Rock history is rife with guitar smashers, hotel-room trashers, and potty mouths trotting out taboos for shock value, but Scottish-born Nick Currie, aka Momus, takes the role of enfant terrible to a creepy extreme. While chart-topping British pop groups from the Pet Shop Boys to Pulp have backed subversive lyrics with sunny melodies, nobody's proven quite as perverse as Currie. His first Momus record, 1986's Circus Maximus, was a bawdy Old Testament rewrite. His Don't Stop the Night, from 1989, waxed poetic about necrophilia and incest. He billed 1991's Hippopotamomus, dedicated to French pop singer and noted philanderer Serge Gainsbourg, as an album about "sex for children"--and then began a clandestine relationship with a 14-year-old Bangladeshi girl, now his wife. After releasing a dozen albums in England and Japan over the last decade or so, Currie, now 33, put out the first U.S. Momus albums just last year: 20 Vodka Jellies and Ping Pong, both on Le Grand Magistery. He doesn't seem to have mellowed with age. In Ping Pong's "His Majesty the Baby," he seethes with jealousy toward a tot who attracts the fawning women he doesn't, while "My Pervert Doppelganger," from the same record, is about a sexual predator who blames his transgressions on an imaginary look-alike. What lifts Momus's material above novelty rock is Currie's undeniable way with a melody--"Good Morning World," a cosmetics jingle he wrote for singer Kahimi Karie, became a top-five hit in Japan. (Unfortunately, the Momus version of that song, on 20 Vodka Jellies, goes heavy on the synthesizer schmaltz.) And while Currie's intellectual name-dropping can get overbearing--"Radiant Night" rhymes "Mallarme" with "Salome" and "Adjani" with "party"--he brings a degree of intellectual rigor to pop that's rarely heard there. This gig is his Chicago debut. 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 Casogrande.