SXSW 2009, night three: Tinted Windows, Superdrag & Graham Coxon

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Tinted Windows: Bun E. Carlos, James Iha, Taylor Hanson, Adam Schlesinger.

All of the highlights on my third night of music in Austin came at a venue called Pangea, which is quite clearly an awful dance club when it isn’t commandeered by SXSW, and they started with a solo set by Britpop hero Graham Coxon.

Though Coxon will always be best known for his partnership with Damon Albarn, with whom he reportedly is about to reunite for another go-round with Blur, the guitarist has been a prolific solo artist, with the sounds on his seven indie albums ranging from aggressive but melodic punk/garage-rock to introspective and skewed folk music echoing Syd Barrett and Nick Drake.

Coxon’s SXSW set leaned heavily on the latter style, and while the boomy dance club sometimes swallowed his quiet material, and he lacks the stage presence of his former mate Albarn (or of Pete Doherty, whom he backed on a new solo album called “Grace/Wastelands”), he persevered and delivered several magical moments for anyone willing to listen.

Much easier to follow was the high-energy power-pop rush of Superdrag, the best Britpop band ever from Knoxville, Tenn. Having compiled a strong and deliriously hook-filled discography between 1992 and 2002, the band went on hiatus the following year, but is now reactivated and supporting another strong release, “Industry Giants.” (The band performs at Metro on April 25.)

Superdrag’s sugar buzz was undeniable, and it was the perfect appetizer for Tinted Windows, the new supergroup that qualifies as one of the strangest ever assembled, but which also promises to be one of the most artistically successful.

Devoted to classic power-pop jangle with just a hint of bubblegum silliness, the group includes Cheap Trick drummer Bun E. Carlos (always a joy to watch in live performance), Adam Schlesinger of Fountains of Wayne, Taylor Hanson of the early ’90s teen-pop phenoms Hanson and guitarist James Iha, who was performing Tinted Windows’ first high-profile gig just hours after the announcement that his former band mate Jimmy Chamberlin had quit their old band and left Billy Corgan to play in his sand box all alone.

Augmented by an extra guitarist whose identity I didn’t catch, the new group played with bountiful exuberance and ample confidence–hardly a surprise, given all of the combined experience. But you can sample the music for yourself at the band’s Web site,, or catch it live at Double Door on April 30.

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