BIS 7/25, METRO On its second album, The New Transistor Heroes, the Scottish trio purveys a loud, high-energy new wave pop that at its best sounds like a cross between Sleater-Kinney and the Human League. But the capper is the cover, which portrays the trio as round-eyed Japanese cartoon characters, making them British kids paying tribute to Japanese reinventions of British pop, itself a reinvention of an American phenomenon. Ain't this global village great? CRAIG CHAQUICO 7/25, SKYLINE stage Guitarist Chaquico, who had the lack of vision to be a member of Starship, is traveling with the "Guitars, Saxes & More" tour, which also includes smooth-jazz types saxophonist Richard Elliot, trumpeter-flugelhornist Rick Braun, and guitarist Peter White. The 30-minute sets by each musician are supposed to segue into one another, "giving fans two hours of non-stop music." But if the twee hippie Muzak of Chaquico's A Thousand Pictures is any indication, that promise sounds more like a threat. YVONNE DOLL 7/25, UNCOMMON GROUND; 7/31, Gunther Murphy's Fans of Michelle Shocked or the Indigo Girls will feel right at home with this local singer-songwriter's conversational style. And the tough folk rock of her debut, Bliss (Rigmarole), has enough spice and grit (and rolling percussion and swinging violin) to diminish my initial resentment at her handlers' presumption that I can be won over with a bouquet of daisies. JOAN OF ARC 7/26, FIRESIDE BOWL On its debut full-length, A Portable Model Of, this local band's low-key meanderings give a first impression of aimlessness--sometimes echoing Nick Drake's longer Bryter Layter excursions, other times sounding like uninspired David Grubbs wannabes--and the random spurts of electronic boogabooga can sound both arbitrary and perfunctory. Eventually it does add up to more than the sum of its dubious parts, though--perhaps because guitarist-vocalist Tim Kinsella (late of Cap'n Jazz) has a voice that cracks appealingly when he forces himself to deliver lines like "Too smart to be / A pop star / Not smart enough / Not to be." GLYN STYLER 7/26, DOUBLE DOOR There's no one better poised than this post-everything crooner from New Orleans to thoroughly exploit the lounge revival. A former collaborator with Lydia Lunch, Alex Chilton, and Green on Red, Styler has a dark, affectless voice that injects the grim originals and standards on his new Live at the Mermaid Lounge (Truckstop) with a pretty poison--and just enough explicit sex and violence to carry the torch song right into the jaded 90s. DIANE IZZO 7/30, LOUNGE AX Chicago singer-songwriter Diane Izzo, whose plaintive, husky voice has been compared in these pages and elsewhere to Polly Jean Harvey's, has been making a name for herself at spots like the Lunar Cabaret. For her first headlining gig at Lounge Ax, she'll be backed by a group that includes Lunar modules Paul Leisen, Ned Folkerth, and Jim Becker (on cello, drums, and slide guitar and mandolin), plus Leroy Bach (5ive Style, Uptighty) on bass. NIAMH PARSONS & THE LOOSE CONNECTIONS 7/30, ABBEY PUB On her new Loosen Up (Green Linnet) Irish nightingale Niamh Parsons suffers from a problem common among ethnic folk singers who attempt to leap into the mainstream: the flourishes that give folk music its character battle the glossy blandness that characterizes mainstream pop and lose. That's what's happened to her ballads, anyway--a few of the other tunes on the album do have a little clever Irish-Cajun fusion fire to them, and I'm hoping that live her band will lose patience with the slush. --Monica Kendrick
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Bis photo by Joshua Kessler.