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Spot Check

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YARDSALE 12/23, DOUBLE DOOR As the music business continues its frenzied feeding on Chicago bands, it's kind of strange that Yardsale hasn't been put on the selling block. On their self-released, self-titled debut the trio deliver a crisply produced, smooth pop-rock littered generously with sturdy hooks, sweet harmonies, and lean, disciplined playing. All the key elements of the great midwestern college radio tradition, which spawned, among many others, the Jayhawks, the Replacements, and going back another decade the Shoes, can be heard in Yardsale's music. HOWARD & THE WHITE BOYS 12/23, BUDDY GUY'S LEGENDs, 12/30, Brother Jimmy's Howard & the White Boys perform contemporary middle-of-the-road blues, which is another name for blues played by guys who grew up on rock. As heard on their recent debut album, Strung Out on the Blues (Mighty Tiger), the band's slick, well-played music is splashed with the requisite soul, funk, and rock bombast but unfortunately lacks any sense of urgency. JEFF TWEEDY 12/29, LOUNGE AX The spectacular Chicago debut of former Uncle Tupelo co-mainman Jeff Tweedy's new band, Wilco, retained the hearty twang but pointed to Tweedy as the source of UT's more rocking moments. At his first solo gig it should be interesting to watch him run through songs that seem to exude a natural bluster without the blandishment of his crack combo. Expect loads of new stuff along with some Uncle Tupelo gems. CRACKPOT 12/31, PHYLLIS' Much like Yardsale above, Crackpot--formerly Crackpot Messiah--deliver unadorned, energetic guitar pop, albeit with more of an edge. On their self-released debut, Supermercado, they slog through 11 rough-hewn originals, sullying sounds that wouldn't seem out of place on records by the Connells, Toad the Wet Sprocket, or Gin Blossoms. Also appearing are Mint Aundry and the Howards. MUCK BROTHERS 12/31, ABBEY PUB On their recent debut, Huge, the Muck Brothers, one of Chicago's most visible Irish rock bands, cover a fairly wide range of folk styles using both traditional and contemporary instruments. Though not nearly as brash or energetic as a band like the Pogues, they nonetheless manage to exude their fair share of barroom bluster. VELO-DELUXE 12/31, EMPTY BOTTLE A new trio led by former Blake Babies and Antenna guitarist John Strohm, Velo-Deluxe dismember breezy college radio melodies with a sloppily wielded scythe of guitar noise. Yet another stateside combo taken in by the sounds of My Bloody Valentine, they enlisted Anjali Dutt--who's worked in the past with MBV and fellow English sound swirlers Swervedriver--as coproducer of their debut, Superelastic (Mammoth). Despite this somewhat unimaginative cast, they manage to get over with a vibrant mix of hooky melodies and raucous energy (along with the occasional Band-like roots entry). Red Red Meat and Hum also perform. WEASEL WALTER NONET 1/4, COLUMBIA COLLEGE The inimitable scene provocateur and former leader/drummer of the Flying Luttenbachers, Weasel Walter premieres an original work called "Un-nerve," which promises to be a rambunctious mix of free improvisation and through-composed material. Joining Mr. Walter is an impressive array of stalwarts from Chicago's healthy avant-garde/experimental/free jazz set, including Ken Vandermark, Gene Coleman, Jim Baker, Kevin Drumm, Jeb Bishop, and Gustavo Leone. The concert is free.

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

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