No matter what you think of the polarizing Deerhoof, they're never predictable. Even those who dismiss the San Francisco band as pompous modern prog-rockers give drummer Greg Saunier credit for scoring the Will Ferrell comedy Step Brothers (think anyone in Van der Graaf Generator would do that?). And collaborations with Swiss punk legends LiLiPut and wordy alt-rapper Busdriver keep their impossible-to-peg rep alive, especially since their music is about as hip-hop-ready as Captain Beefheart's. There's also guitarist John Dieterich's riff innovations and the occasionally stunning musical allusions racing through the group's songs. Deeerhoof's hyperactivity (and inconsistency) over the past 15 years is matched by very few of their peers. Their most recent album, Offend Maggie, is two years old. But Deerhoof is a band that's best ingested live, where Satomi Matsuzaki's screeching tones and Dieterich's clashing guitar zigzags produce three dimensions of aural sensation. Their various career highlights mesh perfectly with the time signatures that play out onstage. — Dan Weiss
Deerhoof, with Xiu Xiu and Father Murphy. 9 p.m. Thursday, October 7. Grog Shop. Tickets: $14, $12 in advance; call 216-321-5588 or go to grogshop.gs.
Kathy Foster, bassist for the politically minded pop-punks the Thermals, can't even remember the 2000 election. In 2004, it was "super-disappointing." In 2008, she was at her friend's bar watching the results unfold on computers, and she was damn near euphoric. "It just seemed too easy," she says. "There was just such a huge feeling of relief." This probably best explains the theme of the Thermals' latest album, Personal Life, which features mostly songs about relationships. For a band that toasted the previous administration with "Pray for a new state/Pray for assassination," it's easy to wonder what new cause will keep the Portland band's pop-punk on the punk side of things. Are the Thermals at their best when the country is at its worst? "I wouldn't say that music is better when things are bad politically, but I think it definitely inspires people to write songs about it," says Foster. "You get angry, you get upset, you put it into your music. There are always things to be upset about, but it seems like the music scene that I've been in has been not so focused on politics recently. More of the bands are just having a good time." And make no mistake, the Thermals are still a good time. — Jeremy Henderson
The Thermals, with Cymbals Eat Guitars and the Hundred in the Hands. 9 p.m. Friday, October 8. Beachland Ballroom. Tickets: $15, $14 in advance; call 216-383-1124 or go to beachlandballroom.com.
Raul Malo got his start fronting the Mavericks, the adventurous country group that managed to snag a Grammy in the mid-'90s. He has one of the most marvelous voices in pop music — a rich, suave croon that reaches Roy Orbison heights while still sounding as sexy as early Elvis. The Miami-born, Nashville-based Malo is a man of many musical moods, languages, and interests. Since the Mavericks rode off into the sunset a decade ago, he's performed with the all-star Tex-Mex band Los Super Seven, released some bluegrass music, delivered a Christmas record, and recorded a pair of stylish cover albums. His last two CDs — 2009's Lucky One and the just-released Sinners and Saints — feature more conventional sounds, even though they're still far from Nashville's norm. Malo slips smoothly between countrypolitan, Latin, early rock & roll, R&B, and Americana roots, crafting songs that feel both retro and modern. He's backed by a crackerjack touring quartet, so you can expect to get an earful of Sinners and Saints highlights like "Superstar," "Staying Here," and "'Til I Gain Control Again." — Michael Berick
Raul Malo. 8 p.m. Sunday, October 10. Kent Stage. Tickets: $28.50-$36.50; call 330-677-5005 or go to kentstage.org.
Any concert Cleveland-born singer-songwriter Marc Cohn gives these days is a blessing. The Beachwood High School and Oberlin College grad survived a gunshot to the head during an attempted carjacking a few years ago. His last album of original music, 2007's Join the Parade, delved headlong into this life-altering event with quite a bit of solemnity. After taking stock of his life and airing some predictable world-weariness, Cohn's latest album, Listening Booth: 1970, comes across like a summer breeze by comparison. Cover records can be a terrible idea, but Cohn reworks a set of 40-year-old classics with real gravitas. Highlights include versions of Cat Stevens' "Wild World," Paul McCartney's "Maybe I'm Amazed," Badfinger's "No Matter What" (with Aimee Mann), and an intrepid take on Van Morrison's "Into the Mystic." Still, Cohn will always be known for "Walking in Memphis," which earned him a Best New Artist Grammy in 1991. Always great in concert, Cohn should light up the intimate Kent Stage this week and save his most popular song for the encore. — Peter Chakerian
Marc Cohn. 8 p.m. Tuesday, October 12. Kent Stage. Tickets: $30; call 330-677-5005 or go to kentstage.org.