When Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo turned inward for 1996's Pinkerton, a painfully candid snapshot of a troubled moment in his life, it exposed a darker, self-conscious side of a band whose debut two years earlier had made everybody love cheerful, feel-good power-pop. But the duality of those two very different sides of the same music -- happy-sounding songs sung blue -- was partially responsible for bringing indie rock and pop to a wider audience.
Round Black Ghosts, comprised of former and current members of several other local bands, including Waking Matthew, the Hi-Speeds and Hang the Radio, possess that same quality on their self-titled, self-released debut album. (In case you're wondering about the band's name, it's a reference to old vinyl records, from a documentary about eccentric filmmaker and American folk-music anthologist Harry Smith.)
Round Black Ghosts' songs are all catchy and radio-friendly, but they also hit home with introspective lyrics that extend beyond pop. Fot example, take the clever delivery on "Hypochondriac," where vocalist Aaron Shafer avows the certainties of death and taxes over exaggeratedly upbeat sing-song backing vocals. There are more subdued moments on the album as well, like "Bookmark" and "The Wire," which evoke the pretty drama of Coldplay with more of a low-fi take on the vocals and instrumentation. Other songs capture the quirky spirit of the Shins, with jangly guitar riffs over bouncy bass lines, as in "A Dead Man's Wardrobe."
All comparisons aside, Round Black Ghosts have their own, distinct way of writing solid indie-rock and alternative songs. The band recorded the album in Shafer's house over the course of three months, and for no more than the rental costs of the equipment they used, but the home-made impression sort of adds to the charm.
Round Black Ghosts with Now You See Them and The Armadillos. 10:30 p.m. Tue., Dec. 30. Club Café, 56-58 S. 12th St., South Side. $6. 412-431-4950 or www.clubcafelive.com