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BIG HEAD TODD & THE MONSTERS 2/14, TOWER RECORDS ON CLARK I was as surprised to learn that guitarist-vocalist Todd Park Mohr's nickname is an homage to bluesman Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson as I was to hear his Colorado-based trio's bang-up version of "Boom Boom" (with guest vocals by the song's author, John Lee Hooker) on its new album, Beautiful World (Revolution). Otherwise the band's rather sluggish pop-rock scarcely approaches the inherent joy of great blues, but the album's not half bad, if you liked Eric Clapton in the 70s.

TIM MAHONEY & THE MEENIES 2/14, CUBBY BEAR Minnesotan Mahoney deserves mainstream stardom if only for his refreshingly uncloying voice, with a lilt that reminds me of the Undertones' Feargal Sharkey. The Meenies' mechanical delivery of Mahoney's uniformly bland originals on this year's Now (Pop Sense), however, limit his appeal to the Hootie crowd. Oh, wait, that is the mainstream.

TONIC 2/14, DOUBLE DOOR After decades of complaining about hard rock, the Geritol generation appears to have won the battle by default. Not only is lounge music the background noise of choice for cigar-puffing, martini-sipping young urbanites, but even the latest "heavy guitar" bands, like this tepid LA-based Bad Company rip-off, are about as stimulating as a bottle of Sominex.

POST OFFICE 2/19, LOUNGE AX With its supple, self-assured guitar interplay, rough-hewn vocal harmonies, clever lyrics and arrangements, and generous supply of hooks, this local quartet is sure to please Anglo-pop aficionados, evoking Squeeze and a less moody Robyn Hitchcock.

DAVID GRISMAN & ANDY STATMAN 2/20, TEMPLE SHOLOM These versatile mandolinists' spirited 1995 collaboration, Songs of Our Fathers, scored a hit in the traditional Jewish music community. Among the musicians assembled for both that album and this tour is legendary rock and pop session man Hal Blaine, whose trademark drumming was integral to most of Phil Spector's productions as well as the Byrds' "Mr. Tambourine Man" and Brian Wilson's Pet Sounds.

TROLL FOR TROUT 2/20, OTIS' Michael Crittenden, lead singer and founder of this slick Michigan sextet, studied jazz and composition at the Berklee College of Music, only to return home and devise sickening lyrics like "The more I get to kiss you / The less I wonder why / I was put on this earth" (as heard on International Harvester, on a label called Mackinaw Harvest). Yet, when consistently impressive lead guitarist Pete Dunning (who did not study at Berklee) pushes his country inclinations (as on "Map Song"), the group responds with some of the brightest sounds the heartland genre can offer.

--Frank Youngwerth

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Big Head Todd & the Monsters photo by Susan McCartney.

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