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Spot Check



BLUE OYSTER CULT 8/7, NAVY PIER I went out and bought Secret Treaties, Agents of Fortune, and Tyranny and Mutation--on CD this time--to see just how glorious these smart-ass Long Islanders' glory days had actually been. Turns out I was a lot smarter in junior high than I remember. BOC's catchy, intricate hard rock still sounds pretty good, and their complex yarns--conspiracy theories involving demented bikers, Lovecraftian sea creatures, the side effects of radiation, and Nazis from outer space--place them down the hall from Funkadelic in the pantheon of pioneers of Roswell rock. What until recently was BOC's swan song, 1988's Imaginos (Columbia), brought the original lineup together for the first time in years, then tore it apart. Drummer and bassist Albert and Joe Bouchard and producer-manager-songwriter Sandy Pearlman remain gone, and the band's current guest lyricist, cyberhorror writer John Shirley, isn't quite on a par with the luminaries who've contributed in the past--including gonzo critic Richard Meltzer, Patti Smith (who dated keyboardist Allen Lanier in the 70s), and sci-fi author and Hawkwind collaborator Michael Moorcock. But Lanier, vocalist-guitarist Eric Bloom, and, most important, lead guitarist Donald "Buck Dharma" Roeser are hanging in there, and though their brand-new Heaven Forbid (on CMC International, the label responsible for resurrecting Styx, Night Ranger, and Loverboy) probably won't win too many new fans, it won't deeply embarrass old ones either.

WRIGHTWALLEYS 8/7, House of Blues This local sextet harks back to a golden age when bands were hairier and sheep were scared. But its bluesy bluster is more quaint than menacing, its .38 Specialisms a smooth backdrop for irony, and the only surprise on their new self-titled EP is that it takes six people to play this stuff.

SMOKIN' JOE KUBEK 8/8, BUDDY GUY'S legends Though the band is named for its flashiest member--blues cliche number 126, the longhaired white guy with sunglasses and too much jewelry--it's actually the interplay between lead guitarist Kubek and rhythm player and vocalist Bnois King that lifts its sixth album, Take Your Best Shot (Bullseye), well above your standard electric blues-rock wanking. The two men dare each other into unexpected moves, and even in the moments that are more purple than blue, they seem charmingly lost in the sheer joy of playing.

ELLIOTT SHARP 8/10, EMPTY BOTTLE For more than 20 years Elliott Sharp has been a mainstay of New York's downtown music scene, and that's a nonstop gig: a discography I printed from the Web of his work as composer, sideman, producer, and musician added a few pounds to my knapsack. Versatility is Sharp's hallmark, in the style and sounds of his music, the instruments he plays (primarily reeds and guitars, but also computers, pennywhistles, and things he invented himself), and the folks he plays them with. No wave? No problem, and bring on the funk, free the jazz, turn the mood up or down, go electronic or acoustic, step into an eerie trance with harpist Zeena Parkins, compose a modern-classical work for the Soldier String Quartet, or pay homage to Burt Bacharach (on a recent Tzadik compilation). Atavistic's recent reissues of his 70s work reveal that the chameleon skin has been there all along--it seems quite possible that his environment has adapted to him and not vice versa. This is a rare opportunity to observe what happens when he's removed from his natural habitat.

MOE TUCKER 8/11, THURSTON'S In a fanzine interview not too long ago, Moe Tucker recounted how, upon finally meeting her longtime idol Bo Diddley, she addressed him as "Mr. Diddley." That was back when she was still drumming for the Velvet Underground, but even today there are vestiges of that polite innocence about the most pleasant person in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. You can still write to her at her Georgia post office box, order a CD directly from her, and get a friendly note back into the bargain. Her solo work ranges from celebrations of 60s girl-group pop to crude, high-spirited homages to Diddley and her own past as the nice Catholic girl in the eye of the hurricane (with guest appearances by her old VU cohorts as well as young sprouts like Sonic Youth). She's a friendly, naive-sounding singer and a functional rhythm guitarist, but her true genius is the beat. Deceptively simple, tribal, and propulsive, it's a raw, true sound that doesn't require any other living legends to achieve liftoff--last fall at Empty Bottle she lent her talents to mediocre D.C. popsters Magnet, who had to outdo themselves just to keep up with her. Her latest project is an appearance on Not Dogs...Too Simple (A Tale of Two Kitties), a wry, satirical CD for children and with-it adults by Atlanta songwriter Mark Harper. Narrated by Ian Dury, the tale features Tucker as the voice of Luis, a sheltered "collar-wearing member of the feline bourgeoisie" who longs for adventure. (Cindy Wilson of the B-52's is the voice of Luis's human; the 32-page booklet was illustrated by singer-songwriter Jack Logan, who drew the seminotorious "Pete Buck" comics of the mid-80s.) Judging from reports of other recent shows, at this appearance, set up by the Chicago Underground Film Festival, Tucker and her backing band will probably shuffle around between drums, guitars, and vocals on a broad selection of her tunes.

DRAGON GIRLS 8/13, EMPTY BOTTLE This local quartet's bio tells me it "formed as a way to express the fronting members' interest in vaudeville, new Hong Kong cinema, costume design, and punk." Only the last element really comes through on the Girls' debut CD, Pink Beef (Kikurass Records), but it's the kind of punk I like, laden with crude, smug pop shriek and smirk of the lady-wiseass variety (though only singer-guitarist Litha Ramirez is a girl). Possibly the other stuff comes out live.

GIRLS AGAINST BOYS 8/13, METRO At their best shiveringly intense, at their worst sounding like the mere sum of influences they collect, these D.C. lookers have always managed to bridge the cultural gap between self-consciously "decadent" industrial-disco fans and self-consciously "old school" punks. The new Freakonica isn't one of the band's high points, though; only slightly more clever than its title, it scatters crunchy power chords over what's basically the best Nitzer Ebb imitation I've heard in a long time. Plus, now that the album has finally made it out of Geffen's deep dark maw (the band's last LP came out in early '96 on Touch and Go, and was preceded by three others over four years), is there anyone left to cross that bridge?

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photor of Moe Tucker by James Crump-RSP.

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