HUMPERS 3/1, DOME ROOM Though pop-sopped punk rock continues to be a major component of puberty's sound track, there are still those cutting close to the music's bone. On their fourth album, Live Forever or Die Trying (Epitaph), LA's Humpers spit out raw punk rock according to the Dead Boys--the snotty vocals of Scott "Deluxe" Drake mirroring those of the late Stiv Bators. Of course, the band's time-warped sound is a pure case of arrested development. JOHN HAMMOND, DUKE ROBILLARD BAND 3/1, BUDDY GUY'S, 3/2, FITZGERALD'S This double bill of veteran blues revivalists is headlined by John Hammond, a singer-guitarist who emerged during the 60s folk-blues movement and has since specialized in quaint renditions of country-blues classics. His latest offering, Found True Love (Pointblank), doesn't alter the formula a bit, serving up serviceable versions of tunes by legends like Jimmy Reed, Sleepy John Estes, Blind Willie McTell, and Leroy Carr. What Hammond is to Delta blues, Duke Robillard is to jump blues. On his new album, Duke's Blues (Pointblank), Robillard, the founder of Roomful of Blues and a former guitarist in the Fabulous Thunderbirds, graces rousing takes of songs associated with T-Bone Walker, Guitar Slim, Jimmy Liggins, and Pee Wee Crayton with alternately stinging and swinging guitar. As with Hammond, however, Robillard is only an adequate singer, and despite the stylistic accuracy of their music, both come off as museum pieces rather than vital artists. FLAP 3/2, EMPTY BOTTLE On last year's Buldug's or the Kid Is Hott Tonite (Tugowar) this oddball Atlanta trio continued to do strange things with acoustic guitars. Andy Hopkins and Matt Miller weave dense tangles of sound to produce an amalgam that somehow hits upon hip-hop, rockabilly, and prog-rock noodling. It's all rooted in hard-hitting rock, but Flap make so many sideways excursions that disorientation is likely to set in on the listener. They open for Loren Mazzacane (see Critic's Choice) and Jim O'Rourke. LOUD LUCY 3/2, ARAGON While the otherwise disposable music of Veruca Salt and Fig Dish at least had some undeniable hooks, Loud Lucy are the first of the class of '93 feeding frenzy to release an out-and-out dud. The trio's catatonic debut, Breathe (DGC), fails on any number of levels: it doesn't rock, the tunes aren't memorable, and singer Christian Lane croons with the pretty-boy intensity of Rick Springfield. Hollowing out the Nirvana alt-rock model and filling it with shopping-mall glossolalia, Loud Lucy are the simpatico match for headliner Alanis Morissette, even if the real reason they're touring together is so Lane can hold the current queen of McAngst's popcorn while she watches flicks on the road. NIELDS 3/2, OLD TOWN SCHOOL On their recently issued fifth album, Gotta Get Over Greta (Razor & Tie), Connecticut's Nields have transformed their hopped-up folk rock into quirky alternative rock for the new coffeehouse generation. The snaky voices of sisters Katryna and Nerissa Nields blend into a squirmy weave of quavery expression that upends the pristine harmonies of the Roches and the Shams in favor of fluttery excess. Though beneath their singing resides a sharp pop-rock guitar attack, it's pretty damn hard to get past the precious singing. MERMEN 3/2, LOUNGE AX On last year's A Glorious Lethal Euphoria (Mesa/Toadophile) San Francisco's Mermen exploited instrumental surf music to create one of 1995's most compelling guitar records. Though there's plenty of ominous Dick Dale twang in the playing of Jim Thomas, the trio's extended structures allow room for nicely constructed solos that obliterate the narrow soundworld once inhabited by the Ventures. Using a rich blend of dense harmonies, tightly controlled feedback, and inventive melodic filigree, Thomas and his intuitive rhythm section--bassist Allen Whitman and drummer Martyn Jones--blur the lines between mood and melody; in the music of the Mermen, a moniker lifted from a Jimi Hendrix tune, the two are inextricably linked. More brooding than bouncy, this ain't a dopey party band, but the Mermen's evocative soundscapes are indeed bolstered by a keen propulsive power. GUITAR SHORTY 3/2, BUDDY GUY'S The veteran bluesman tours in support of his recent Get Wise to Yourself (Black Top). The album shows little improvement in Guitar Shorty's workable vocal ability but proves his modernistic guitar playing, whether attacking stinging hard blues or finessing soul blues a la Albert King, packs plenty of power. SOFTIES 3/7, EMPTY BOTTLE On their debut album, It's Love (K), the Softies, a duo featuring former Tiger Trap singer-guitarist Rose Melberg, proffer sweetly crooned and sparely performed--you guessed it--love songs. Melberg and Jen Sbragia keep their guitar jangles uncluttered and their naive, shy harmonies airy. It's quite pleasant and tuneful, but the total lack of dynamic range lends their music an unfortunate samey quality. Scarce headline and Elliott Smith opens. --Peter Margasak
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Danny Clinch.