Fort Collins-based Matson Jones has been around for a couple of years, but it's only in the last few months that the group has really started carving out its empire. Not that the coed quartet seems crassly ambitious; instead, it's wholly focused on creating music that obliterates expectation even as it captures the brain and heart. With a lineup comprising two cellos, stand-up bass and drums, the outfit crafts a seething, tense tangle of sound resembling that of a chamber-punk PJ Harvey. Newly signed to Sympathy for the Record Industry, the indie label that launched the White Stripes, Matson Jones stands poised to whip its captivating whisper into a full-on roar.

While not entirely a straight-up ramen act (though lead guitarist Damon Wood can noodle with the best of them), Harmonious Junk pulls together savory parts funk, jazz, blues, psychedelic, soul and jam. The versatile outfit is equally comfortable pumping the groove at a Colfax smoke hole or loosening wallets and hips at more upscale clubs downtown. Composed of members of James Brown's band (yep, that James Brown) and local outfits Cocktail Revolution and the Byron Shaw Projex, the band likes to keep it "old-school, organic and boogieable." Expect classic covers, fresh originals and the sweet sounds of real talent.

In July 2001, Tyfoid Mary lost its frontman, Vince Stott, in a fatal car accident. While such a tragedy would cause most bands to hang it up for good, Tyfoid persevered and found a new voice in Jerry Harper. He had his work cut out for him, as Stott was a well-regarded vocalist. But Harper -- a giant in his own right at 6'5" and nearly 300 pounds -- brought with him a monster set of pipes and an imposing stage presence. The result was two stellar releases -- 2002's Nu Strain and last year's brilliant Quarantine -- and a shit ton of momentum. Talk about resuscitation.

Dow Jones, Sid Fly, Aseone, D.O. Da Fabulous Drifta and DJ C.Y. -- the five members of Ground Zero Movement -- have spent much of the past year teasing area hip-hop fans. A few copies of Writer's Square, the exceptional followup to the 2003 full-length Future I.D. , were leaked to the media months ago, but the disc still isn't available from area retailers or on the group's website, www.groundzeromovement.com. With luck, that will change in the coming months. The album is now slated for release this summer, around the same time as a solo joint from Fly is set to drop, and Guns...The New Watermelon, an album by D.O., may be out by mid-April. These side projects don't mean the Movement has come to a standstill. It remains a going concern, and if its current release schedule holds, music lovers will soon be repaid for their patience. Given the group's skills, the wait will most likely be worth it.

When not pulling duty in the veteran local outfit Uphollow, Ian Cooke writes and performs his own music. But instead of going the orthodox acoustic route, the flamboyantly coiffed artist employs electric cello, piano and a wireless microphone headset to sculpt arty, gorgeous pop compositions that are as delicate as they are virtuosic. Combining the pathos of Antony and the Johnsons with the bathos of Freddie Mercury, his shows are buoyant and arresting enough to almost outshine Uphollow's own excellence. Cooke's act may be solo, but there's not a thing missing.

Who would have thought that the 21st century would see a huge resurgence of interest in Guns N' Roses? Too bad Axl Rose is too messed up to capitalize on his own legacy. But picking up his Slash, er, slack is Rocket Queen. Begun as a one-off Guns N' Roses tribute at the popular "Monsters of Mock" concert held every Halloween, the Queen consolidates members of local punk and hardcore bands Shogun, the Gamits, Contender and Signal to Noise. Now, though, the group has become an ongoing affair; with wigs, denim and hip swivels in full effect, Rocket Queen will take you down to Paradise City.

When Chuck French moved to Denver last year to play bass for Planes Mistaken for Stars, he was already playing guitar in a Chicago act called Git Some. Instead of breaking up, the band followed French to Colorado. With handmade demo tapes in hand, the foursome started tearing up bars and basements around town with its chaotic uppercut of groove-gouging post-hardcore. Like a blunt, sloppy mutilation of Deep Purple and Angel Hair, the group rips up a dripping chunk of Midwestern punk vitality and drops it smack in the middle of the Queen City. Git Some? Got it.

It's a rule of thumb: Never include a musical genre in the name of your band. Metal groups with "metal" in their monikers? Bad. Punk outfits called the Punk Rock something-or-others? Even worse. Machine Gun Blues, though, never got the memo. Which sucks, because the quartet's music is a writhing, scorching convulsion of blues rock that sounds about a hundred times more compelling than its handle. Whether MGB christened itself after the Nick Cassavetes movies, the venerable blues standard or the Smashing Pumpkins lyric, the fact remains: Machine Gun Blues, for the love of God and rock and roll, you need a new name.

Best Band Name That Sounds Like a Pee-wee's Playhouse Character

Cowboy Curse

Way before The Matrix, a struggling actor named Laurence Fishburne donned Jheri curls and a ten-gallon hat to play a character called Cowboy Curtis on the Saturday-morning kids' show, Pee-wee's Playhouse. Today we have Cowboy Curse, a trio featuring bassist Tyler Campo, singer/guitarist Ben Bergstrand, and Ben's brother, Josh Bergstrand of the Symptoms, on drums. The band name actually comes from a pitchforkmedia.com article that talks about how touring acts view Denver as a cursed place. But it's much more fun to imagine Cowboy Curtis perched on the band's shoulder like a muse, belting out bucktoothed harmonies and playing air guitar to Cowboy Curse's angelic, Shins-infused indie pop.

Tobias Jupiter was a strong contender for this year's "Best Band With the Worst Name" award, but the quintet dodged that honor by changing its name last month to the FlashBangs. Where Tobias Jupiter stumbled clumsily off the tongue, the group's streamlined new moniker efficiently sums up its sound: a bright, loud burst of indie-powered rock and roll sparkling with cruel hooks and brash female vocals. The band recently finished recording its debut CD with Bryan Feuchtinger of Hot IQs -- and The FlashBangs, thankfully, will be the name emblazoned across its cover.

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