DIS, CRAW 8/19, EMPTY BOTTLE Dis are a Milwaukee trio who've managed to transcend their early days as slavish adherents to Slint. Now they sound more like the Poster Children. On their recent second album, M 386.D57 1994 (12 Inch)--does the title suggest that Dis are fans of the Dewey Decimal System?--flimsy pop songs get the shit beaten out of them by dynamics ranging from the sound of a pin dropping to the sound of a building falling. Craw are a Cleveland combo that do an unapologetic imitation of the Jesus Lizard. A character calling himself McTighe emulates every imaginable nuance of the psychotic David Yow's performances, while the band does an almost credible job at mapping out a noisy, disjointed ugly rock. But the combination is just an uninspired rip-off. NICHOLAS PAYTON 8/19 & 20, BOP SHOP Not yet 21 years old, New Orleans trumpeter Nicholas Payton is fast becoming a seasoned vet, with stints in the Elvin Jones Jazz Machine and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra already notched on his belt. He evokes Louis Armstrong with his cherubic face as well as the bravura of his playing, his confidence with hard-bop styles informed by an aggressive, blustery swagger that clearly recalls the power of Satchmo. He'll be backed by the Thaddeus Expose Quintet, which features quite a few of Chicago's finer postbop upstarts, including pianist Brandon McCune. SPEARHEAD 8/20, METRO Moving beyond the fairly tedious industrial panoply of the rap duo Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy, San Franciscan Michael Franti has a considerably more soulful, varied setting in his new seven-member band Spearhead. Stretching his vocals to include a cool, deep croon as well as elegant rapping a la Gil Scott-Heron, Franti has also expanded his once exclusively political agenda; he's still obsessed with issues, but now his thoughts are delivered less as manifestos than as personal reflections. (There are exceptions: a ridiculous tune called "Red Beans & Rice" from the band's terrific forthcoming album Home, on Capitol, does nothing more than detail Franti's health-conscious eating habits.) Musically things have also grown significantly, Spearhead's live band churning out an infectious brew of soul that recalls Sly Stone and Stevie Wonder. They open for Brand New Heavies. ROSEHIPS, WATERSHED 8/20, AVALON Existing previously as hackneyed glam-rockers the Mystery Girls, the Rosehips have toned things down substantially, though they still dress like they looted Johnny Thunder's closet. On their debut, Soul Veronique in Parchment (Red Dog), they filter their glam through a style that sounds like Nikki Sudden's Jacobites--part anemic bluster, part melancholy. Their retro rock is competent enough, but it lacks inspiration and creativity. The Columbus trio Watershed cite Cheap Trick, Kiss, and Aerosmith as influences, but on their debut, a live six-song thing called Three Chords and a Cloud of Dust (Epic), they sound more like a surly REO Speedwagon or a castrated AC/DC. Not only do they admit discovering the Replacements just recently, "because people always told us we sounded like them" (an inaccurate comparison to say the least), but they sing lyrics that reek of both midwestern simplemindedness ("I bet you're uptown with the art school crowd / Writing poetry that doesn't rhyme") and 70s rock cliches ("If I don't find heaven on a Saturday night / I won't worry"). Unless you're really missing college frat life, stay away. NAPALM DEATH 8/20, OAK THEATRE While England's Napalm Death have every right to be pleased with themselves--they're the progenitors of what the British music press used to call "grindcore," and they once earned the dubious honor of being the world's fastest band--their recently released fifth album, Fear, Emptiness, Despair (Earache/Columbia), finds their sonic violence devolving into unintentionally humorous horror-schlock. While the relentless barrage of Mitch Harris and Jesse Pintado's grinding guitars still kicks some good dust, the ogrelike vocals of Barney Greenway crawl across the music's high velocity in a zombie moan. I guess they're maturing. LOVE CUP 8/20, EMPTY BOTTLE Vaguely mimicking fellow townies Hum, who started out mimicking fellow townies Poster Children, Champaign's Love Cup is fond of the guitar's volume pedal. On their debut,...Greefus Groinks and Sheet (12 Inch), they waver between half-formed primal pop songs and overwrought, slightly bombastic heartland rock (there's a trace of Dave Pirner lurking in Matt Baldwin's voice). But sublime shifts in volume are a constant; they strum along nicely and then hit the pedals and explode. UNCOMMON GROUND COFFEEHOUSE SAMPLER RELEASE PARTY 8/21, METRO Jeff Buckley, Paula Cole, and Danielle Brisebois have all engaged prerelease solo coffeehouse tours recently, giving much-maligned java holes a boost in reputation. So Uncommon Ground boss Michael Cameron has exploited the attention by releasing a CD compilation of regular performers at Chicago coffeehouses. Featuring singer-songwriters within both folk and pop--and quite a few who blur the distinction--the 16-cut collection, recorded live at Uncommon Ground, includes familiar names like Nicholas Barron, Al Rose, Amy Lowe, Susan Smentek, and Eric Howell. For most participants it serves as a recording debut. All of the artists, including some of Chicago's finer unheard songwriters, will be present for this release party.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Michael Miller.