Lifter Puller | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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It's sort of redundant to praise a decent indie-rock band for being ironic and "edgy," isn't it? After all, angular guitars, crisp dry snares, oblique emotional displays, rampant pop-culture references, and strangled vocals are as inherent to the genre as beer and big rigs are to country. But Minneapolis's Lifter Puller deserves extra credit both for studying the rules so assiduously and for never sounding at all studied. This group is so conversant in their idiom that they sound completely at home with it--no small feat when you're talking about the most self-conscious musical form of the 90s. They do expend considerable energy poking holes in their own subculture: on 1997's Half Dead and Dynamite (No Alternative), vocalist-guitarist Craig Finn (whose geek charm and stage manner betray a deep affection for early Elvis Costello) spends the second half of "Nassau Coliseum" reeling off the names of east-coast college towns in an ingratiatingly piercing, mocking whine. He simultaneously takes the piss out of his college-age fans and his overeducated peers. But pop culture at large isn't safe from these guys either: when the band guested on The Jenny Jones Show earlier this year, the day's subject was "Stripper Wars," and as the band blasted through "Roaming the Foam," from last year's superb The Entertainment and Arts EP, the song's Guns n' Roses quote--"You're in the jungle, baby / You're gonna die!"--could hardly have been more on target. Thursday, May 27, 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 773-276-3600. MICHAELANGELO MATOS

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