LOW 9/22, METRO On its second album, Long Division (Vernon Yard), the spartan Duluth trio Low doesn't do much to alter its brand of post-Galaxie 500 somnambulism. As on last year's nicely catatonic debut, the soothing voices of Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker haunt the band's pin-drop musical evocations like drifting ghosts. From its incessant gentleness to its creeping tempos, Low's music constantly flirts with disintegration, but some strange alchemy holds it in suspended animation. The considerably more extroverted Soul Coughing headline this early show. TUSCADERO 9/22, METRO On its debut, The Pink Album (Teen Beat), this D.C. quartet expands on the mild charms of its paean to exposed midriffs, "Angel in a Half Shirt," often managing to transcend the speciousness of such lyrical concerns as candy, cookies, board games, a latex dominatrix, and Nancy Drew books. Beneath the calculatedly coy delivery of Melissa Farris and Margaret McCartney there's a grown-up edge, but a knack for low-key hooks is what saves Tuscadero. Barely. Pulsars open this late show. RONNIE DAWSON, VIBRO CHAMPS 9/23, SCHUBAS Most of the figures who remain from the original explosion of rock 'n' roll are museum exhibits running on autopilot. Not Ronnie Dawson. The Dallas-based "Blond Bomber," who's sported a flattop for four decades, still kicks it out with plenty of ferocity and verve, as demonstrated by last year's terrific Monkey Beat! (Crystal Clear Sound), which collects a pair of albums made for the British label No Hit. Dawson doesn't limit his attack to hiccupped greaser purity, but liberally splashes his music with vibrant, energetic doses of country and blues, rockabilly's original roots. (He's a primary source of inspiration for the Reverend Horton Heat, whose "Rockin' Dog" he covers.) When stuff rocks this naturally the fact that it resides in the stylistic past becomes moot. Opening as well as serving as Dawson's backing band are Minneapolis's Vibro Champs, whose The Stimulating Sounds of... (Channel 83) finds them to be adept revivalists. They span everything from instrumental surf sounds to roughneck psychobilly, but unfortunately they tinge almost all of it with a suffocatingly goofy humor. 311 9/23, VIC Now that the Red Hot Chili Peppers have abandoned the style/contagion they created years ago, 311--Omaha yobbos who've recently released their third album of tiresomely derivative funk-metal-rap--have one less obstacle to surmount before they can rule their genre. Only a few hundred equally faceless bands stand in their way. GURU'S JAZZMATAZZ 9/23, METRO It'd be great if Gang Starr rapper Guru's ongoing project of fusing hip-hop with jazz delivered on its promise, but with its second installment, Jazzmatazz Volume II (Chrysalis), it's becoming clear that the formalistic purity of the hip-hop side of the equation doesn't give much space to jazzers like Freddie Hubbard, Donald Byrd, Courtney Pine, and Kenny Garrett. Things work out better when his raps intertwine with soul singers like Chaka Khan, Mica Paris, Shara Nelson, and Sweet Sable, yet after a while this never-ending parade of stars seems to exist merely to shift units on what is ultimately a rather ordinary hip-hop album. CHROME CRANKS, SPEEDBALL BABY 9/24, EMPTY BOTTLE On their terrific new Dead Cool (Crypt) the Chrome Cranks remain in thrall to Kim Salmon and his old band the Scientists. But now Peter Aaron's snarled paranoia is undergirded by a much more swinging combo thanks to new drummer Bob Bert (ex-Sonic Youth/Pussy Galore), who masterfully bridges the gap between the music's delirious stutter and its latent urge to rock out. Speedball Baby's trashed-out NYC rock 'n' roll slop combines bits of the Cramps and the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion into the sonic equivalent of the last staggering steps of a drunk on a no-holds-barred bender. Singer Ron Ward, who recently played Kramer's double on the TV show Seinfeld, provides a rather unhinged presence on the band's recent Get Straight for the Last Supper (PCP Entertainment), suggesting the incessant twitch of withdrawal on "Percocet" and then slowly crooning the Ramones classic "Blitzkrieg Bop." You've heard the grooves before, but Speedball Baby's garbled psychosis offers an engaging spin. STIFF LITTLE FINGERS 9/25, METRO Stiff Little Fingers were one of the finest punk bands to emerge from Ireland, but that was nearly two decades ago. Wanting a slice of the neopunk pie, they've now re-formed for a second time. (They reunited for a spell in the late 80s with negligible results, in terms of both creativity and record sales.) Get a Life (Taang!) is a feeble new recording, with former Jam bassist Bruce Foxton (a live take of the Jam's "Smither Jones" is included) joining eternal SLF frontman Jake Burns. It's less a reworking of the classic sound they finessed back in the late 70s than a composite of today's alternative-rock sales leaders. Get a life, indeed. TRANCE MISSION 9/26, HEARTLAND CAFE This interesting San Francisco combo offers up an enigmatic blend of contemporary ambient and primal trance music. With the reedy clarinet of Beth Custer (a member of the Bay area's legendary Club Foot Orchestra) and the didgeridoo drones of Stephen Kent (originally of England's space-age hypnosis masters Lights in a Fat City) layered atop the multifarious percussive journeys of John Loose and the expansive electronics of Kenneth Newby, Trance Mission's debut, Meanwhile (City of Tribes), succeeds because they don't attempt ethnic purity. While sounds from around the world get knit into the group's dense sonic weave, the diversity of their sources never detracts from their unified sound, which lovingly blurs genre distinctions.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Thierry Leqoues.