One of the founding fathers of New Zealand's fertile punk rock scene, Chris Knox has quietly built up a substantial body of work that clearly establishes his highly unusual but thoroughly persuasive pop smarts. After graduating from the Enemy and Toy Love in the late 70s and forming the legendary Tall Dwarfs with Alec Bathgate, Knox developed a distinctive style that nonchalantly presaged America's lo-fi movement; his recordings tend to be thrifty affairs, guided solely by creative invention. The last Tall Dwarfs albums, for example, eschew not only drums but drum machines, opting instead to sample everyday sounds and inventively loop them into rhythm tracks. Whereas TD's music bristles with delightful oddness, Knox's solo work relies on unabashed hook-laden pop melodies and idiosyncratic, somewhat strident, but extremely personal lyrics. His latest opus, the 21-song collection Songs of You & Me (Caroline), offers little musical change from his previous solo efforts, but you won't confuse it with anything else out there. Knox's live performances are equally distinctive. Armed with an electric guitar, a microphone headset, and occasionally abetted by a cheap portable keyboard called an Omnichord, Knox darts around the stage--part comedian, part cheerleader, part rocker, part crooner, all thoroughly entertaining and compelling. Two prime shakers of California's Inland Empire bedroom-rock scene open: Mountain Goats and John Davis, who serves in the Folk Implosion with Sebadoh's Lou Barlow. Thursday, July 6, 9 PM, Lounge Ax, 2438 N. Lincoln; 525-6620. Free in-store performance next Friday, July 7, 1 PM, Ajax Records, 2156 W. Chicago; 772-4783.