Twenty-five years ago the Rolling Stones were making the best music of their career, having transcended their blues influences to create a dangerous-sounding new strain of rock. Now they're desperately trying to shake off the moss, hiring hot producers like the Dust Brothers and Danny Saber to inject their feeble new Bridges to Babylon with a shot of the latest youth tonic. Although the Grifters' fifth and latest album, Full Blown Possession (Sub Pop), was released well before the new Stones record, the Memphis quartet's liner-note pledge "not to incorporate hip-hop beats in an attempt to reach a younger audience" bears relevance not only to geezers like the Stones, David Bowie, and Rickie Lee Jones but also to tentative new underground electronica nibblers from Bowery Electric to Superchunk. The Grifters place their bets solidly on jagged pop hooks, off-kilter blues structures, and keen dynamics--much like the Rolling Stones of yore. Guitarist-vocalists Dave Shouse and Scott Taylor put their own twist on dirty-white soul, yanking the melodies on tunes like "Re-Entry Blues" and "Spaced Out" through plenty of unexpected turns, and the quartet's instrumentation is flexible enough to follow them. Last year on Ain't My Lookout the Grifters stopped letting every song fall almost completely apart before shuffling the pieces back together, a wise restraint they've carried over to the new album. The faithful may miss this deliberate chaos, but really, the Grifters have so many good songs now the illusion's no longer necessary. Friday, 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 773-276-3600. PETER MARGASAK
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by David A Wawlega.