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FACE TO FACE 7/21, METRO Hopped-up melodic punk twaddle from California--done strictly for the kids. Face to Faceless is more like it. GOV'T MULE 7/21, BUDDY GUY'S Castoffs from latter-day lineups of the Dickey Betts Band and the Allman Brothers, Gov't Mule signal a hirsute return to bellowing blues rock. Crammed with extendo guitar jams and howled, overwrought vocals, their eponymous debut goes straight for the jugular of folks still waiting for the next Cream record--or at least some new material from Mountain. FOR CARNATION 7/22, EMPTY BOTTLE A new combo led by Slint visionary Brian McMahan and featuring drummer John Herndon and bassist Doug McCombs, both of Tortoise. The group's brief but impressive three-song debut, Fight Songs (Matador), ripples with pin-drop dynamics and a gorgeously introspective minimal melodicism. It's hard to figure out exactly what McMahan's oblique lyrics are about, but in any case he offers up plenty of evocative images. McMahan hasn't fronted a band in Chicago since Slint disintegrated nearly four years ago, and though an album is promised, the wait between this show and the next could be a long one. Silkworm, Iceburn, and Engine Kid open. STEVE FERGUSON & THE MIDWEST CREOLE ENSEMBLE 7/22, SHEFFIELD GARDEN WALK The original lead guitarist for NRBQ has a new R & B-drenched album--Mama U-Seapa (Schoolkids)--that sports a tasty mix of lean guitar playing, tart horn charts, and Ferguson's convincingly bluesy singing. On the album he's joined by former bandmates Terry Adams, Tom Ardolino, and Joey Spampinato, along with Chuck Berry's longtime pianist Johnnie Johnson, but his crack regular band will back him for this gig. SUPERGRASS 7/22, METRO The latest entry in the swelling ranks of England's "new wave of new wave," Supergrass follow the glam-tainted swagger of These Animal Men with a quivery jolt of hard-hitting pop. Their debut, I Should Coco (Capitol), conveys the amped-up power of the early Jam, the melodic ideas of the Buzzcocks, and a more general British pop sensibility that stretches from the Kinks on through to the Bay City Rollers. Really. OMAR 7/23, DOUBLE DOOR As heard on his American debut, For Pleasure (RCA), England's Omar Lye Fook delivers soul music without the heavily processed sheen so prevalent on American R & B radio. Omar's inclusive mix of thick grooves, quasi-jazz ballads, and bubbling Stevie Wonder-esque pop neatly fits into the broad scheme of acid jazz. His voice isn't peerless, but by combining it with interesting arrangements and a varied set of tunes, he pulls it off. PRIMUS 7/25, UIC PAVILION Tales From the Punchbowl (Interscope), the fifth album from this San Francisco-area trio, doles out its blandest, most self-indulgent set yet. Bass wanker and leader Les Claypool continues to confuse an abundance of notes with real tunes. Busy bass slapping, wan quasi-metal fusion guitar riffs, overplayed drums, and deliberately nerdy, cartoonish vocals add up to a pile of unlistenable gunk that would have had Rush fans in a tizzy 15 years ago. Mike Watt opens. HEALTH & HAPPINESS SHOW 7/27, SCHUBAS On its second album, Instant Living (Bar/None), this New York-area combo headed by former Bongo James Mastro delivers a crisp, literate dose of grown-up Beatles-esque pop. When their loping grooves connect, Health & Happiness Show pull off a tight blend of hooks and lockstep riffs; otherwise they tend to get mushy. The big news is that former Television guitarist Richard Lloyd, whose presence should certainly heighten the group's melodic skills, has joined the band since the album's release. They perform an opening set and then serve as the backing band for terrific idiosyncratic Austin singer-songwriter Butch Hancock, whose latest album, Eats Away the Night (Sugar Hill), provides a swell blast of Dylan-esque folk rock. CHAVEZ 7/27, LOUNGE AX The first impression left by Chavez's debut, Gone Glimmering (Matador), is clearly Fugazi: Matt Sweeney (ex-Skunk) and Clay Tarver (ex-Bullet LaVolta) build intricate little lattices of harmonically rich guitar over the propulsive circular rhythms pounded out by James Lo (ex-Live Skull). But as one listens a bit deeper a distinct personality begins to emerge; melodies sharpen and grooves thicken. Chavez remains thoroughly ensconced in indie-rock aesthetics, but both on record and live this New York quartet serves up more than just meat 'n' potatoes. Philadelphia's hypnotic Bardo Pond opens.

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

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