RICHARD LLOYD, STEVE WYNN
Richard Lloyd and Steve Wynn launched their careers in two of the most revered bands of the punk and postpunk eras, yet they'll probably both be thrilled if they draw 300 people to the Empty Bottle this week. Both men have spent nearly two decades trying to recapture the glory of their recording debuts, Television's Marquee Moon and the Dream Syndicate's The Days of Wine and Roses, but both suffer from the absence of a key collaborator--Television front man Tom Verlaine and original Dream Syndicate guitarist Karl Precoda, respectively. Lloyd has spent a lot of time as a guitarist for hire, playing with Matthew Sweet, John Doe, and the Health & Happiness Show; Wynn has kept writing his own songs, fronting a number of potentially interesting lineups featuring younger indie-rock stars with mixed results. On Lloyd's first album since 1987, The Cover Doesn't Matter (Upsetter), the songwriting is perfunctory at best, addressing relationships with classic rock silliness--"She loves rolling down the highway, and I'm glad she's rolling my way," he sings on "She Loves to Fly"--but it provides an adequate backdrop for his lacerating guitar playing. Thanks in part to a backing band that includes drummer Chris Butler (who fronted the Waitresses) and bassist Peter Stuart, the new record recalls the lean, tough intensity of Lou Reed's Blue Mask, and though Lloyd's frequent solos lack the dreamy wanderlust they had in Television, they're still astonishing, uncorking like a jack-in-the-box and then undulating like sand dunes. A genuine technician, he never mucks them up with hollow flash; each flourish conveys more feeling that any five-million-note Steve Vai solo. He also makes the most of his thin, pinched voice, singing every word with as much care as he puts into each guitar note. Wynn's recent double CD, Here Come the Miracles (Innerstate), doesn't fare as well. He too has a limited voice, and the more he tries to do with it, the more apparent its weaknesses become; here he takes on psychedelic hard rockers, singer-songwriter confessionals, and quasi-soul balladeering. When the backup players--who include his old paisley underground pal Chris Cacavas (from Green on Red), Come's Chris Brokaw, and Giant Sand's Howe Gelb (see separate Critic's Choice)--build a wave for him to ride, it works, but that sort of momentum rarely builds in the abundant slower material. Friday, June 22, 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 773-276-3600.