MEAT PUPPETS 10/14, VIC While their most recent album, the Paul Leary-produced Too High to Die (London), evinces some creative stasis, the Meat Puppets always cook live. The trademark nasal harmonies between Curt and Cris Kirkwood, the former's ZZ Top-in-space guitar odysseys and druggy impressionistic lyrics, and the band's delightfully stiff two-beat romps, smoldering boogies, and faux blues continue to sound great even if their inventive impulses are on the fritz. Opening are Spell, a new Denver trio featuring former Fluid drummer Garrett Shavlik, and Cellophane. DEEE-LITE 10/14 Metro Deee-snoozy. SMALL 10/15, EMPTY BOTTLE Defined as much by who they've been as how they sound--Archers of Loaf frontman Eric Bachmann once stood at the center of Small, and current drummer Chuck Garrison was Superchunk's thudder on their first few albums--this Chapel Hill foursome (rechristened Small 23 for a while due to legal hassles) sit squarely at the center of their regional sound. To put it another way (and as their new album Chin Music, on Alias, proves), they are the Replacements to Superchunk's Husker Du. Also appearing are New Radiant Storm King and Cleveland's excellent and charismatic Cobra Verde. MC 900 FT JESUS, CONSOLIDATED 10/15, METRO If you've ever thought King Missile's John S. Hall should spout his quasipoetic slop over 70s soul-jazz vamps rather than psych-metal junk, take heed: Dallas's Mark Griffin (aka MC 900 Ft Jesus) does it on his new album, One Step Ahead of the Spider (American), and it's even more tedious than King Missile. "If I Only Had a Brain," indeed. As chiefs of the PC music police, San Francisco's Consolidated can't even fathom cracking a smile; there's too much work to be done. On their recent Business of Punishment (London), they register such a humorless slate of sociopolitical complaints--about sexism, abortion rights, capital punishment, oppression of gays, our fascist government, corruption in the music business, the amount of preservatives in a Kit Kat bar--that it's hard to believe that in their off time they don't hawk Revolutionary Worker at the edge of college campuses. They lay their reductive sloganeering over a predictable melange of postindustrial hip hop beats and textures. This is music for people so caught up in causes that they've sort of forgotten about the here and now. PORK 10/16, LOUNGE AX A charmingly brash Austin trio that adapt the sound of the early Slits to a boisterous garage-punk attack. On their just-released debut, the Alejandro Escovedo-produced Strip (on the label No. 6), Pork reduce things to their essence (as the title suggests), Edith Casimir's Neanderthal drum stomp and Dana Lee Smith's disintegrating guitar shards nicely offset by exuberant vocals. Sporting a bad attitude but notably eschewing cliched bad-girl accoutrements such as leather and bad heavy metal, Pork's subtle subversions of typically male subjects provide an interesting subtext. On a cover of the seemingly tailor-made Coasters song "I'm a Hog for You" they ad-lib "This little piggy's coming over to your house / She's gonna fuck you, baby, all night long," while an original called "Bad Bad Bad" goes for simple working-for-the-man rebellion: "I hate my boss / He really sucks / Fuck it, man / Let's get fucked up." On top of their gender bending, Pork are a mighty good time. They open for Tart. MIRANDA SEX GARDEN 10/16, AVALON Miranda Sex Garden got their start singing madrigals for pocket change on British street corners, but on their new album, Fairytales of Slavery (Mute), they offer a musical exposition of the joys and pains of S and M. The haunting melancholy of Katherine Blake and Donna McKevitt's vocals almost recall the Bulgarian Women's Choir--except you'd never hear that group singing, "Sharp wire / Cuts through foam / Cuts slow / Cuts so deep." Their airy voices are backed by a swirling sonic attack that drapes gray slabs of guitar, violin, and keyboards over a tribal bed of drums. RANCID 10/17, VIC From the same Gilman Street scene in Berkeley that spawned Green Day come Rancid. Considerably more time-saddled--they sport mohawks and studded leather jackets with the names of British punk bands stenciled on them--they offer 23 dull re-creations of melodic late-70s British punk on their second album, Let's Go (Epitaph). Despite the fact that second guitarist Lars Fredericksen has played in the never-say-die UK Subs and a couple of other Rancid players were in late-80s punk stalwart Operation Ivy, Rancid's playacting at early Clash and Sham 69 is so transparent that it's hard not to wince every time they sing the word "nihilism" in their guttural, adopted British accents. They open for prefab punk yobbos the Offspring. SEED 10/20, DOUBLE DOOR These Austin morons show what happens when young 'uns who've grown up on their parents' record collection--chief Seed songwriter Chadwick Salls claims the Beatles, Cat Stevens, and David Bowie as big influences--search for rock stardom in the 90s. Their overblown debut, Ling (Giant/Mechanic), mixes fusiony fretless bass playing (by Salls), prog rock precision, effects-heavy guitar, and pristine vocal harmonies with simpy melodies and wretched lyrics. "I am alive! / Just happy to be the only color that nobody wished to be" from "Baa Baa Song" is but one stellar example of their accidental wit. "Alternative" rock's answer to Supertramp. They appear with similarly egregious alt-rock lunks God's Child. PALADINS 10/20, ELBO ROOM This all-purpose LA roots-rock band has been delivering gritty variations on rockabilly, R & B, and blues for nearly two decades with mixed results; on its most recent effort, Ticket Home (Sector 2), produced by Los Lobos' Cesar Rosas, the stripped-down Stevie Ray Vaughan-ish wallop coalesces rather nicely. They remain unoriginal, but they've never been so listenable.