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MUDHONEY 6/9, Metro Seattle grunge progenitors Mudhoney have shrugged their shoulders at that classification and spit out another blast of maximal rock rudiments on their new My Brother the Cow (Reprise). Disgusted with the critically sanctioned significance that's been foisted on them, they rip Gen-X iconography on "Generation Spokesmodel" and viciously assault calculatedly sincere rock stars on "Into Your Shtik," a tune that coldly suggests "Why don't you blow your brains out, too?" The closer, "1995," is artlessly interpolated with the Stooges' "1969" and "L.A. Blues," and replete with screeching tenor saxophone for authenticity, a stroke of the creative exhaustion that pervades the entire album. Mudhoney's good fight against the powers that be has unfortunately transformed their musical obstinacy into tedium. Claw Hammer open. ORB 6/9, Riviera Along with a few artists recording for England's Warp label (like Autechre), the Orb have been confounding tidy notions of what ambient music is all about. Last year's terrific Pomme Fritz offered unusually abrasive and challenging variations on a thick textural theme, while their sprawling new effort Orbvs Terrarvm (Island) reintroduces the trippy dub tricks of their earliest work. Beneath swirling, hypnotic passages resides an ominous ambience that erupts unpredictably in harrowing explosions of abstract sound--splitting, elongating, and generally disfiguring samples and melodic fragments into spooky, surprising knots. It's a bit ridiculous to imply that their adept improvisational turns are jazzlike, as some writers have asserted, but group leader Alex Patterson possesses a restless, ambitious spirit that's more interested in prodding and testing listeners than bathing them in a warm wash of sleep-inducing sound. TRICKY 6/10, Vic Maxinquaye (Island), the stunning debut of former Massive Attack sidekick Tricky, provides the most convincing and thorough assault on musical boundaries to arise out of trip-hop's casual genre-blending tendencies. Yet the album's stylistic breadth becomes secondary to the music's ingenuity, which quickly makes itself apparent on two heavily reconfigured covers. "Overcome," a deliriously sultry, obfuscated version of Massive Attack's "Karmacoma," features the blatantly sensual, lilting vocals of Martine, who masterfully understates the lyrics throughout the collection. Even more astonishing is an almost unrecognizable reworking of Public Enemy's "Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos," which builds from a coy, hip-swaying shimmy into a thunderous blast of resistance. Elsewhere Tricky throws in loopy dub swooshes, sexy torch songs, spare psychedelicized grooves, and more, suggesting that he intended the album to include everything that nobody else had yet thought of. He opens for the sold-out PJ Harvey show you can read about in a Critic's Choice. JAMES HOUSE 6/11, Sundance Saloon Some of the best talents out of Nashville are singers who perform their own material, since--one would hope--they have an investment in the tunes other than financial. James House, best known as the author of Dwight Yoakam's hit "Ain't That Lonely Yet," is among those ranks. His recent Days Gone By (Epic) crosses contemporary country formalism with an authentic swagger and terrific Roy Orbison-esque vocals. The album's not flawless--there's some typical cornball fluff--but it proves that the Mavericks are no anomaly; top-notch countrypolitan's on the rebound. THESE ANIMAL MEN 6/14, Metro More participants in England's so-called New Wave of New Wave, These Animal Men evoke a glammed-out and jacked-up blend of David Bowie, early Jam, and the Only Ones on their recent debut album, (Come On Join) The High Society (Vernon Yard/Hut). Given the band's deliberately retro musical aesthetic and affectations like the bright red lipstick on their strutting lips, belly-baring T-shirts, and greased-up close-cropped haircuts, it's pretty darn tough to take TAM seriously--a problem they share with other charter NWONW members Elastica and S.M.A.S.H. But it's not difficult to imagine getting a kick out of their unapologetic display of fashion-weaned rock, especially since they're capable of writing some awfully catchy tunes. TREACHEROUS HUMAN UNDERDOGS 6/14, Lounge Ax On its Melvin Gibbs-produced debut, Vice (Rage), this Saint Louis trio delivers funk-edged metal that fits right into the Black Rock Coalition scene. There's little here of any musical interest, but the occasional topical twist makes some strides against metal's usual myopic concerns. "Africa" takes the roots of rock back to the homeland, albeit without much elegance: "It didn't come from Elvis Presley or even his momma / It might've come from Trinidad, or maybe even Ghana." Otherwise strictly dullsville. LUNACHICKS 6/15, Fireside Bowl Their 1987 inception aligns them chronologically with prominent noisy female rockers as varied as Babes in Toyland and Scrawl, but these New Yorkers have done plenty in the ensuing years to guarantee that no one would accidentally lump them in with bands of genuine merit. Longtime gutter-mouthed raunch hounds, they purvey a musically unimportant female brand of predictable Dwarves-like outrage. Their new album Jerk of All Trades (Go-Kart) contains lots of chuckle-worthy male put-downs, and while I'm all for the rights of women to fart and belch in public, the album's obsession with visceral and smelly carnality gets a bit tired, as song titles like "Fallopian Rhapsody" and lines like "I taste your butt plugg!" handily prove. INCOGNITO 6/15, Skyline Stage De facto acid-jazz pioneers Incognito have another new album, 100ยก and Rising (Verve Forecast/Talkin' Loud), that reinforces the unit's preeminence on the contemporary R & B/soul tip. Sultry, slinky grooves, supple full-bodied female vocals, and sweeping disco-era strings funk up what might otherwise be gloppy R & B.

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

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