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CONCUSSION ENSEMBLE 3/25, METRO Lite, instrumental prog rock from Boston whose hook seems to be the presence of four percussionists. On its self-released debut, Stampede, the Concussion Ensemble bashes out rather ordinary if intricate rock tunes and adheres almost exclusively to staid four-four patterns with virtually no polyrhythms. The rhythm section makes a big noise but has little to say, and the ubiquitous guitar gets the real spotlight. The ensemble, which includes former members of Human Sexual Response and their hellspawn the Zulus, opens for For Love Not Lisa. LOTION 3/25, METRO Possessing the heart of a straight guitar-pop band and a penchant for slightly overwrought emoting, New York's Lotion glops things up with roaring textures that teeter between power chords and jacked-up jangle. Frequent press comparisons to Husker Du don't make much sense aside from the "male rock band" link; Lotion's wandering aggression doesn't complement strong tunes so much as distract the listener from noticing that they don't exist. Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine headlines. LITTLE SISTER 3/25, CUBBY BEAR This Dallas quartet is yet another variation on the retro-hippie jamming formula exemplified by hirsute bands like Allgood (in town a few weeks ago) and Widespread Panic (at the Vic 3/31). Little Sister's twists are a hard, funky backbeat and a hair-flailing female singer (as opposed to a hair-flailing male, the standard in these sorts of bands). And the singer's nose ring shows her acute sense of 90s hippie fashion. MAZZY STAR 3/26, METRO David Roback's psychedelic drift from Rain Parade to Clay Allison and Opal to Mazzy Star is analogous to the fizz going out of club soda. Where once there were catchy, trippy pop tunes bubbling against a background of dizzying carousel music there are now merely formless glimmers of melody drowning in atmospherics. Last year's So Tonight That I Might See (Capitol) frames the simultaneously waifish and smoky vocals of Hope Sandoval in lush, low-impact drones, a combination that by the end of the album has turned into a soft-rock endurance test. Roback's spacey, loopy guitar and organ scapes are undeniably gorgeous, but beyond their pretty artifice and Sandoval's siren mantras there ain't a hell of a lot going on. Music for ultra-slow-motion hip shakers. Cath Carroll and Acetone (see Critic's Choice) open. TH FAITH HEALERS 3/27, LOUNGE AX Apparently on a mission to demonstrate the ecstasy of repetition, Th Faith Healers ride a simple groove to either death or nirvana (depending on your outlook). The new, second album from this British combo, Imaginary Friend (Elektra), does away with some of the extraneous noise that drenched their fine debut, Lido (originally issued on England's Too Pure label, the original home of PJ Harvey and Stereolab), while retaining their basic MO: palsied melody fragments smothered in aggressive, nonfunk grooves. Th Faith Healers aren't one of those so-called "shoe-gazer" bands like so many of their fellow Brits; they're concerned not with the tension between melody and noise but with the sonic minutiae that naturally seethe from the jaws of relentless riff recurrence. If you've got patience, or a lot of faith, it can work. SHERYL CROW 3/28, RIVIERA For years a studio musician with artists as famous and, er, diverse as Michael Jackson, Foreigner, Don Henley, and George Harrison and a songwriter covered by Eric Clapton and Wynonna Judd, Sheryl Crow seems to be taking the LA hot-tub-reclining singer-songwriter mold into the 90s. Last year's Tuesday Night Music Club (A&M) delivered intelligent, thoroughly adult tunes with some grit but a safe edge; more than anything Crow recalls prejazz bliss-out Rickie Lee Jones without the oppressive new-age philosophizing. But despite the album's concept--a bunch of studio musicians letting down their hair once a week--it has a short supply of immediacy and spark. Crow opens for Crowded House. JESUS CHRIST SUPERFLY 3/31, AVALON While the name might indicate some addled, ironic merger of 70s rock-opera bombast and ass-shakin' Shaft-style guitar, this Austin trio actually spits out low-grade punk rock with the grace of a Mack truck. Actually, getting run over by a Mack truck might be more fun than this.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Bruce Dye.

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