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JUNE OF 44 6/30, LOUNGE AX While I'm pretty sure you wouldn't find a copy of Spiderland in most homes around town, in some ways Slint's last album has become the Holy Grail of indie rock referents. On Engine Takes to the Water (Quarterstick), the debut album by June of 44--a quartet that includes former members of Rodan and Codeine, both of which were plenty swayed by Slint's pull--the veneer of the legendary Louisvillians is more palpable than ever. Between the mumble-to-a-scream vocals of Jeff Mueller and Sean Meadows, the loose-limbed wallop of Doug Scharin's drumming, and the radical shifts in dynamics, hearing what June of 44 have to offer beyond Slint-ish flintiness ain't so easy. They do spend more time flat-out rocking (Slint's resolutions build slowly), and while they get the job done with power and skill, they could use a bit more character development. BEAU JOCQUE & THE ZYDECO HI-ROLLERS 6/30, GULF COAST As their recently issued live album Git It, Beau Jocque! (Rounder) handily proves, Beau Jocque & the Zydeco Hi-Rollers burn with a revved-up intensity exponentially greater than the heat generated by other zydeco bands. Jocque and his band attack fairly typical blues-drenched zydeco stylings with manic energy, clinging to traditional structures but ignoring proper pacing and flooring it all the way. The question is whether or not you have the endurance. Marcia Ball and Steve Riley & the Mamou Playboys round out the bill. MONSTER MAGNET 6/30, VIC On their latest album, Dopes to Infinity (A & M), space-rock behemoths Monster Magnet have edited themselves into something other than a purely self-indulgent nightmare. Mixing Black Sabbath and Hawkwind with a touch of the Stooges, they've concentrated their blunt heaviness, impacting with precision rather than sheer bulk. While the album's still rife with ridiculous sci-fi imagery (hallucinogenics seem to remain Monster Magnet's candy of choice), there's not a 30-minute tune in the bunch. They perform with Corrosion of Conformity and Season to Risk. MENTHOL 7/1, LOUNGE AX, 7/2, Taste of Chicago On its eponymous major-label debut this Champaign trio, formerly known as Mother, blows up indie rock, leaving behind shards of hard-hitting pop hooks and the eccentric, quivering vocals of Balthazar de Ley, which recall gender-bender-era David Bowie. Brad Wood's excellent production keeps things stripped-down while highlighting Menthol's quirky melodicism. It's one of those albums that momentarily convince you that rock still has a few puffs of life left in it. BLACKTOP 7/1, EMPTY BOTTLE On I Got a Baaad Feelin' About This (In the Red), members of Fireworks and ex-members of the Gories deliver the same raunchy, straight-up rock 'n' roll their other bands were known for. Retooling blues-drenched crawlers with a monochromatic lo-fi rattle, Blacktop cover a wider stylistic turf while retaining the absurd purity. They open for Run On, who get the Critic's Choice biz elsewhere. LOOSE DIAMONDS, LI'L BRIAN & THE ZYDECO TRAVELERS 7/1, FITZGERALD'S In some ways Loose Diamonds is the quintessential Austin bar band, constructing its gritty, passionate music of the many diverse styles the city's scene is built upon: rock 'n' roll bluster, country twang, blues emotion, and singer-songwriter honesty. Yet rather than producing hodgepodgelike samplers, the band mixes these styles into a cogent whole. Their second album, New Location (Dos), comes closer than their debut to capturing the sweaty conviction of a good club gig, but it's still a ways off--recordings are too pristine for bands like Loose Diamonds. On their debut album, Fresh (Rounder), Houston's young Li'l Brian & the Zydeco Travelers give zydeco a postmodernist slant, injecting sources as unlikely as hip-hop and slickly rendered soul. The band's leader Brian Terry has admirable skill as both accordionist and singer, but the group's inclusionary zeal tends to quell the primal energy inherent in traditional zydeco. These groups appear as part of FitzGerald's annual American Music Festival--other worthy performers include Jimmy LaFave, Don Walser, Hackberry Ramblers, Sally Timms with the Waco Brothers, the Skeletons, and Dave Alvin. See the listings for more detailed information. BRUTAL JUICE 7/1, METRO Considering the dopey title of their new album Mutilation Makes Identification Difficult (Interscope) and the photo of a blood-splattered toilet that graces the back of the CD, it's sorta surprising that Brutal Juice are neither transgressive bludgeon rockers like Unsane nor violence-loving metal lunkheads like Pantera. Beneath this Denton, Texas, combo's postpunk trappings exists a shy melodic side, so that a song as stupid as "The Vaginals" ends up sounding almost tuneful. On the other hand, vacillating between the clenched-muscle intensity of Fugazi and self-indulgent art metal a la Jane's Addiction, these yobbos clearly don't have much in their insignificant little heads. X-Cops headline. GENERAL PUBLIC 7/4, taste of chicago It's nice when old friends patch up past differences--musical ones in the case of Dave Wakeling and Ranking Roger, who've reconvened after a seven-year separation. Unfortunately Rub It Better (Epic), the duo's first album in nine years, exudes all the urgency of a handshake with disapproving in-laws-to-be. This pop-sopped blend of dancehall, soul, and the latest dance-music technology seems perfect for yuppie luaus; a record couldn't be much more flimsy.

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

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