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Sharp Notes February 05 2004

After the Ink Dries: Apparently, Atlanta rock's version of "crunk" is "Anglophile."

British hype has been ladled onto rockers The Hiss, while scene vets Dropsonic have, in the past, seen comparisons to Radiohead and Led Zeppelin. Both The Hiss and Dropsonic recently signed domestic deals with major label distribution — The Hiss inked with Sanctuary and Dropsonic joined Dallas Austin's newly reactivated Rowdy imprint.

Now that they have unlocked the golden door to fame, I decided to check out both bands.

New Year's Eve, MJQ opened the doors of its Drunken Unicorn music room, with The Hiss as headliners.

Like electroclash performance troupe Fischerspooner, The Hiss have an A, B and C show. While Fischerspooner always thrills, The Hiss can be underwhelming or enthralling. Local shows often find them as background music for bar talk. Outdoor shows aren't super, but definitely entertaining. But last October, at the CMJ Music Marathon in New York City, The Hiss was incredible: Singer Adrian Barrera was commanding on the mic. Guitarist Ian Franco helped out on backing vocals and assumed a noticeable stage presence beyond his usual stoic self. The mix was up-front and in your ears. They recaptured the magic lost since the departure of bassist Mahjaula Bah-Kamara, in mid-2003.

Two songs into the band's MJQ set, it was clear this was a C show. The din of crowd noise was clearly audible, while The Hiss became a live-action jukebox, playing songs no one had selected. Speaking to drummer Todd Galpin last week, he thinks the band turned a corner at a reportedly better show at the Earl on Jan. 23.

Dropsonic took the stage that night at 10 High around 12:30 a.m. The small space, with it's low ceiling, is exceedingly tight, especially with a club-filler like Dropsonic on the bill. The set comprised mostly new material that will appear on the product of a recent recording session in Athens. The new stuff made the Radiohead tag seem totally unfounded.

It's hard to imagine crossing signals between singer/guitarist Dan Dixon's banshee wail and Thom Yorke's injured croon. Dixon's more of a poor man's Chris Cornell — with an octave removed off the top.

Blazing through the first five songs, the band had just begun "Summer's Gone," when a string on Dixon's Les Paul snapped. The up-frontman announced, "I'm not going to cheat you by playing that song with a broken string." He then admitted, after finishing the song on another guitar, "It broke so early in the song that I didn't want to do the math for the rest of it."

Old favorites like "Stolen," off of 2002's Belle, proved why Dropsonic is a staple of the Atlanta music scene — the band's sometimes flat recordings take on new life, as if Dixon and bassist Dave Chase were screaming in your ears while drummer Brian Hunter bounced his sticks off your forehead.

With eyes closed, there was the distinct sound of a collection of accidental grunge all-stars playing now distant and shadowy fare. One song began with the riff to Stone Temple Pilots' "Vasoline," augmented with a turntable-like scratch done by guitar slide. Another channeled the memory of a bent-string version of Seven Mary Three's "Cumbersome."

But, if you kept your eyes closed, you would have missed the two ladies near the front of the audience caught in a torrid, nearly minute-long, definitely tongue-involved lip lock.

And that's why it's always good to have a little cock in your rock.

Local Show of the Week: The Whigs — my OutKast — are at the Earl this Friday, Feb. 6. But it's not just the cutesy-but-proficient pop trio that makes this bill so appealing. Their co-headliners, A Fir-Ju Well, sweeten the deal to near inedible with its perpetually rotating, psychedelic gypsy-garage fare. Local rocker refugee collective Hot Young Priest open.??