on Sunday, bringing a blend of '80s rockers, Van Halen and metal to what they hope will be a comfortable spot on the modern rock radio playlist. With "Crawling in the Dark," the first song off the group's self-titled major label debut released Nov. 20 already earning airtime on corporate rock stations, and with the band already equipped with MTV teen idol pretty boy looks, Hoobastank is actually off to something of a good start in trying to earn its 15 minutes of fame on the shopping mall soundtrack.

With the teen market that propels major record labels seeming to begin to tire of mere boy band acts, and whispered hopes of a return of actual rock and roll to the popular mainstream, Hoobastank may be in the right place at the right time. If unimaginative and utterly deriviative bands like The Strokes are indeed a signal of the industry's re-embrace of guitar rock, new bands like Hoobastank are an interesting weather balloon to follow the course of public opinion. That the band cites the likes of Eddie Van Halen and Guns 'N' Roses as huge influences bodes well for those hoping the days of rap-metal bores like Limp Bizkit are nearing an end.

While Hoobastank apparently is aiming for a hard rock sound, the band sticks to the guitar/ bass/drums formula, in keeping with its traditional rock roots. As the nonsensical band name implies, the group also has a weird sense of humor. The name of its first album is "They Sure Don't Make Basketball Shorts Like They Used To."

Acts such as Hoobastank may be nothing more than the potential next flavor of the day, but if they are at least embracing a more worthy musical heritage, they may end up being part of the solution, instead of more of the same old problem.

• • •

One band seemingly oblivious to the whims of public fancy is ardent local ska-punkers The Pietasters, who play the 9:30 Club on Saturday. So-called third-wave ska peaked a few years ago, making its mark with the general public more with bands like No Doubt and Smash Mouth, who flavored their rather generic pop songs with ska stylings more than they championed a particular love for ska music.

No Doubt has a new album out these days that is being hyped as running the gamut of musical styles, proving the ska idiom was easily discardable for a band that achieved mainstream success. And yet The Pietasters continue to make the kind of music they've always made, energetic punk-flavored fury to go along with the infectious horns and ska groove.

The band is recently coping with tragedy, as bassist and songwriter Todd Eckhardt died on Nov. 14. For the band and longtime fans, this show should come packed with a lot of extra emotion.

• • •

Shannon McNally may be soft spoken over the phone, but from the plaintive wail that opens her debut album, "Jukebox Sparrows," it's apparent that she's no pushover on stage.

"I've been singing my whole life," she says, a slight New Orleans accent creeping into her speech. "The process of making the record really opened it up to me; I realized how primal and ancient music is and how healing it is."

She plays at Iota Club and Cafe Tuesday.

Miss McNally, 27, did plenty of solo acoustic gigs before the manager of the Cowboy Junkies came across a copy of her demo works and called her up. He helped her gain a spot with Capitol Records that led to her 2000 EP "Bolder Than Paradise," and supporting spots opening up for Stevie Nicks and Robert Randolph.

"Jukebox Sparrows," set for release later this month, showcases her strong vocal abilities and songwriting skills, which recall early Bonnie Raitt, Sheryl Crow and Lucinda Williams. The music rides the thin line between rock and country, though her rootsy songs tend to fall more into the country camp.

"I want the listener at all times to feel like they're entering into a world that's complete," she says of her music. "I think the music world is wide open right now … there's a big shift that's been happening in the last year or two … and I think there's a place for me."

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