Howl at the tune

Have Cold War Kids found success because of Nathan Willett's vocals or in spite of them? Like a rabid dog unleashed in an unsuspecting neighborhood, Willett is known to engage in fits of uncontrolled howling. His nasally outbursts recall everyone from whimpering indie-rockers Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and The Walkmen to aggro-crooners like System of a Down's Serj Tankian.

The band's blend of bluesy indie rock sounds much better when Willett reigns in his microphone antics and serves the song. More often than not, though, he flaunts his vocal chords with all the majesty of a Lil Wayne guitar solo.

One prime example is "Something Is Not Right With Me," the lead single from the group's sophomore LP, Loyalty to Loyalty. The minimal three-chord jam employs slinky bass, a rigid drum beat and pounding piano to emerge with something like a Spoon song. But where that band's Britt Daniel would deliver an understated take with perfectly punctuated bursts of enthusiasm, Willett wails at full blast from start to finish.

The band is capable of writing some brilliant pop-rock tunes, especially when Willett shows restraint as on "Dreams Old Men Dream." And there's a certain underdog charm to be found in a group that can become rock stars with such an unconventional singer. Then again, Korn did that too, and I'm not sure I ever want to hear from them again.

-Chris DeVille

What: Cold War Kids

When: Sunday, Oct. 12

Where: Newport Music Hall, Campus

Web: promowestlive.com

Good catch

You gotta get the music to the people. Were more Americans to discover Catfish Haven, it seems safe to assume they would become one of this country's best known, most beloved bands. The Chicago trio's new Devastator skillfully embraces classic rock, country and soul with no winking and nodding. The album sounds like it would go over just as well at a truck stop as it does in indie-rock dive bars. But Catfish Haven is sticking with the latter for now, including a stop at Carabar. The free show presented by DoneWaiting.com will also feature Earwig, the Exceptionals and the latest reunion appearance by highly enjoyable locals Preston Furman. -Chris DeVille

What: Catfish Haven

When: Friday, Oct. 10

Where: Carabar, Olde Towne East

Web: donewaiting.com

Rare species

There's no easy way to describe what The Dodos do, and certainly not in 100 words. But getting that disclaimer out of the way helps get the idea across for a band this adventurous. Meric Long and Logan Kroeber go in a bazillion directions with their music, which remains accessible thanks to a keen sense of melody but never sounds much like conventional rock due to a fun fascination with experimental drumming. Their album Visiter sounds like a collection of other bands' throwaway interludes given an extreme makeover by mad scientists. They'll make Milo their lab this Saturday after openers Au. -Chris DeVille

What: The Dodos

When: Saturday, Oct. 11

Where: Milo Arts, Milo-Grogan

Web: bencopresents.com

New arrangements

The Kooks' first album, Inside In/Inside Out, was jangly, brash and brazen enough to sound like a live show, and its follow-up works much like a studio version released in reverse order. Konk, out since April, is energetic but easy on the ears, catchy but contained. Rather than one loud burst about booze, birds, Britain, breasts and booze, it's an album pieced together by a group more comfortable with arrangements. They realized expanding a sound doesn't detract from it - and became a better band in the process. - John Ross

What: The Kooks

When: Tuesday, Oct. 14

Where: Newport Music Hall, Campus

Web: thekooks.com

Beards are back

Members of ZZ Top constructed a sound all their own, and there's only one way to describe it. This is what Texans with hot rods and sweet beards blared on a Saturday night en route to the juke joint, circa 1983. Eventually, everyone else caught on. Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill and Frank Beard are known for "Sharp Dressed Man," a classic treatise on what women want, but the rest of Eliminator and earlier offering Tres Hombres are just as amazing. -John Ross

What: ZZ Top

When: Friday, Oct. 10

Where: Palace Theatre, Downtown

Web: zztop.com