Rex's second album, C (Southern), stood out from last year's mope-rock horde for how the trio spun its bittersweet melodies in huge arcs without losing control of them or inducing boredom. Once again, on this year's 3, the muggy guitar arpeggios and mournful, country-influenced singing of Curtis Harvey, deceptively complex bass lines of Phil Spirito, and hydroplaning drumming of Doug Scharin blend with a sensitive, low-key verve. But though tunes like "Gathered" and "Jet" hark back to the best stuff on C, for the most part the new material's disappointing--ponderous instrumentals like "Waterbug" and "Yah Land" focus so intently on dynamics that melody falls by the wayside. Still, the group's developed into an exceedingly solid live act in recent years, particularly when local violinist Julie Liu, who plays on four of 3's nine tracks, makes it a quartet. If you had nothing to be cheerful about in 1997, Rex's exquisite melancholy may just be the best way to ring in the New Year. Califone, a new trio featuring Red Red Meat's Tim Rutili, Tim Hurley, and Benny Massarella (who also contributed to Rex's 3), opens; see Spot Check for details. Wednesday, 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 Harvey/Sefersha.