SUGAR RAY 6/16, METRO Whites in America have a long history of co-opting the music of blacks and assimilating it into the predominant culture with little grace. Back in the 60s the folk-blues revival inspired scads of heavy-handed rockers to borrow blatantly from the blues, tarnishing a once-pure form with gobs of overwrought self-indulgence. Today hip-hop is the source for larcenists like Sugar Ray, the latest in a generic line of quasi-metal bands to sport a hard-funk tinge and a convoluted hip-hop sensibility. Their debut, Lemonade and Brownies (Atlantic), plods along with rigid groove metal and a few miserable stabs at psychedelic soul but manages to offend mostly with its cover, a picture of a nude woman's rear end unsubtly poised for entry that's a clear attempt to illustrate the puerilely scatological premise suggested by the title. Unless the several hundred other white-boy bands playing this insufferable swill actually turn your crank, it's unlikely that these yobbos will. Korn, a more tortured, less "funky" counterpart, headline. FALLING WALLENDAS, MOTHER MAY I 6/16, Empty Bottle The tight ensemble playing and catchy melodies of the Falling Wallendas' eponymous debut have a distinct careerist sheen. There's nothing wrong with wanting to make it big, I suppose, but this local foursome, which features onetime Chicago next big thing Scott Bennett, seems to put marketing above all else. With lines like "She patched her multicolored sackcloth fringy Guatemalan dress," maybe that's not such a bad idea. If you only listen to music on your car radio, you might think there's a difference between this pop combo and every other vet band trying to cash in on the alternative bonanza. Mother May I, a D.C. power-pop trio who opened for Soul Asylum a few weeks ago, are one up on the Falling Wallendas by dint of their Columbia Records contract. BRANDO'S CHARM 6/16, DOUBLE DOOR Dateline Chicago: Local rock band Brando's Charm, a quintet who bear an overwhelming resemblance to Pearl Jam, release a CD called Soul. Only a few friends and relatives notice. BLACK VELVET FLAG 6/17, METRO As if the Cocktail Nation weren't gimmick enough, hold tight for Black Velvet Flag, one-chuckle wonders from New York. Their debut, Come Recline (Go-Kart), treats the sorry-assed listener to Holiday Inn lounge versions of punk classics by Black Flag, the Germs, Fear, the Adolescents, Circle Jerks, and others--it's packaged as a send-up of the sound track from The Decline of Western Civilization. A lifestyle accoutrement for people who think irony is a fresh concept. CHARLES BROWN 6/17, ARIE CROWN Continually fueling the fire of his remarkable renaissance, suave bluesman Charles Brown still has it at 72. His latest outing, These Blues (Verve), steeps his urbane music in jazzlike voicings and accents his elegant piano playing. Brown primarily opts to retool standards and old hits like "Drifting Blues" and "Black Night," but his distinct flair and the terrific group he leads dismiss any notions of nostalgia act. Bonnie Raitt, the woman largely responsible for Brown's glorious return, headlines. Brassy R & B singer Ruth Brown--no relation to Charles--also performs. TAD, CLUTCH 6/18, METRO Old-time Seattle bludgeon rockers Tad have put down the meat cleaver for their new album Infrared Riding Hood (East-West), leavening distorto bass, chugging guitars, and their trademark mountain-man vocal howling with smidgens of melodies straight out of the college-rock handbook. Progress is one thing, feebly attempting paint-by-numbers commercial salvation is quite another. Labelmates Clutch play played-out he-man groove metal. While earlier stuff suggested Helmet and Pantera, this foursome's new eponymous album finds it, like Sugar Ray above, trying to cash in on the funk-metal craze. Clenched-teeth toughness only goes so far toward disguising a total lack of ideas. GREEN APPLE QUICK STEP 6/22, DOUBLE DOOR Coproduced by Stone Gossard, Reloaded (Medicine), the second album by Green Apple Quick Step, is the sound of alternative rock wallowing in some murky swamp. The combo's current similarities to Pearl Jam--an ever more frequent signpost for confused wanderers in ever-changing alt-rock land--are hard to escape, but to their credit GAQS tend to jump around stylistically, and vocalist Ty Willman doesn't seem to possess any problematic Eddie Vedder-isms. On the other hand, since they sound more like other bands than themselves, it's tough to care too much about the sources of their nonidentity.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo/Don Winters.