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BOOGIE SHOES 9/8, DOUBLE DOOR With their debut album, Greatest Hits, Vol. 1 (NoVo), the release of which this gig celebrates, Boogie Shoes demonstrate that they lack both humor (cf the CD's lame title) and depth. A five-piece band frequently appended by a blustery horn section, these locals combine tediously familiar funk grooves, specks of wan soul, and functionless traces of hip-hop (hackneyed scratching and piss-poor rapping). Their admirably tight playing suffers from a complete dearth of original ideas, but hey, it's got a good beat and you can dance to it. RANCH ROMANCE 9/8, OLD TOWN SCHOOL As heard on 1993's Flip City (Sugar Hill) this Seattle combo plays slick, urbanized country music for people whose tastes run from Manhattan Transfer to Bette Midler and who consider K.D. Lang hard-core country. They polish their slivers of honky-tonk and western swing to a blinding gleam and then swaddle them in airbrushed harmonies and instrumentation so fluid you could drown in it. Local jazz violinist and Johnny Carson fave Johnny Frigo opens. LOS STRAITJACKETS 9/8, SCHUBAS, 9/9, FITZGERALD'S Hidden behind colorful Mexican wrestling masks, this foursome from Nashville unleashes a surprisingly vibrant, punchy take on instrumental surf music. Their debut album, The Utterly Fantastic & Totally Unbelievable Sound of Los Straitjackets (Upstart), leans more toward the dark, punishing sounds perfected by Dick Dale than the lighter twang of the Ventures, incorporating sneaky detective riffs and the pure raunch of Link Wray, whose classic "Run Chicken Run" they "reinvent" as "Itchy Chicken." Everything Los Straitjackets do is mired in stodgy formalism, but their originals convey loads of rhythmic sharpness, melodic skill, and expert reverb tricks. Purely disposable fun. SOUTHERN CULTURE ON THE SKIDS 9/9, METRO Surf rock is only one element in the kitschy amalgam of sounds purveyed by the Chapel Hill trio Southern Culture on the Skids. Their new album, Dirt Track Date (DGC), is far and away their best, a rambling, energetic blend of surf, swamp, country, easy listening, rockabilly, and more that snaps with the crispness of Rick Miller's tasty guitar playing. Though SCOTS aren't an instrumental unit, their strictly novelty lyrics sometimes make one wish they were. A song title like "Make Mayan a Hawaiian" is typical of the band's penchant for low-rent laughs. As with Los Straitjackets, for a stupid good time it oughta do. KADRI GOPALNATH 9/9, TRITON COLLEGE Kadri Gopalnath has pioneered the use of the saxophone as a lead instrument in Carnatic classical music--the emotionally direct style of southern India. In a genre dominated by stringed instruments and the flute, the sax initially seems out of place, but its characteristic nasal qualities soon sound simpatico--as in jazz, the instrument seeks to emulate the human voice. While jazzers like John Coltrane and Don Cherry experimented with both Eastern spirituality and its attendant musical forms, Gopalnath isn't offering up versions of "Oop Bop Sh' Bam" with tabla accompaniment; he's seamlessly fit the sax into his country's tradition. When paired with a violinist, as it'll be for this performance, Gopalnath's expressive, slightly pinched tone glides in unison or trades zigzag patterns, escalating a gorgeous lyricism into an almost hysterical, mind-bending resolution. BIVOUAC 9/13, METRO Since this English trio has been around since 1992, it'd be rather specious to accuse it of ripping off Bush, but if David Bowie can be reinvigorated by Nine Inch Nails, why can't Bivouac take inspiration from the U.S.-friendly sounds of the less experienced Bush? In the bio for their new album Full Size Boy (DGC) they proclaim that, just like the members of their ubiquitous sonic template, they feel more of an affinity with American hard rock than twee limey stuff: in other words Nirvana is more important to them than the Pet Shop Boys. They're not as patently stupid as Bush but still blindingly ordinary. STATE OF THE NATION 9/14, FIRESIDE BOWL While it's admirable that State of the Nation feel moved to disseminate information about the environmental racism leveled against the residents of the Western Shoshone reservation in Nevada--a multinational pipeline project promises to uproot the Western Shoshones or at least severely disrupt their lives--good intentions don't make them a good band. On their recently released second album this trio from Huntington Beach, California, grinds out overearnest postpunk, straining for a blend of melody and intensity a la Fugazi but never achieving it.

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

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