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BUSKER SOUNDCHECK 12/27, EMPTY BOTTLE This Chicago power trio kicks off its new EP, Wesley Lee Roth (Full Groan), with "It's 3," an insanely catchy wintertime reply to Blue Cheer's version of "Summertime Blues." Near the end of the second verse, call-and-response vocal lines slide into hilariously dead-on three-part calypso harmony over a bluster of hard-rock guitar. If Smashing Pumpkins were half this complex, spirited, or witty, they wouldn't be nearly so famous. For its fourth annual holiday show, Busker plans to add a Hanukkah number to its traditional Christmas jam. JAMESTOWN 12/31, OTIS'; 1/5, HOUSE OF BLUES This local folk-rock five piece, which has its own beer sponsor, can't seem to let the music speak for itself. Its new self-titled second CD (Vrooman) arrived in a mailer decorated on the outside with an excerpt from a glowing review the band got in Cincinnati, as well as a list of credits racked up by the producer it hired to give the project an extra coat of gloss. Then there's the little red dinosaur decal at the bottom of the cover letter, which says (in a balloon quote), "P.S. We sound nothing like T. Rex." What's worse, when you finally hear the disc, they sound just like a band that would take its name from Natalie Merchant's birthplace. SLINK MOSS & THE FLYING ACES 12/31, BEAT KITCHEN; 1/10, Martyrs' Lanky, idiosyncratic songwriter-guitarist Moss plays the yodelin' cosmic cowboy on Bones (Rattlesnake), philosophizing over a breezy campfire harmonica on "All Kinds of People," and covering Hank Williams's "Ramblin' Man" to a flying-saucer-sound-effects obbligato. Unafraid of revealing tenderness (on his straightforward lullaby original, "Rockabye Baby") or vulnerability (on "Where's My Wife"), he even explores the farthest reaches of his dark side on the Cramps-ish "Suicide Rock (Oh Mama)"--which is all the eerier for having been produced by Jim Ellison. VERBOW, SPELUNKERS, STEVE FRISBIE 1/3, DOUBLE DOOR All three acts appear on a new compilation, Come In 773! (Whitehouse). Verbow, which called itself Skinny till another band proved prior dibs on the name, adds bass and drums to the previous vocals-guitar-and-cello duo Jason & Alison. The debut track "Come in Threes" won't be on the band's forthcoming Bob Mould-produced LP on 550 Music/Sony, but it's nonetheless indistinguishable from the output of any number of major-label nowhere-goers. Spelunkers, from Bloomington, Illinois, have added to their all-instrumental format thin vocals that merely accompany weighty guitar riffs, and so the songs still seem to function primarily as setups for long, fancy solos. Steve Frisbie's heartfelt acoustic pop-rock is derived from early Crowded House, but even with countless bands currently playing in this style (e.g., Jamestown), anything as subtly crafted as Frisbie's "Booksong" remains rare.

--Frank Youngwerth

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Slink Moss & the Flying Aces photo by Alberto Ferarri.

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