Truth is, Kid Rock was outraging the FCC and tearing down the house long before ICP found its first can of greasepaint. In fact, it would be slightly remiss to say Kid Rock followed in anyone's footsteps: He was a white-boy rapper before House of Pain, he was using a live band before Rage Against the Machine, and he was sampling kitsch before Beck. He's funny (at a recent label showcase he arrived with a pissed-off midget rapper -- "3-foot-9 with a 10-foot dick" -- riding a pony in a light-bulb-festooned shirt), vulgar (a college radio station was fined $30,000 for playing his "Balls in Your Mouth"; others have been shut down for "Yo-Da-Ling in the Valley"), respected (Too Short co-produced 1990's Grits and Sandwiches for Breakfast), irreverent (there's a "Free Bird"-style power ballad on Devil), unrepentant (he's backed by a Detroit bar band called Twisted Brown Trucker), driven (he's a label CEO who sold 14,000 copies of 1996's Early Mornin' Stoned Pimp out of his basement), gifted (he's a producer, DJ, MC, guitarist, and songwriter), and real ("I Am the Bulldog" chronicles his fabled bedroom skills, while "Black Chic/White Guy" chronicles his resolution to raise his 5-year-old son while the mother slips away on a heroin tide).
Most of all, Kid Rock is fearless (from the Fleetwood Mac samples on "Wasting Time" to the MC5 in "Somebody's Gotta Feel This"). And we have it on good authority that if he catches Vanilla Ice in a dark alley during Vanilla's supposed comeback, Kid Rock will split his head like a melon. Kid Rock performs at the Edge in Palo Alto on Thursday, April 8, at 8 p.m. Tickets are $8; call (650) 324-3343.
Beulah, Colo., is a lovely inglenook nestled between the Wet Mountains, just 25 miles southwest of Pueblo, Colo.; on the Fourth of July, Beulah, Wyo., is home to the "Largest Parade in the Smallest Town" in the country; Beulah, N.D., boasts a nine-hole putting green made of real grass; Beulah, Ore., doesn't boast anything much; in Baltimore, Beulah is a cherished 70-year-old crossing guard; in Texas, Beulah Soap is made of goat's milk; in San Francisco, we have two Beulahs -- one a little street between Frederick and Waller, and the other a slightly loopy, delightful pop band that would probably appreciate the Wet Mountains, real grass, goat's milk, and a 70-year-old crossing guard. Led by the unduly humble Miles Kurosky, Beulah has become one of the most precious wrinkles in the Elephant 6 collective. Even though the band plays live far too rarely to please its most earnest supporters, in the studio Beulah continues to harvest the rich silt deposited by early Beatles and Beach Boys currents.
The title of its latest benefaction, When Your Heartstrings Break (released on Sugar Free), can be taken as affectionate and sincere advice. This album is not the result of anguish but an antidote for it -- a remedy made noticeably sweeter by the presence of a full orchestra, but which would be just as irresistible unadorned. Beulah is good for you. It is additive-free -- no self-obsessed irony, maudlin posturing, or rebellious artifice. Beulah is so pure it floats. And if you understand the 11th song on the all-too-short album -- "If We Can Put a Man on the Moon, Surely I Can Win Your Heart" -- you'll float, too. Beulah celebrates its record release in its on-ly live show this month at Amoeba Records on Friday, April 9, at 7 p.m. Admission is free; call 831-1200.
Rancid and the Mighty Mighty Bosstones might be the largest-selling proponents of third-wave ska, but there is little denying New York bands like the Toasters and Scofflaws were the groups that kept the 2-tone ember burning long enough to reignite. Among the Big Apple caste, there is a strong affection for the jazzier Jamaican blue beat, especially for the 9-year-old Slackers, who historically introduce mambo, calypso, N'awlins R&B, and dockside jazz into a hypnotic rocksteady beat in which sitars, nyabingi drums, and trumpets are neighbors. The latest album from the eight-piece, The Question, must have been recorded during a sweltering New York summer; the music is thick, sweaty, and intensely narcotic, with back-fence stories that conjure block parties, family arguments, street-corner rumbles, schoolyard crushes, and the little old woman two houses down. The Slackers perform at Cafe Du Nord on Monday, April 12, at 10 p.m. Tickets are $8; call 861-5016.