MINUS THE BEAR

"They Make Beer Commercials Like This"

ARRCO

PARIS TEXAS

"Like You Like an Arsonist"

New Line

The new EP from Minus the Bear, "They Make Beer Commercials Like This," begins breathlessly. "Fine + 2 Pts" immediately hits a gallop, churning its indie-rock guitar atop a near-funky bass line. The Seattle quartet doesn't slow down considerably after that, but its influences are broader than the opening song indicates. Synthbeats and keyboards sometimes seize the foreground, and some of the sorta-jazzy melodies (particularly that of "Let's Play Clowns") suggest the Dismemberment Plan.

Although garrulous titles such as "Hey! Is That a Ninja Up There?" might augur paralyzing self-consciousness, the music is never less than sprightly. The band astutely contrasts guitar-band dynamics and electronic timbres, only to dump fretboard-hero flourishes into "Pony Up!" These six songs are notable for their forward motion, but also for such entertaining side trips.

Two decades ago, some hardcore-punk bands experimented with harnessing their pummeling attack to the anthemic tunefulness of such groups as U2. Paris Texas, a quintet that happens to be from Wisconsin, perfects this synthesis on its outstanding second long-player, "Like You Like an Arsonist." The style of these rousing punk broadsides may not be entirely contemporary, but it's never too late for an album this accomplished.

Like a dairy-land Clash, the band blends personal and political discontent and spikes the mix with jabbing hooks and surging refrains. In such irresistible tunes as "Rebel Radio" and "Hip Replacement," vocalist Scott Sherpe delivers his motormouth critiques while guitarists Nolan Treolo and Nicholas Zinkgraf pay agreeably hasty homages to both Celtic punk and pop metal. Purists may complain that the album is too slick, but its crisp sound never saps the band's strength. At this rate, by the time Paris Texas discovers reggae, it'll be invincible.

-- Mark Jenkins

Both appearing Thursday at the Black Cat with the Statistics. * To hear a free Sound Bite from Minus the Bear, call Post-Haste at 301-313-2200 and press 8127; to hear Paris Texas, press 8128. (Prince William residents, call 703-690-4110.)