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Spot Check

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YUM-YUM 5/31, DOUBLE DOOR Led by ubiquitous scenester and world-class schmoozer Chris Holmes, this pop band has dozens of critics hearing shades of the Left Banke, the Beatles, and Phil Spector in its monochromatic, utterly flat melodic confections, proving that the designer of the emperor's new clothes still has a way with needle and thread--or at least smoke and mirrors. Yum-Yum's debut album, Dan Loves Patti (TAG/Atlantic), the release of which this gig celebrates, has been lumped in with far superior efforts by Eric Matthews, Richard Davies, the High Llamas, and the elusive locals Plush as a new orchestrated pop sound. While Holmes nicely arranges horns, strings, and old psychedelic keyboard textures, the band's songs--most of which lack the big hooks of their supposed stylistic inspirations--all drag with the same mopey midtempo lurch. Holmes's precious whispered croon eschews what most people would call singing: he always keeps it down--as if there were a toddler sleeping in the next room--even when a bit of tension or volume would give his tunes the push they need. Number One Cup and Nectarine also perform. GAUNT, SWEET PEA 5/31, LOUNGE AX It's more than reasonable to believe that rock 'n' roll just doesn't have that relentless, reckless drive anymore, but thankfully bands like Columbus's Gaunt reappear to snuff out any such absolutes. Their recent Kryptonite (Thrill Jockey) finds them retaining their essential punk-rock snottiness but also stretching out--thanks to the ever-evolving songwriting of Jerry Wick--with some novel arrangements and even a quiet ballad. On their recent Chicks Hate Wes (Trance Syndicate) Austin's Sweet Pea pound away with the thunder of sludge rock from the not-so-distant days of yore, when bass-heavy bands like Unsane and the Melvins seemed to hold all of the promise in the world. Of course, time has proven that most people would rather guzzle a less filling beer while listening to Hootie than complain about life's travails while blowing out their speakers with Slughog. SPOON 5/31, METRO On its debut album, Telephono (Matador), this terrific Austin trio combines the less-affected pop quirkiness of the Pixies with the simplicity of the Modern Lovers. Live, some of front man Britt Daniel's vocal idiosyncrasies dissolve within the band's hooks and straight-up rock power. Spoon perform on a fine bill that also includes Sardina and the manic pop of Apples in Stereo. DUBTRIBE 5/31, SHELTER Ambient techno hippies from San Francisco, Dubtribe fuse bubbling club beats with spacey soundscapes, suggesting either trippy dance grooves or New Agey twaddle. Fortunately, on their most recent album, Selene Songs (Organico), they veer primarily toward the former, delivering serene, liquid-drum programming coated by lush sampled textures. GO TO BLAZES 6/1, SCHUBAS On their new Eric Ambel-produced album, Waiting Around for the Crash (ESD), Philadelphia's Go to Blazes continue to emphasize the rock in their blustery roots-rock formulation, producing more infectious, Rolling Stones-esque raunch. The slight twang in Ted Warren's feverish singing gives the band a major lift over your average bar band, and his impressive writing doesn't hurt either. Carpetbaggers open. HOLY BARBARIANS 6/1, DOUBLE DOOR On their debut album, Cream (Reprise), Holy Barbarians, led by the Cult's boneheaded front man Ian Astbury, ease off the stiff rockisms that dominated the Cult's later output, but the backward-glancing peace goop of the lyrics proves just as suffocating. Astbury croons here more than he has in the past, and when he hovers over lines like "I love my summer girl naked on my skin / Take me down to your dandelion fields," it's hard to know if these guys want to be taken seriously. But Astbury is British, so quite naturally they want respect for their art. The question is, are there enough bleached-out goth holdovers to give it to them? OCCASIONAL STRAY 6/5, SCHUBAS On their debut album, Dig, Occasional Stray prove why they're one of Chicago's most active bar bands: their competent blend of blues rock and R.E.M.-ish folk rock will make drunk patrons tap their toes without diverting their attention from the Bulls (or Hawks or Cubs) game. DELTA 72, JOBY'S OPINION 6/6, LOUNGE AX D.C. punks hopping on the nth generation retro-R & B tip, Delta 72 draw inspiration from the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and are currently seeking old records by artists other than Ike Turner. On their decent The R&B of Membership (Touch & Go) they appropriate various 60s grooves with vintage gear, but their mod settings don't really give off that special spark. On their recent Form Filter (Friction Media) Chapel Hill's Joby's Opinion sound like bored indie rockers tinkering with loose structures that some would dare call "jazzy." The song titles "Whir," borrowed from Jimmy Giuffre, and "Anthony Braxton Drawings" are as close as they come to swinging. Most of the time they just shamble along sloppily and noisily, sorta like a car on its last legs. --Peter Margasak

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

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