THERE SEEMS no end to the parade of rough-and-ready guitar bands on the American independent rock scene. Not surprisingly, these bands mostly find their inspiration in the late '60s and early '70s, when the electric guitar achieved icon status in rock.
The dirty, snarling guitar attack on the Pontiac Brothers' debut, "Doll Hut," is cut straight from the whisky-drenched squall of the Rolling Stones' "Exile on Main Street." And this California quintet takes up the Stones' grungy feel and dissolute sensibility with enough fervor to partly repay its debt to them. Unlike the Stones, the Pontiac Brothers never make a single song count, but they do know how to milk the sound of a nasty voice and two mean guitars in sloppy discourse.
If "Under the Blue Marlin," the second album by Tucson's Naked Prey occasionally reminds of Tucson's other guitar band, Green on Red, it's because both love the folk-metal synthesis of Neil Young's Crazy Horse. Singer-songwriter Van Christian's best material -- such as "A Stranger" and "Train Whistle" -- settles into a slow muscular groove and then builds its drama from Dave Seger's twisting guitar solos and Christian's own resounding chords.
While these grandiose Western tales are at least the start of something distinctive, the band's straight power rock songs offer only the pale shadow of the Stooges.
A more original and striking band working the Frontier label with Naked Prey and the Pontiac Brothers is Thin White Rope, whose debut, "Exploring the Axis," uses two and even three guitars to construct a chilling atmosphere of imminent psychological breakdown.
While Zappa and Television come to mind, the band's sinister rhythms, relentless guitars and singer Guy Kyser's disturbing warbling sustain something equally visionary, especially on the surreal "Down in the Desert."
PONTIAC BROTHERS -- "Doll Hut" (Frontier FLP 1014).
NAKED PREY -- "Under the Blue Marlin" (Frontier FLP 1016).
THINE WHITE ROPE -- "Exploring the Axis" (Frontier FLP 1015); all three bands appear Friday night at the 9:30 Club.