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BASEBALL FURIES 11/22, HIDEOUT Formed in Buffalo but now based in Chicago, this quartet keeps one foot firmly planted in rock 'n' roll's alleged grave--its first full-length, Greater Than Ever (Big Neck), quaintly claims to have a side one and a side two. But as they rifle through five decades' worth of rude, raw punk and protopunk, the Furies can be fiendishly precise one moment, serendipitously sloppy the next, and a certain excitement comes from not knowing which mood will strike when. Listening to them is like watching a well-lubed machine hum along, knowing that at any time it could start spewing cogs and gears. LISA LOEB 11/22, SCHUBAS Depending on whom you ask, sultry nrrrd-grrrl Lisa Loeb either made vintage eyeglasses extracool or ruined them for all time back in 1994--and she's working on her third comeback since then. For Hello Lisa (Artemis), she's shrewdly chosen a couple unexpected collaborators: Randy Scruggs and Dweezil Zappa cowrote a couple tunes, and Sanrio created a Hello Kitty marketing tie-in. While that saccharine feline is probably coolest with the thirtysomething women to whom the record's slick production and singer-songwritery tunecraft is obviously geared, you might well see some crossover with actual kids--bookish girls wise beyond their years who'd just as soon keep their navels covered, thank you very much. Loeb may be cute, but she never stoops to cutesy, and she retains the smart spark that first earned her respect on the New York club scene, then helped her keep her footing when the alt-rock boom busted. This show is sold-out. WE RAGAZZI 11/22, EMPTY BOTTLE All too often, you can keep a good band down. This local trio released a few excellent singles and a promising debut two years ago, then disappeared. But they're back with a new album, The Ache (Self-Starter Foundation), that recaptures all their early energy while focusing more intently on songwriting. The recording is clear and sophisticated, adorned with details like the Nick Cave-ish piano line plinked by Colleen Burke on "Forever Surrender 2 U" and anchored by new drummer Timothy McConville, whose thick patterns enliven the title track's proggy guitar-and-synth intro. MY LIFE WITH THE THRILL KILL KULT, CHERRIE BLUE, VOODOU 11/23, METRO It seems like someone set up the dance-industrial machine that is My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult to loop forever, then walked away in the mid-90s. The band's surprisingly seductive new album, Elektrik Inferno Live (Invisible), suggests that live performance, with its physical constraints and built-in audience feedback, is more their medium than the studio, which is relatively lacking in checks and balances. One of the group's longtime singer-dancers, Cherrie Blue, has an unremarkable record of slick modern-primitive ooga-boogie called Chemical Messiah, and will perform a set of her own here. But the real prize in this showcase for Martin Atkins's Invisible Records empire is Voodou, whose Blessing of Curses mixes the mock exotica of Dead Can Dance with the playful allure of the Creatures, adding a more accessible four-on-the-floor thump to hook a whole new generation of beautiful people. LUCERO 11/24, BEAT KITCHEN It takes a lot of bluster and macho melancholy to pull off southern-fried indie rock without sounding like you're kidding, and this Memphis quartet maintains the necessary critical mass all through their second album, Tennessee (Mad Jack). Can't fault them on skill or commitment. Can fault them, though, on their earnestness, which they lay on with a trowel--the southern-boogie masters were a bit subtler than that. This turgid stuff winds up stranded in a DMZ between the Drive-by Truckers and Pearl Jam. MOUNTAIN 11/24, ABBEY PUB Yes, that Mountain--the dumbly named hard rockers who enslaved a generation to the clunk of the cowbell with their hit "Mississippi Queen"--one of those defining moments of an era, I suppose. With two original members--guitarist Leslie West and drummer Corky Laing (a third, Cream producer Felix Pappalardi, was killed by his wife in 1983)--this New York band is doing better than many on the various really-old-school circuits. There's even a new album out, Mystic Fire (Lightyear Entertainment), an utterly time-warped piece of 70s whomp rock that features an ill-advised version of "Fever" and two tracks with guest vocals by Joe Lynn Turner, best known for having fronted Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow for a few post-Dio records. OTEP 11/26, METRO Otep Shamaya has said that being a woman in a male-dominated world is like "being a very qualified diaper...that is never removed from the active ass of a very large, gluttonous baby"--and as the only woman on this year's Ozzfest lineup, she should know. Her Capitol debut, Sevas Tra ("art saves" backward), incorporates elements of nu metal's hip-hop bastardry without the usual rhythmically challenged hysteria--the beat actually swings a bit and its groove stays true to the old-school metal grind. And it's way beyond cool to hear that Cookie Monster growl come out of a girl. SOFT CELL 11/27, METRO Though remembered in the U.S. as a one-hit wonder, the duo of Marc Almond and Dave Ball had more to offer than "Tainted Love." Almond adopted the persona of a polymorphously perverse leather-clad lounge lizard who slinks through the sexual underworld, reporting back atop pulsing synth pop that at its best showed up Depeche Mode as sterile poseurs who were afraid to get their hands (or other body parts) dirty. Even if this reunion tour is a cash-in, it's far from the sad spectacle of flabby ex-musicians applying rusty skills to a handful of hits older than much of the audience--the brand-new Cruelty Without Beauty (Spinart) stacks up just fine against past work and comes with a bonus CD that includes remixes of the new track "Monoculture" by Jan Driver, Playgroup's Trevor Jackson, and Antoine 99 & Oggie B. Without Soft Cell's brand of heavy-breathing yet icily shrewd serpentine pop, Trent Reznor might never have thought to add sex to his mix. Suicide lite, or maybe Kraftwerk with glands.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Heidi Brill.

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