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DIONNE FARRIS 3/3, DOUBLE DOOR Initially saddled with the tag "former Arrested Development vocalist," New Jersey-bred Dionne Farris has quickly and easily beaten back that limiting identifier. On Wild Seed--Wild Flower (Columbia), her fine 1994 debut, the soul singer glides effortlessly between soaring ballads, funkadelicized grooves, smoldering torch songs, spirited pop tunefulness, and lush a cappella crooning, capping much of it with a jazzy lilt. Rather than relying on a single genre for consistency, Farris identifies herself with her supple, powerful voice. She's also credited with the bulk of the album's lyrics, which range from an intelligent, sensitive take on a subject like sexual abuse ("Don't Ever Touch Me [Again]") to genuine expression of happiness ("Passion"). LORDS OF ACID 3/3, METRO Belgium's Lords of Acid soak their frantic techno-rock with tongue-in-cheek testimonials for sexual deviance and drug addiction. Their recently released second album, Voodoo-U (American), throbs with furious machine- and human-made rhythms, brittle metal guitar, and multiple variations on the same robotic doomsday synth riff. But Lady Galore, the band's precocious frontperson, grabs all the attention with silly dominatrix taunts like "That's why I like them, I wanna taste their sauce" from "Young Boys." With its relentless, one-dimensional rhythmic suction, the band only works if you surrender to its show-biz shallowness. Still, they'll probably sound pretty darn good to you if you're unfortunate enough to catch their insufferable opening act Dink. PIZZICATO FIVE 3/3, METRO If Shonen Knife sounds like Japanese kids mimicking American pop culture, Pizzicato Five is the grown-ups deconstructing it. Though a decade old (and possessing a huge discography), the trio didn't make a domestic splash until last year's Made in USA (Matador) brought us the irresistible and ubiquitous hit "Twiggy vs. James Bond," a dizzying concoction of Burt Bacharach timpani samples, the sweetly coy vocals of Maki Nomiya, some cocktail-lounge organ, and an unlikely but commanding strolling rhythm. You could describe Pizzicato Five as Deee-Lite playing exotica, but that would deny the multidimensional savvy of their weird, seamless fusions of soul, funk, and hip hop with Esquivel, Petula Clark, and the sounds of Paris in the late 60s. Their postmodern appropriating extends to fashion as well. Live, Maki's been known to go through endless costume and wig changes. This late show marks their Chicago debut. CHUCKLEHEAD 3/3, CUBBY BEAR Another dumb supercharged multiracial funk outfit. As long as there are drunk college students there'll be innocuous party fodder like Boston's Chucklehead to provide them with the proper sound track. POND 3/7, DOUBLE DOOR Their eponymous 1993 debut was supposed to deliver Portland's Pond to the hallowed gates of grunge salvation. But little fanfare remained after the press frenzy subsided, so they waited a year or so and made another album. Like its predecessor, the recently released The Practice of Joy Before Death (Sub Pop) finds the trio swaddling gooey, slow-moving pop melodies in fuzzed-out bass and feedback-drenched guitar dipped in a corrosive bath. Pond continue to demonstrate some impressive melodic smarts, but their stylistic purity saps their music of many of its potential strengths. TREE 3/8, DOUBLE DOOR The time-warped Boston hardcore on Tree's new Plant a Tree or Die (Cherrydisc) harks straight back to the mid-80s, when hardcore matinees were the order of the day. Subjectwise, they go in for a comical simplicity, and when vocalist Mouth of River (really!) introduces "Negative Hippie" with a proto-Hank Rollins nice-guy sneer it's hard not to retch. Judging from a band photo in the CD booklet Tree seem more like highly testosteroned party boys in search of aggressive male bonding. THREE MILE PILOT 3/9, EMPTY BOTTLE One of the stranger products of San Diego's punk-rock explosion is surely the time-slicing experiments of Three Mile Pilot. Their brand-new major-label debut The Chief Assassin to the Sinister (DGC), their second album overall, boldly reassesses the power trio; the knotty, angular figures of bass player Armistead Burwell Smith IV provide bedrock textural force. The modified drum kit of Tom Zinser adds accents, and Pall's guitar assumes the role of commentator--shading, answering, mirroring. Unfortunately Three Mile Pilot are obsessed with formalism to the detriment of their songwriting, which meanders far too much.

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

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