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BALLOON GUY 6/28, LOUNGE AX The bio for The West Coast Shakes (Warner Brothers/Generator)--the latest record by this Minneapolis foursome--spouts some nonsense about how disruptive the band was in negotiating for a major-label contract, citing "the age-old dilemma of 'how to sell-out and remain one's self.'" If Balloon Guy spent as much time on their music as they do denying any sort of ambition, they might not create such generic indie-rock grinding. This combo blends predictably noisome guitars, the bored but strained vocals of Matt Olson, and a halfhearted attempt at grafting melodies onto cliched riffs. KUSTOMIZED 6/28, EMPTY BOTTLE A Boston foursome fronted by former Mission of Burma drummer and Volcano Suns leader Peter Prescott, Kustomized make their Chicago debut in support of their third record, At the Vanishing Point (Matador). Though Prescott has switched from drums to guitar, his basic MO hasn't changed much. Giddy, shouted melodies, caustic but witty lyrics, and an unwieldy barrage of guitars and mind-numbing drums form a joyous din that retains rock's potential recklessness without necessarily surrendering to its inherent stupidity. Formerly of Bob Mould's Sugar, Malcolm Travis is now the band's drummer, replacing former Bullet LaVolta singer Kurt Davis (aka Yukki Gipe). SISTER CAROL 6/28, WILD HARE With her third album, Lyrically Potent (Heartbeat), Jamaica's Sister Carol streamlines her slick amalgam of passable DJ toasting and contemporary reggae grooves. Thoroughly enmeshed in the style's mainstream, Sister Carol is performing as part of a like-minded label package tour that includes Michael Rose, the Meditations, and Derrick Morgan. CORNERSHOP 6/29, DOUBLE DOOR I haven't heard a song in the last year anywhere near as catchy as Cornershop's "6 A.M. Jullander Shere," except maybe their "7:20 A.M. Jullander Shere"--two variations on the same tune that bookend last year's terrific Woman's Gotta Have It (Luaka Bop/Warner Brothers). Mixing terse, catchy agitpop with splinters of traditional Indian music informed by club culture--check out the Freaky Chakra remix of "Wog"--this band may just discover the key to truly organic musical cross-pollination. While Cornershop still perfect a balance between outsider traditionalism and revisionist rock, their fascinating negotiations provide an interim blast. TISH HINOJOSA 6/29, FITZGERALD'S Unreservedly mixing English and Spanish lyrics, Tish Hinojosa's new album, Dreaming From the Labyrinth (Warner Brothers), fails to do the same with musical styles. In the past the Austin singer-songwriter has masterfully blended country and conjunto songs, but the new album sports such an airbrushed adult-contemporary polish it's hard to find any grit. Apart from the occasional flare-up, most of the album snoozes right by. Bill Miller opens. SONNY BURGESS, KEITH GATTIS 6/30, GRANT PARK Sonny Burgess's late-50s recordings for Sun rank as some of the wildest rockabilly sides ever waxed, his howl tapping into some primordial power. Continuing the comeback he started a decade ago, Burgess performs at this year's free country festival with a new album under his belt. It's a bit more mannered than his old stuff, natch, but he can still kick it. Burgess will perform with Rosie Flores. Other worthwhile daytime performers include Joe Ely, Jesse Dayton, and Dale Watson (see Critic's Choice). In the evening Austin native Keith Gattis plays songs from his impressive debut album. Despite Gattis's neotraditionalist slant, the album's production has too much line-dance eagerness, but with his decent songwriting and a striking voice that recalls the swooping vocal licks of early George Jones, Gattis eclipses most of the Nashville pack. JALE 6/30, LOUNGE AX The artistic leap made on this Nova Scotia foursome's second album, So Wound (Sub Pop), is nothing short of remarkable. Though Jale's debut, Dream Cake, delivered serviceable pop laden with strained harmonies, all of its potential has been realized on the second effort. The sophisticated songwriting is crammed with monster hooks, and the harmonies are gorgeous and airy. Suggesting a less sugary Bangles back when they were good, Jale's mix of lush 60s pop vocals and expansive, edgy guitar riffing presents a pleasant anomaly: straight-up tunefulness unfettered by either self-conscious quirkiness or limp-wristed pastoralism. ORBITAL, SPACETIME CONTINUUM 7/3, METRO As two of England's most popular electronic dance artists, brothers Phil and Paul Hartnoll, who form Orbital, seem intent on maintaining the status quo. Their fourth album, the rather dull In Sides (ffrr), may layer on the electronic textures thicker than 1994's Snivilisation, but apart from the more sweet-and-spacey noodling, it's more of the same old same old. Expatriate Scot Jonah Sharp operates as Spacetime Continuum and works out of San Francisco. On Emit Ecaps (Astralwerks)--"space time" backward--he retools the slightly New Agey fluidity of his past ambient work into a sound geared more toward the dance floor without losing his varied synth textures. With muted house pounding and appealing vestiges of drum 'n' bass, his new work succeeds where his past output foundered.

--Peter Margasak

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