Before the British trio Slapp Happy was absorbed by prog-rock behemoth Henry Cow in 1974, it made a few albums that could have turned pop inside out--if anyone had heard them. On the best (and easiest to find), 1973's Acnalbasac Noom (ReR), singer Dagmar Krause, keyboardist Anthony Moore, guitarist Peter Blegvad, and the rhythm section from Faust braided compelling nonrock melodies and lyrics that were by turn poetic and comic into highly original, slightly off-kilter structures. The merger with Henry Cow produced just two albums, Desperate Straights and In Praise of Learning, and after the second Blegvad and Moore split. Blegvad, who'd been Slapp Happy's primary songwriter, began a protracted and rather obscure solo career, paying the bills by illustrating and making highly literate, quirky singer-songwriter records as the inspiration struck: the last was 1995's terrific Just Woke Up, on ESD, but a new one is reportedly imminent. Then, earlier this year, Slapp Happy quietly released a reunion album, Ca Va (V2). The pretty, cabaret-inflected melodies have remained intact, as have the sharp lyrics ("Leave me something to remember you by / More than a lock of your hair / Leave me scarred for life / Show you really care," from "Scarred for Life"), but Laurie Latham's production and bland drum loops weaken the proceedings with a contemporary ordinariness. Still, it's a welcome return. If you're holding your breath for a Slapp Happy reunion show, don't--the band's only played out once in its entire history--but you might want to check out this date, the local debut of Blegvad's trio with ex-Henry Cow bassist John Greaves and drummer Chris Cutler, both relentless explorers in their own right. Thursday, September 17, 10 PM, Martyrs', 3855 N. Lincoln; 773-404-9494. PETER MARGASAK
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): uncredited photo.