Breaking & Entering
A look at the latest acts that are breaking at radio and retail and entering the Billboard charts. This week: The Hiss, Cooler Kids and Café Tacuba.A look at the latest acts that are breaking at radio and retail and entering the Billboard charts.
HISSIN' IN THE U.K.: When Atlanta four-piece the Hiss played a show last week at a small, out-of-the way club in Los Angeles, the crowd was heavily populated with middle-aged males tapping at palm pilots. This means one thing: the music industry is listening. The band's frantic, Southern garage rock may lack a U.S. record label, but it has already created plenty of buzz.
Although the industry's presence was evident, Hiss lead singer Adrian Barrera paid no mind, offering anti-establishment songs that raged, "We know what you've been eating in your fancy restaurants and we don't want it."
Barrera strives for the upper registers of blues rock vocalists such as Jack White and Jimmy Page, while guitarist Ian Franco supplies weighty riffs with the punk/soul force of the Stooges. The rhythm section of bassist Johnny Kral and drummer Todd Galpin provide an arena-worthy backbone on songs that assail mainstream radio one moment, and quote "Miss You" from the Rolling Stones the next.
The Hiss has already had a taste of the limelight overseas. Noel Gallagher of Oasis discovered the band's self-released single and subsequently asked the Hiss to open four dates for his band earlier this year in Germany. The U.K. press immediately took to the Atlanta act, and like the White Stripes and the Strokes before them, the Hiss scored an audience in Britain before breaking in America.
The Hiss shouldn't be unknown on U.S. shores for too much longer. The band's single has been a hot seller in Atlanta, and its A-side, "Riverbed," has been slowly working its way onto the playlists of modern rock stations. Billboard sister publication Airplay Monitor pegged "Riverbed" as a "chart-bound" single two weeks ago, and the cut has been gaining play not just in the South, but on stations in Chicago, Boston and Las Vegas as well.
The Hiss recently signed a deal in the U.K. with Polydor Records imprint Loog Records, and will release its first album, "Panic Movement," on Aug. 11. Owen Morris, who has manned the boards for hit albums from Oasis, the Verve and New Order, produced the set.
Although the Hiss has not yet to committed to a U.S. record label, it hasn't stopped the band from touring the States. A club tour will wrap July 29 in Chicago. Then the Hiss will head overseas for a month-long U.K. jaunt, which will include performances at the end of August at the Reading and Leeds festivals.
COOL CLUB: "H is for hooligan, looking for a fight," Sisely Treasure sings on "E is for Everybody," found on the debut album from the Cooler Kids. It's hard to imagine anyone having a beef with Treasure, whose vocals bounce over the bubbling beats from songwriter/DJ Kaz Gamble as if she were a cross between Madonna and a Powerpuff Girl. "J is for jumping jacks," Treasure gleefully announces as she continues through the alphabet.
On "Punk Debuante," released earlier this month via DreamWorks, the Cooler Kids come off as the musical equivalent of a Pixie Stick. With a little help from songwriter/producer Jill Cunniff, formerly of Luscious Jackson, the first outing from the Cooler Kids is a feel-good summer dance record that definitely doesn't take itself seriously, arriving complete with disco-grooves and bright, new-wave trappings.
The New York-based act was the brainchild of Cunniff and Gamble, who is better-known in dance circles as DJ Kazimir. The two were working with the Pop Rox production team (Janet Jackson, Cher, the Sounds) and in need of a vocalist for the Cooler Kids to become a reality. Treasure, an admirer of Gamble's DJ work, entered the picture after sending him a fan note via email. The two immediately hit it off and, before long, Treasure was auditioning for him.
The Cooler Kids received a boost from "The Lizzie McGuire Movie." The Disney film features the group's first single, "All Around the World (Punk Debutante)," which resulted in some mainstream press, and put the Cooler Kids on the dance-pop map.
The album hasn't reached any of Billboard's charts yet, but the track "Morning Star" appeared last week at No. 37 on Billboard's Hot Dance Music/Club Play tally. The song represents the Cooler Kids at their most innocuous, a retro-pop tune that's as influenced by the Chicago house of Felix da Housecat as it is Kylie Minogue.
Cooler Kids have played a number of random live dates in the past year, including a cred-building gig in Chicago with Erasure. They are streaming the full album on their Web site.
A PLATE OF TACUBA: Formed in the suburbs of Mexico City more than a decade ago, Café Tacuba has emerged as one of the more formidable acts on the rock en Espanol circuit. The genre-hopping band is known for its readiness to experiment, and like contemporaries Kinky, Café Tacuba laces its arrangements with hip-hop and electronic influences to ensure that the dance floor is never empty.
The group scored an American following after collaborating with David Bryne in the mid-'90s, and performed with avant-garde instrumental act the Kronos Quartet on its 1999 album "Reves/Yosoy" (Warner Bros.). That album went on to win a Latin Grammy, but chart success had always alluded Café Tacuba.
New album, "Cuatro Caminos," the band's first for Universal Records
and fifth overall, arrived last week at No. 11 on Billboard's Top Latin Albums chart, the band's first appearance on any of BIllboard's tallies. The album is a little more immediate than the group's far more experimental "Reves/Yosoy," and Café Tacuba has tamed its reggae influences. Yet that doesn't necessarily mean "Cuatro Caminos," which sees the act refining its melodies and more fully embracing electric guitars, is any less ambitious.
The band continues to work with long-time producer Gustava Santaolalla, but has also reached out to American producers such as Andrew Weiss (Ween, Pigface) and Dave Fridmann (Flaming Lips, Longwave). Fridmann, in particular, has helped Café Tacuba more deeply explore its psychedelic tendencies. Indeed, Fridmann-helmed tracks "Mediodia," "Encantamiento Inutil" and "Hola Adios" come off as a south-of-the-border take on Pink Floyd.
The band will stage a brief U.S. tour in early August.