Throw Rag return from early career abyss to mop up audiences 

For some, rock 'n' roll is a waypoint on the road to adulthood, but for many of its misfits, mavericks and miscreants, it represents a ledge above a descent into more harrowing pursuits. It's potentially a narrow, circumscribed life that doesn't offer a lot of shelter from the elements or room for anyone but bandmates, yet the opportunity to act out nightly in front of enabling, gawking strangers is exactly the sustenance many crave.

It's never been easy for Throw Rag and front man "Captain" Sean Wheeler, but this musical lifer's circuitous route eventually put asphalt beneath his feet and a crowd in front of him with whom the singer shares a little high-energy, country punk reminiscent of Supersuckers. Throw Rag's crackling pulse races like Jason Statham in "Crank," amid a crash of four punk chords juiced with rockabilly swing.

Inspired in part by the hot-blooded country-billy of Flat Duo Jets, Wheeler began Throw Rag in 1993, but it took a long time for the California band to gather any momentum, due largely to drugs.

"I was always stuck on stupid, running around in circles shooting dope as a kid," Wheeler said. "I'd just wasted time spinning my wheels, and when I stopped, I was able to obsess on something else, and that was music."

But just because he gave up the junk didn't mean Wheeler left self-sabotage behind. The group fudged the date of its initial release, "Tee-Tot," to make its early career abyss seem smaller, but that only amplified confusion because of the vast difference between its amped country swing and the no-prisoners punk chug of the second album, 2003's "Desert Shores."

The disc is basically a live album, recorded with no more than a few takes and very little production. It's highlighted by ringing blasts like the trashy, old-school punk ode, "Bag of Glue"; the stomping, Sex Pistols-ish sneer of "Hollywood"; and careening rave-up "Rule Maker." It's good, if a bit raw.

Wheeler's happy to return for the Monday show at The Conservatory, a club he counts among Throw Rag's best draws, and is looking forward to visiting the neighboring Size Records. He offered this advice to other potential rockers, culled from more than a quarter-century of making music:

"Go marry rich women," he said. "That's the best advice I can give to anyone in a band. After you marry those rich girls, you can go out and be in a rock band without worrying about everything that's going to come with it."

Throw Rag with Billy Joe Winghead and Mary Tyler Morphine perform at 9 p.m. Monday at The Conservatory, 8911 N. Western. "Chris Parker

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