In the late '80s, James Hall was the frontman for Mary My Hope, an atmospheric alt-rock combo the world might have worshiped, if said planet hadn't gravitated toward the Smashing Pumpkins' Gish two years later. Hall recorded some solo records for Geffen that tried to reconcile his love for gritty juke-joint rock and all things psychedelic; naturally, the records tanked, and Hall was dropped.
But none of this means anything in 2003: Hall's current outfit, Pleasure Club, is as lean and mean as a stiletto gleaming under a streetlight. Their self-released 2002 debut, Here Comes the Trick, is a compelling set of dirty rock-and-soul noise, approximating the sound of James Brown's Fabulous Flames and the Contortions covering Exile on Main Street in the parlor of a New Orleans whorehouse. Hall is a dynamic frontman who's able to suck the air out of a room and soothe your aching soul; his bandmates -- taut bassist G.W. Curry, former Sugartooth guitarist Marc Hutner (a DNA experiment of Keith Richards and James "Blood" Ulmer gone horribly right), and righteous drummer Michael Jerome (Blind Boys of Alabama, Richard Thompson) -- routinely jack the heat up in clubs so venue owners can save on their gas bills. Stay at home at your soul's risk: This is the show you will lie to your friends about seeing, a year from now.