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I guess the Cougars took one look at all the garage-rock duos out there and decided to go in the opposite direction: really, it doesn't take eight guys to play this stuff, but these locals pile on with sadistic gusto. Their 2003 debut, Nice, Nice (Go Kart), was a sort of matter-antimatter collision of the minimal and maximal: shrill, chord-rich keyboards and out-of-control soul horns lent some color and shading to a fierce post-post-hardcore version of the clean-and-mean school of rock 'n' roll. Songs like "She Can Wear Gold" and "Kelly Has Sweater Breasts" break down and rave up with such schizo-on-the-bus intensity they almost sound like parody, but if the joke's on anyone it's on those who think this kind of music can't possibly sound fresh and new again. Their 2004 EP, Manhandler (Thick), proved the debut wasn't a fluke; Pillow Talk, produced by Steve Albini, comes out on Go Kart in early 2006. Horace Pinker, Explode and Make Up, and Lynyrd's Innards open. Thu 12/22, 8 PM, Beat Kitchen, 2100 W. Belmont, 773-281-4444, $7, 18+.

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