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Spot Check

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Steve Riley & the Mamou Playboys 4/12, Fitzgerald's As Beausoleil have drifted further away from their traditional Cajun moorings, Steve Riley & the Mamou Playboys have quietly taken up the slack. While revealing the band's own modernist impulses--smooth, keening harmonies, high-octane romps, and zydeco bluster--the recent La Toussaint (Rounder) also showcases the group's zesty traditional side, particularly through the spirited accordion and fiddle playing of Riley and David Greely. 7 Year Bitch 4/13, Lounge Ax The members of Seattle's 7 Year Bitch must be really nice or charming, because it sure ain't their music that's kept them in the spotlight. Their new Gato Negro (Atlantic) contains flat hard rock with some grunt-level energy, but its language, both verbal and musical, rarely surpasses such monosyllabic sophistication. Nashville Bluegrass Band 4/13, Abbey Pub Last year's Unleashed (Sugar Hill) showed that the Nashville Bluegrass Band may be this country's finest contemporary bluegrass group. Combining hot picking, a forward-looking repertoire (the latest record features a couple of tunes written by talented Nashville newcomer Gillian Welch), and sweet harmonies, the NBB temper the music's rich tradition with energetic playing and creative openness. Barenaked Ladies 4/13, Riviera On their new record, Born on a Pirate Ship (Reprise), these insufferable Canadian knobs rock with all the power of a Sesame Street band, though their moronic lyrics couldn't even make Ernie and Bert's grade. Barenaked Ladies measure their cleverness with such lines as "I've run out of blood and I'm chewing my cud / And my gastrointestinal festival's best of all," and the fact that they could sell out the Riviera with this swill doesn't say much about the discerning taste of many Chicagoans. Dog's Eye View 4/13, Metro It's been almost three years since Counting Crows released their debut album, but former Chicagoan Peter Stuart's new band Dog's Eye View ought to fill the void of overwrought caterwauling left by Adam Duritz's extended absence. On the recent Happy Nowhere (Columbia) Stuart's calculatedly evocative folk rock offers predictable emotional extremism rather than musical substance. Sure, it's all very pleasant, but beneath the tedious guitar arpeggios and samey mid-tempos is strained crooning intended to suggest some kind of real personal investment. The only investment I sense is the one the label made hoping that Dog's Eye View would catch on with look-alike college students. Shallow 4/17, Metro On last year's 3-D Stereo Trouble (Zero Hour) this Kansas City, Kansas, foursome twirled strands of My Bloody Valentine-ish feedback, slow-motion guitar drones, and the Natalie Merchant-on-helium crooning of Julie Shields to produce namby-pamby guitar pop far less than the sum of its parts. Tweaked by several Sonic Boom remixes, the new CD Laser Lens Cleaner suggests that the band may be delving further into trance-out turf, but between an omnipresent veil of goth leanings and the schoolgirlish warble of Shields, Shallow seem doomed as Velocity Girl for slow-witted stoners. Pansy Division 4/17, Lounge Ax On the recent Wish I'd Taken Pictures (Lookout) the Bay Area's Pansy Division continue to humorously set the travails of gay sex to punk-inflected bubblegum melodicism. From "I know about ropes and whips / Handcuffs and nipple clips / That's something I'm gonna skip / I'm vanilla" ("Vanilla") to "I'd never seen one / Quite this big before / When he's soft he's nearly / Hung down to the floor" ("Dick of Death"), Jon Ginoli and Chris Freeman confront sexuality with abandon and honesty. Though the band's frank lyricism may cause homophobes to titter nervously, there are quite a few universal truths beneath the graphic jokes. Boys Entrance open. Subdudes 4/18, Vic Proving that sturdy frat-boy bonds and lots of MGD can make most Lincoln Park residents rally around anything, the Subdudes--a competent bar band originally from New Orleans but now based in Fort Collins, Colorado--continue their exalted status as long-running Chicago favorites. Their new album, Primitive Streak (High Street), delivers more low-impact R & B-tempered rock that holds on to some vague Crescent City pedigree, but mostly the music recalls a second-rate Little Feat. It's all ridiculously tasteful--packed with dry but soulful singing and politely baroque instrumental flourishes--but the music throbs with all the intensity of an elevator ride to the 40th floor. Pogues 4/18, Metro The new Pogues record, Pogue Mahone (Mesa), suggests that though the band continues to weather the absence of original frontman Shane MacGowan--who split years ago to start a bustling solo career--there's not much more than propped-up competence to elicit any comment other than "Oh, the Pogues are still around?" --Peter Margasak

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

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