Honeydogs 3/29, Schubas On their second album, Everything, I Bet You (October), the Honeydogs have served up some genuinely pleasurable country rock, though they still sound in thrall to the Uncle Tupelo/Wilco/Son Volt axis--something you might expect from a band whose drummer plays in Golden Smog. There's nothing new here, but the tuneful music and tasteful playing make everything amble along nicely--and if all you do in your spare time is read No Depression you probably don't have much to do this weekend anyway. Angelique Kidjo 3/29, Wild Hare On her new album, Fifa (Mango), Angelique Kidjo continues to edge closer to Western pop convention, but her music's rhythmic sophistication and her unusual vocal phrasing prove she's not losing her roots entirely. Kidjo was born and raised in Benin, a small west African nation, and in 1983 moved to Paris, whose African musical multiculturalism is apparent in each release. At the core of her very modern sound is an extraordinarily soulful voice, masterfully accented by the music's dense arrangements. Between slick productions and the introduction of some English language singing, she has made her pop aspirations clear. But rather than dilute her music, the shift toward commercialism has been achieved with striking craft and power. Kidjo wisely avoids trying to hold on to both tradition and pop values, making her gorgeous music free of philosophical clutter. Michael McDermott 3/30, Metro I'm not sure if it's a genuine trend yet, but Michael McDermott's new eponymous album is the second rock record I've seen this year with liner notes by a famous writer. (The most recent Lotion album sports a useless bit of purple prose from Thomas Pynchon.) Since McDermott is Chicago's answer to Bryan Adams, it's appropriate that no less a goof than Stephen King (who was turned on to Mike by his kids) would ramble about his music's power. King claims that hearing McDermott's second album, Gethsemane, was "one of the great events of my life as a rock music fan," which seems analogous to a rocker asserting that after plodding through John Dos Passos, Thomas Wolfe, and Saul Bellow, reading Cujo would be, like, fuckin' revelatory, man! Sleepyhead 3/30, Lounge Ax Dyed-in-the-wool indie popsters, New York's Sleepyhead have been bashing out their cranked-up, half-formed low-rent hookery for half a decade, but as their third album, Communist Love Songs (Homestead), handily proves, they just don't have it. Coy 70s-inspired melodies flutter here and there, but when the music stops you can't remember a thing you've heard. If you don't much care for music you might like to know that this trio often performs in drag. Number One Cup headline. Thanks To Gravity 3/30, Otis' It could be that by calling their music "classically tinged alternative rock" (head for the hills, folks, they "cover" Pachelbel's "Canon"), Thanks to Gravity are in denial about being just another shitty H.O.R.D.E.-type band. But with this Portsmouth, New Hampshire, group there's too much long hair, too many backward baseball caps, and too many songs about wizards (just one, if you're curious) to fool me. Die Goldenen Zitronen 3/30, Double Door On their forthcoming domestic debut, Punk Rock (Jetset/Big Cat), Die Goldenen Zitronen--known to our English-speaking friends as the Golden Lemons--chug along with a delirious, raucous pop attack, invoking the album's title more in spirit than style. Produced by Billy Childish, the album slathers raw melodicism with raw guitars. I don't understand German, but according to their bio they sing about stuff like cigarettes, German reunification, and anal sex. The band plays as part of a showcase of Hamburg groups, which establishes that, just like the U.S., Germany has mediocre pop (Die Braut Haut ins Auge), mediocre reggae (Silly Walks Sound System), and mediocre grindcore (Eisenvater). Teenage Frames 3/30, Beat Kitchen; 4/4, Fireside Bowl On its debut, More Songs, Less Music (Rock & Roll), this young local foursome trudges through 14 slices of punked-up pop that exude skinny-tie-band quirkiness. The vocals of Frankie Delmane are marked by a bad fake British accent and a quaint new-wave-ish giddiness. It could well appeal to you if you're still listening to those early records by the Romantics. Greg Brown 3/30, Old Town School As last year's The Live One (Red House) demonstrated, the songs of new folkie Greg Brown truly come to life in concert. They may lose the musical finesse he achieves in the studio, but Brown's subtle accents, witty improvisation, and natural banter make his vocal shortcomings dissolve within his keen storytelling ability. Corey Harris 3/30, Martyrs On his debut, Between Midnight and Day (Alligator), acoustic bluesman Corey Harris combines classic Delta repertoire (Charlie Patton, Robert Johnson, Son House, Bukka White) and skillful originals without creating music that sounds like it belongs in a museum exhibit. Between his deft fingerpicking and soulful, resonant singing, Harris puts a distinctive stamp on his music while staying mindful of its rich history. The same cannot be said for headlining blues rocker Ian Moore. --Peter Margasak
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Michael Smith.