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LILYS 7/15, EMPTY BOTTLE This Philadelphia combo is part of a sizable cadre of east-coast bands that openly admire My Bloody Valentine, as one listen to the recent A Brief History of Amazing Letdowns (Spinart) would tell you: pummeling, distorted drum spray is cut by slamming, off-kilter guitars while slack-jawed bubble-gum melodies percolate underneath. The problem with some of these bands is their ridiculous self-referentiality; the Lilys' song "Jenny, Andrew & Me" refers to two members of the D.C. band Tsunami. How cute. They open for Boston's similarly inclined Swirlies. A HORSE NAMED BILL 7/15, GALLERY CABARET Pleasant if unspectacular folk-rock. Chicago's A Horse Named Bill take stabs at British folk and songs of the old west, evoking Steeleye Span with an American twang. On their eponymous debut they lack the instrumental deftness that characterizes most Celtic folk, offering only workmanlike strumming and clunky rhythms. Wisely, they put the focus on the decent vocals of Jill Wininger and Dan Whitaker. GODS CHILD 7/15, THURSTON'S Proving that technical proficiency isn't the most important thing, this New York quartet expertly churns out a most generic stripe of "alternative rock," as much because it's a hot commodity as because the band's functionless eclecticism precludes its acceptance in any other marketing bag. Gods Child also appeases new-breed hippies with overly rehashed wisdom like "Don't answer the same old questions / Just question the same old answers." BRISE-GLACE 7/16, LOUNGE AX The rock band--well, sorta--of prolific experimental guitarist-composer Jim O'Rourke, Brise-Glace seem to be staking out rather singular sonic turf on their terrific debut single. Bassist Darin Gray (of the Dazzling Killmen), drummer Thymme Jones (of Cheer-Accident), O'Rourke, and various guests use guitars, organs, and wind instruments to caress, sink, smother, and dissect an unruly, unhinged bed of stutter-rhythms. The hard percussion punctuating these undulating soundscapes is all that really transports this stuff from adventurous experimenting to the realm of rock; kids need a beat. Brise-Glace perform as part of what's being billed as the Skin Graft Irritational, a touring variety showcase for the Chicago label that also features Shorty, Dazzling Killmen, Mount Shasta, and the Denison/Kimball Trio, the last actually a duo consisting of Jesus Lizard guitarist Duane Denison and former Laughing Hyenas/Mule drummer Jim Kimball. STAR PIMP 7/16, EMPTY BOTTLE; 7/17, FIRESIDE BOWL Bay Area plodders who blend mopey but aggressive rhythms, grinding, heavily distorted bass, and psychotic single-string guitar probings into a lurching foundation for their detached, semideranged, singsongy vocals. Plenty of irony-laden samples and found sounds ice the drunken din almost as an afterthought. TENDERLOIN 7/16, THURSTON'S Fronted by former Sin City Disciples vocalist Ernie Locke and featuring a few members of hapless Lawrence, Kansas, rockers the Homestead Grays, Tenderloin mines a high-energy, heavily blues-inflected punk rock vaguely similar to that of Locke's previous combo. On its recently issued debut, Let It Leak (Qwest), the band stomps ferociously through all sorts of blues-rock cliches, Locke applying his gruff Howlin' Wolf-cum-Captain Beefheart vocal simulations to lines like "Mother grilled cheese, give me horsepower" and "Supernatural bologna jumping through flaming hoops." Live, he's downright show-offy about his substantial girth. KEB' MO' 7/16, CUBBY BEAR; 7/17, BUDDY GUY'S A marketing delight, Keb' Mo'--the "hip" stage name of one Kevin Moore--comes off as a cross between Tracy Chapman and a tidy parlor-room bluesman, dabbling in a little personal folk here, a few finger-picking romps there. While his voice is clear and strong, he's not much grittier than Jimmy Buffett, and his contemporary blues-rock slaughter of Robert Johnson's "Come On in My Kitchen" is absolutely blasphemous. It's fitting that Saturday he opens for "mature" hot-tub rockers Lowen and Navarro. LUKA BLOOM 7/17, PARK WEST A sensitive, socially conscious singer-songwriter type from Ireland (the political situation in his homeland is chief among his concerns). However articulate and poignant Bloom's songs can be, their actual execution is another story. On the new Turf (Reprise), an all-solo effort (like this live show), the music is heavy on atmosphere but thin on melody or dramatic development. And on the opener, "Cold Comfort," he pronounces the words "New York night" as "New York kuh-night." Painful.

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

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