What do you do for a second act when the bedroom rock band you formed with your little brother and a couple high school buddies churned up some of the richest soil of a musically fecund age? The Swell Maps, led by Nikki Sudden and his brother, the late Epic Soundtracks, have gotten props over the years from members of Sonic Youth, Big Black, and Pavement for their prescient blend of punk economy, Krautrock-inspired experimentation, and lo-fi production values. But Sudden took a decisive turn when the Maps broke up in 1980, adopting the persona of a folk-rock troubadour and the wardrobe of a glam rocker. His beautiful-loser laments owed more to Bob Dylan and Neil Young than to erstwhile inspirations Can and Faust; and whereas the teenage Swell Maps looked like a bunch of comic-book collectors, he came off like a composite of Marc Bolan and Keith Richards, with his leather pants, silk scarves, garish costume jewelry, ruffled shirts, and omnipresent dangling cigarette. In 1984 he hooked up with fellow mascara junkie Dave Kusworth, and as the Jacobites they made several fine collections (Jacobites and Robespierre's Velvet Basement are both available on Mammoth) of tunefully off-the-frilly-cuff semiacoustic laments about lost love and their own mythical existence as rock 'n' roll fops. After the two songwriters split in 1986, Sudden used the name for a few solo projects, but in 1993 he reunited with Kusworth, and the duo's second wind has lasted far longer than its first. God Save Us Poor Sinners (on Bomp!, which is also planning a Swell Maps anthology) is the Jacobites' first U.S. release in 13 years, and it's pretty uneven. They get their rocks off in vintage Stones fashion on the title track and wax satisfyingly Dylan-esque on "Never Apart," but just sound embarrassing on the Humbert Humbert rave-up "Teenage Christmas." Sudden has played three solo shows here (during a 1998 visit he even recorded an album with his local disciples the Chamber Strings), but this is the Jacobites' first Chicago appearance. Saturday, 10 PM, Lounge Ax, 2438 N Lincoln; 773-525-6620. Bill Meyer
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Steve Gridley.