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Sure, they keep making the same record over and over again--brimming with short, guitar-driven, hook-laden songs and presided over by Kim Shattuck's cougar-caught-in-a-trap snarl--but if it ain't broke, why fix it? Like the first two, the Muffs' latest release, Happy Birthday to Me (Reprise), blows out one too-punk-for-pop, too-pop-for-punk gem after another. Singer-songwriter Shattuck knows exactly how to walk that line--she's been doing it since the early 80s, when she sang backup and played bass in the original lineup of the Pandoras. Despite her former band's trip down metal lane, Shattuck's kept her sense of direction through several personnel changes in the Muffs--now a trio with Shattuck's ex-boyfriend Ronnie Barnett on bass and Roy McDonald on drums. Thanks to a cover of Kim Wilde's "Kids in America" that appeared on the Clueless sound track, the Muffs have won over a few new fans, but they remain a relatively well-kept secret. Possibly this is because even though they sound good and tight in the studio, they've yet to capture the intensity of their live shows on plastic. Onstage their concentrated energy generates enough sparks to set even a three-quarters-empty club on fire. Saturday, 3 PM, Reckless Records, 3157 N. Broadway, 773-404-5080; 11:30 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark, 773-549-0203. CARA JEPSEN

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Muffs photo by Alison Dyer.

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