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PETER CASE 6/17, SCHUBAS Peter Case has had a career racked with strange twists; few others have opened for both the Germs and Jackson Browne. An important progenitor of west-coast punk-pop (with the Nerves and, more significantly, the Plimsouls) before his erratic traipse through singer-songwriter turf, he's currently touring in support of Peter Case Sings Like Hell (Vanguard), a thoroughly off-the-cuff, mostly solo collection of blues, folk, and country standards, from Blind Lemon Jefferson's "Matchbox Blues" to traditional tunes like "Lakes of Pontchartrain." Recorded cheap in someone's living room with throat-clearing interruptions intact, it walks the delicate line between front-porch tinkering and breadth-seeking artifice: the kind of album only a rabid fan could appreciate. It's believable that Case has been playing these tunes for years--he busked before starting the Nerves--but possessing neither an exceptional voice nor prodigious guitar skills, his interpretations add little to these well-traveled songs; only his previous forays set him apart from any old coffeehouse folkie. He's on a bill with Cool Hand Band and UJB; he also does an in-store performance Friday at 4 at Tower Records, 2301 N. Clark (477-5994). MARK BURGESS & THE SONS OF GOD 6/17, DOUBLE DOOR When Mark Burgess used to lead Britain's Chameleons--who favored the sort of gothic-flavored, overwrought pop that peaked years ago with Ian McCullough--he had a "cult following," which usually signifies fans so deluded that they're utterly blind to the mediocrity of the object of their adulation. Burgess is currently opting for a lighter, more bouncy acoustic thing, but old habits die hard; witness the name of his band. DOO RAG 6/17, EMPTY BOTTLE Approaching "roots" music--specifically Delta blues--in the same discombobulated, deconstructed fashion as combos like the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion or the late Gibson Brothers, this Tucson duo does a fine job of pulling the wool over plenty of eyes. Citing Blind Blake, Fred McDowell, and Lightnin' Hopkins among others as their influences, Doo Rag lack any of the sophistication of those musicians. The ramshackle percussives of Thermos Malling--which sound like Bob Bert's gas-tank drum kit in Pussy Galore--and the rudimentary slide guitar of Bob Log strip the music down to its core, sapping it of the emotional bloodletting that once stood at the heart of this stuff. If John Hammond is a well-studied but dull copycat, Doo Rag are sloppy, smartass cheats. They open (with Blanche and Mother Country Death Rattle) for far more convincing blues pretenders the Laughing Hyenas. WHY STORE 6/18, SIDELINES With an ever-growing number of combos boasting of past or future participation in one of the excessive, neohippie H.O.R.D.E. tours, it's getting easier and easier to accurately pigeonhole retro-jamming bands without even hearing them. Having heard Indianapolis's Why Store, all I can say is that they sound like Blues Traveler, Phish, Spin Doctors, and all of the other hirsute bands citing a heavy blues influence and harking back to the Grateful Dead or the Allman Brothers. I suppose some folks will read that as a compliment. Most of their hometown press clips praise Why Store simply because they aren't a Led Zeppelin cover band, and mealymouthed singer Chris Shaffer poignantly offers, "We play feel-good music." Oh boy. CRAYON 6/22, LOUNGE AX An Olympia, Washington, trio playing sloppy, spastic indie rock fronted by a pair of squeaky-voiced fellows in the middle of puberty. Only problem is, they've been going through puberty for three or four years and their voices still haven't settled down. Franklin Bruno of Nothing Painted Blue and the fine off-kilter New York pop group Ruby Falls open. ZAP MAMA 6/22, RAVINIA By now you might be wondering if there's anything worth checking out this week, and it surprises even me to recommend Zap Mama. This mostly a cappella multicultural female vocal quintet has actually avoided the high-tech production that typically renders most "world beat" music identical despite its origins. On a superficial level you might say they sound like a cross between Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Sweet Honey in the Rock, but their elaborate vocal constructions and rich, complex harmonies cover an amazingly broad range of styles. On their new Sabsylma (Luaka Bop/Warner Brothers) they traverse all sorts of styles, from Moroccan drones and vocal simulations of Indian percussion to the didgeridoo-based drones of Australia's aborigines and a stupefying imitation of James Brown. To their credit Zap Mama don't worry too much about authenticity; rather they playfully and exuberantly adapt what they like for their own purposes. KING MISSILE, MEICES 6/23, METRO Zany New York performance-poet rockers King Missile are at it again. The big news is that prime irritant John S. Hall has begun singing his deadpan, silly bits of irony rather than merely reading them out loud, but after suffering through their new, self-titled album I can honestly report that it makes little difference: it's still a dreadful experience. This is music for comedy fans too cool to admit they miss Emo Philips. San Francisco's Meices entertain far less lofty ambitions, concentrating exclusively on simple, appealing, and ultramelodic punk rock. Their new Tastes Like Chicken (External) was produced by Kurt Bloch of Seattle's Fastbacks, which should provide some clue as to the thrust of this trio's bubble-gum-punk fascination. It's utterly disposable but not without low-impact charms. Snarling New York blues-rock thugs Surgery also play. JUSTER 6/23, CROBAR South-side studio project Juster takes its fairly comical fusion of rap, industrial, and metal to the stage for the first time. Rapper Juvenile obviously listens to a lot of Cypress Hill, but in the end this combo just sounds like Vanilla Ice on the industrial tip.

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