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GO TO BLAZES 2/17, LOUNGE AX The new album by Philadelphia vets Go to Blazes, Anytime...Anywhere (ESD), surges with a genuine swagger straight from the hips of the old Rolling Stones. Equally informed by country--the quartet started as a faux bluegrassy combo--and drunken R & B, GTB's music demonstrates how to make rock, something thought dead by so many, bristle with life. They're not out to change the face of rock (although how many of the whippersnappers who do have that task on their agenda make a dent?), but they've certainly made it a more enjoyable proposition. They open for the excellent Wilco, Jeff Tweedy's post-Uncle Tupelo unit, who also play at Lounge Ax tomorrow with Austin's fine Texas Instruments. ADRIAN LEGG 2/17, LUNAR CABARET There are plenty of talented finger-pick guitarists around, but Adrian Legg distinguishes himself with a broad and ambitious repertoire of styles and the humorous troubadourlike stories that lace his live show. His most recent album, High Strung Tall Tales (Relativity), captures many of his sides by including a chunk of live material among 11 new studio offerings. Rather than sticking to standard stuff, this Brit brings in the spunkiness of rock and the twang of Cajun and country. QUICKSAND 2/17 & 18, ARAGON Despite roots in the NYC hardcore scene (Youth of Today, Gorilla Biscuits, Absolution) Quicksand, like fellow New Yorkers Helmet, play a rigid, loud, tidy, and adrenaline-pumping alterna-metal/hardcore/pop fusion geared straight at clean-cut guys who look like they might shoot hoops after a night of moshing. On their forthcoming Manic Compression (Island) they drape irresistible stiff riffing over relentlessly churning grooves and lyrics describing how hard life is--blah blah blah. As jock rockers they couldn't open for a more appropriate band than Offspring. SQUONK OPERA 2/17 & 18, HEARTLAND CAFE As heard on Howandever, this Pittsburgh combo embraces a harrowing bond of progressive rock and theater, delivering a painfully eclectic admixture of quirkiness, bombast, ethereality, mysticism, quasi panculturalism, and leaden funkiness. They're Kate Bush for King Crimson fans, Frank Zappa for Tori Amos followers. If that ain't enough, the wacky getups they wear in their publicity stills ought to endear them to old Mummenschanz sympathizers. AMERICAN SKA-THIC II 2/17 & 18, METRO Most folks would be surprised that ska, the hyper-shuffling Jamaican-born precursor to reggae, has any kind of scene in this country, let alone the region, but as WNUR DJ Chuck Wren, who organizes these ongoing ska fetes at Metro, can testify there's a ridiculous amount of well-organized underground bands and activity in the midwest. The Skatalites are the best-known first-wave ska band, but most folks didn't become familiar with the strain until an early 80s English revival produced bands like the Specials, the English Beat, and Madness, who sought to imbue the movement with a multiracial bent under the aegis of 2-Tone. It's hard to figure out what's responsible for this late-blooming American wave of enthusiasm. Unfortunately, the whole insulated scene is little more than a fashion clique: porkpie hats, skinny ties, narrow-lapelled suits, and suspenders, though you don't see so many Vespas these days. Ska's desperately limited musical possibilities sputter along on fumes, but if the kids just want to skank, aesthetic progressivism sure ain't going to stop them. CHRIS DUARTE GROUP 2/18, VIC Blues-rock guitar pyrotechnician Chris Duarte can't help but raise the specter of Stevie Ray Vaughan on his debut, Texas Sugar/Strat Magic (Silvertone). Dispensing entirely with blues purity, he peels off blistering leads rife with feedback and other Hendrix-esque harmonic tricks infrequently encountered in this sort of music and sets them within a hard rocking, sometimes funky context. It's exuberant stuff, but its greatest appeal is surely to guitar mavens, not blues fans. HAIRY PATT BAND 2/18, EMPTY BOTTLE Apart from the promising album title Buford's Last Pusser, this ramshackle Columbus duo's ultraforced rendering of American backwoods perversity is as stupid and obvious as its blammo cover of "Jack and Diane." Nearly a decade ago Killdozer perfected a similar tack: throaty white-trash singing amid an unkempt melange of guitar noise. The Hairy Patt Band have a more bouncy rhythmic thrust, but it's not enough to lift gems like "When Granny's Drunk" and "I'm So Angry, You're Gonna Die" from the fetid swamp in which they fester. They open for Laughing Hyenas. SIMPLE MINDS 2/19, METRO Well, the press release for their new album says it's been three years since the last Simple Minds record, but it doesn't tell us how long it's been since anyone other than 80s nostalgia buffs cared. On Good News From the Next World (Virgin) they reunite with producer Keith Forsey, with whom they crafted their smash "Don't You Forget About Me." While the 80s saw them morph from pompous synth-popsters to pompous and stylish arena rocker wannabes, the new stuff is dense with guitar layers, albeit heavily processed ones. But vocalist Jim Kerr's overwrought bellowing continues to outpace even style mate Bono. Lisa Germano opens. TOADIES 2/22, DOUBLE DOOR To fill the prescription for alternative, the Toadies spit out a chunky hard rock undercut by punkish sneering and quirkiness ripped right out of Black Francis's notebook. The Dallas band's major label debut, Rubberneck (Interscope), shows them to be concise, adept, and boundlessly energetic. In other words just OK. They open for British buzz-bin babes Bush.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo/Bob Sebree.

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