Shai Halperin of the Capitol Years isn't sure if his music is evolving or devolving. "Let's say it's both," he notes with a deadpan chuckle.
This is a man who admits he grew up feeling different with a name like Shai (pronounced shy)." It's not like Butch or Jimmy," he says. "So I always had a cultural separation."
Halperin was born in Israel and moved to New Jersey when he was 4. He became a huge Beatles fan at "age 8 or 9 when I went to see the movie 'Ferris Bueller's Day Off.' There was a parade scene . . . and you can hear the Beatles doing 'Twist and Shout.' . . . I got obsessed with that."
The Beatles were just the beginning. There were other influences "like Sonic Youth, the Ramones, Bob Dylan, and Neil Young. Then I had an Archers of Loaf/college rock/Pavement phase," adds Halperin, whose astute musical knowledge has made the Capitol Years one of the most compelling old-school-meets-modern-rock bands in today's market. The group plays Great Scott in Allston this Tuesday, then issues its fourth album, "Let Them Drink," on March 8.
The Capitol Years' first record was made in Halperin's bedroom in 2001, but the new CD was done in an isolated house in Northampton. It was recorded by Thom Monahan, who also plays bass with the Pernice Brothers and has worked with J Mascis and Beachwood Sparks. The band's Beatles influence shines in several tracks -- from the John Lennon-style "Going Down" to the fractured "Giant Drunks," which includes the funny Halperin verse, "As they ask you to talk, you just slur."
Halperin is deliberately oblique in many of his lyrics, but a prominent theme on the new disc is what happens if you get sucked in too deeply by the bar scene. "You're on the floor looking around -- and everyone there wants to be loved," he says of some clubgoing denizens. One song, "Nothing to Say," describes this merry-go-round existence.
But the track is not meant to be autobiographical. "I'm more of an observer. I spend more time in the corner," he says.
Halperin is a rock antihero -- and he likes it when you call some of his lyrics vague. "I always enjoyed that with R.E.M.," he says. "I'd make up lyrics to their songs that would sometimes be more fun." But then he adds, "I have a film analysis background, so I could overtalk some of these things." (He studied film at Rutgers University.)
A few new songs have a slacker-pop dreaminess. But most have an engaging pulse even if you might have no idea what they're about, though some are also self-explanatory, such as "Everyone Is a Skunk."
In some ways, this Shai is not shy. But in others, he's still the kid back in his bedroom making music that he didn't expect the world to hear.
The Capitol Years offer songs that are like pop miniatures (one new tune is only 56 seconds long), but they make you want to hear more.
Tweeter 20th: This summer marks the 20th anniversary of the 19,900-capacity Tweeter Center in Mansfield. An early booking to mark the anniversary is a double bill with Oasis and Jet on June 24. All tickets will be $20 and go on sale Feb. 26. There will be an added facility charge of $6 per ticket, but that is down from $7 last year, according to Dave Marsden, who books the venue for Clear Channel Entertainment. Most shows will have a $20 lawn ticket price -- and consumers can bring in blankets and coolers (but not alcohol). "The days of taking a water bottle away from you at the gate are gone," says Marsden. "We're going to get away from that mentality. There will be more customer convenience."
New from MassConcerts: As the region's alternative promoter to Clear Channel, MassConcerts has to step lively, but it's doing just that with a heady array of new shows. Going on sale today at 10 a.m. are the following concerts: Jimmy Cliff at the Somerville Theatre March 22, Tegan & Sara at the Somerville Theatre April 13, Fantomas and the Locust at the Roxy April 13, Victor Wooten at the Somerville Theatre April 14, and Melissa Ferrick at the Somerville Theatre May 6. The company also just booked Taking Back Sunday and Jimmy Eat World into the Dunkin' Donuts Center in Providence April 16. Tickets on sale tomorrow at 10 a.m.
Bits and pieces: Look for Alicia Keys to headline the Wang Theatre April 14 with John Legend as supporting act. No ticket details yet. . . . Green Day has booked UMass-Amherst's Mullins Center April 30 with My Chemical Romance opening. Tickets on sale Feb. 18. Green Day will swing back to Boston this summer, but no venue is yet confirmed. . . . Many local musicians are playing the Plough & Stars tomorrow and Sunday from 3 to 11:30 p.m. to raise funds to better soundproof the club as required by the Cambridge License Commission. Tomorrow's lineup includes Tom Hagerty & Friends, Electrolux, Zipper, Kevin Connelly, and more; while Sunday has Larry Flint and the Road Scholars, Asa Brebner (with Pat Hamel and Mickey Bones), Stan Martin, Los Diablos, and others. . . . Mission of Burma is at Somerville Theatre April 29 (on sale tomorrow), Sting at Agganis Arena May 5 (on sale today). . . . Local reggae legend Ras Junior died in his sleep Jan. 29. Here's a tribute from Kyle Russell, who oversees the Sunday night reggae showcases at Bill's Bar: "When I moved to Boston 20 years ago, he was one of the first dreads I met. We became lifelong friends. He showed me around Jamaica the first time I went. He championed me against haters. I backed him and his group Reincarnation many times." . . . Tonight: Prime Movers at the Overdraught Pub, Lamont at the Middle East Upstairs, and moe. opens two nights at the Palladium in Worcester. . . . Tomorrow: Baby Strange and Violet Nine at the Paradise. . . . The ever-improving Kelly Buchanan at the Lizard Lounge followed by indie-rockers New Radiant Storm King. . . . Sunday: The Bee's Knees at Harpers Ferry; and the Lost City Angels headline the third annual St. Valentine's Day Massacre at the Middle East Upstairs, starting at 1 p.m.