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MEXICO 70 9/9, BEAT KITCHEN Slick, seamless, sappy British guitar pop from a band led by former Felt member Mick Bund. On their lush, lilting U.S. debut, The Dust Has Come to Stay (Big Pop), Mexico 70--named for the 1970 World Cup held south of the border, duh--sound a lot like some of Bund's admitted influences, most notably Lloyd Cole, Prefab Sprout, and the Blue Nile. BLIND VENETIANS 9/9, METRO Competent, thoroughly average local pop rockers, the Blind Venetians fill their second album, The Wreck of the Lolly Wilson (Big Jaw), with passable variations on hard-strummed guitar attacks--and a few irritating descents into wah-wah hell. The unbearable vocals sound like they took the preening voice of Material Issue's Jim Ellison as a blueprint. EVERYTHING BUT THE GIRL 9/9, PARK WEST For more than ten years now the English duo of Ben Watt and Tracy Thorne has been churning out glorified easy-listening love songs. By disguising themselves as hipsters--singer Thorne was in the seminal prelounge pop band Marine Girls--and exploiting the American conviction that Brits are hip, Everything but the Girl have managed to avoid comparisons to soulmates Julio Iglesias, Roger Whittaker, and Barry Manilow. The new Amplified Heart (Atlantic) features accomplished British folk rockers Danny Thompson of Pentangle on bass and Dave Mattacks of Fairport Convention on drums, but the pair's playing gets smothered in gloppy, sentimental swill. Thorne once again milks the cool of Astrud Gilberto's bossa nova recordings for all they're worth, and in this setting, once again, they're not worth much. TINSLEY ELLIS 9/9, GULF COAST Celebrating the release of his new Storm Warning (Alligator), Atlanta blues rocker Tinsley Ellis continues to epitomize why so much contemporary blues is speeding up the demise of a dying tradition. Like so many others, Ellis tosses subtlety out the window, obliterating the blues' insinuating rhythms, restraint, and spareness with endless in-your-face, over-the-top, guitar-hero grandstanding. Worse yet, his workmanlike white-boy blues howl is merely stylistic effect, not heartfelt emotion. FROGS 9/9, LOUNGE AX Masters of calculated outrage, Milwaukee's Frogs have laid fairly low in the five years since the release of their sublime It's Only Right and Natural, an off-kilter glam-folk-pop collection with a homosexual-supremacist slant--i.e., straights are fools. With a bunch of dates on this year's Lollapalooza side stage, where they were repeatedly joined by fan Billy Corgan on guitar, and a new album coming this fall called Racially Yours (El Recordo) that's full of tasteless satires on racism, the Frogs are riding high, which means PC hounds should stay away. JULES SHEAR, PAULA COLE 9/10, SCHUBAS For the last decade Jules Shear has earned piles of critical acclaim for his intelligent pop songwriting. His lyrics are quite literate, and an exceedingly well-crafted melody does pass by now and again, but after struggling through his new Healing Bones (Island), all I can figure is that he must have some kind of secret drugs-for-praise agreement with the press. Paula Cole is a newcomer hailing from a small town in Massachusetts who's yet to build up Shear's critical mass, but Peter Gabriel is said to be a big fan of hers. Her debut album, Harbinger (Imago), features smart, sophisticated writing similar to Shear's. But if this bill is supposed to be an evening of pop music for adults, I don't want to grow up.

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

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