- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 7, 2002

Some punk bands collapse under the pressure of being associated with their hometown's musical scene, but not a band as stylistically diverse as The Dismemberment Plan.
Bassist and keyboard player Eric Axelson, completing a 33-hour voyage after a Japanese tour, describes the benefits of being associated with Washington. "When we were younger, folks pegged the city with a sound, but it also got us shows in places where no one knew us because of where we were from," he writes in an e-mail message. "Of course we'd break out keyboards and trombones, and the club would look confused."
Mr. Axelson, who lives in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood, grew up in Fairfax with drummer Joe Easley and Travis Morrison, who sings and plays the guitar and keyboard. Jason Caddell (guitar, keyboard) was raised in Howell, Mich., and Lynchburg, Va.
The band at times has to defend itself for working with a booking agent and label-commissioned media relations specialist. "You'll meet people on tour that still expect bands from D.C. to just do all-ages shows and be 'straight edge,'" he says, referring to the strict moral code adopted by D.C.-area bands in the early 1980s.
The Dismemberment Plan helped tear apart the stereotype of a singular D.C. style when it began to record wildly eclectic tracks in 1994. Its influences range from Steely Dan to Marvin Gaye. The band envelops Mr. Morrison's introspective recollections of past relationships with rock, funk and punk on its most recent album, "Change."
The Death and Dismemberment Tour 2002 brings the group home for a date next Tuesday at the 9:30 Club with Death Cab for Cutie. The V Street venue is one of the area's most popular showcases, but Mr. Axelson favors the Black Cat and Fort Reno Park, where summer concerts are held. "Both places always feel like some sort of family reunion to play," he says. "I swear half our friends just come to see each other and catch up."

Clarence Greenwood, aka Citizen Cope, populates his major-label debut with acutely detailed characters from Washington and Baltimore's meaner streets. The subjects of his songs are victimized by drugs and violence, but Mr. Greenwood's story is much brighter.
DreamWorks Records plans to elevate Citizen Cope's status from D.C.-bred musician to next-big-thing celebrity. To ensure wide visibility, DreamWorks slotted Mr. Greenfield as the opener for one of its major rising acts, Nelly Furtado. The tour brings Citizen Cope to the 9:30 Club for two sold-out shows tomorrow and Saturday. Both musicians gravitate toward hip-hop. But the genre is a more natural fit for the poetic Mr. Greenwood, who flavors the search for his characters' salvation with a grainy, organic melange of folk, blues and urban grooves.

Once deemed a strictly political band, Southern California's Bad Religion covers more personal territory on its recent albums.
"As I've gone through more adversity in life, it's easier for me to write from the perspective of how you can maintain your sanity in a world that's so crazy," says Bad Religion songwriter and singer Greg Graffin during a phone interview.
The band's signature style a hyperkinetic burst of speed anchored by dare-you-to-forget-us hooks and sweet backing-vocal harmonies matures on the group's new release, "The Process of Belief."
"Sorrow" begins with a reggae shuffle reminiscent of the Police. Acoustic guitars add emotional depth to "Broken," one of the album's examinations of a flawed individual's confrontation with adversity and search for the will to prosper. "We must coexist/So please listen to me/There is no such thing as human debris," Mr. Graffin sings.
"Life is full of challenges, and if we were a nihilistic band, we would just say give up," he says during the interview. Mr. Graffin embodies determination, and he's paternal but never preachy. He also is likely to send listeners to the dictionary to understand lyrics such as "You can't make any sense of the ludicrous nonsense and incipient senescence that will deem your common sense useless" from "Materialist."
The group arrives Saturday at Nation in support of the album. Brian Baker, a veteran of D.C.-area bands such as Minor Threat and Dag Nasty, handles lead and rhythm guitar duties with on-again, off-again band co-founder Brett Gurewitz and Greg Hetson.

The foursome … And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead from Austin, Texas, never fail to back up their sinister, gothic moniker. In studio and onstage, Trail of Dead seems hell-bent on creating the aural equivalent of shoving a guitar neck through the spleen; medicating the wound with a melodic, soothing middle passage; and then re-shredding the gash before it heals. Bring your own first aid kit tonight to the Black Cat.


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