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BRAVE COMBO 8/22, FITZGERALD'S This long-lived Texas band of roots defilers is finally poised to catch a wave--and what do they come up with but Group Dance Epidemic (Rounder), a collection of deliciously, straightforwardly annoying presentations of "The Hokey Pokey," "The Mexican Hat Dance," "The Hustle," and other communal boogie-woogie. The whole thing sounds like the perfect record for your local hipster watering hole to play at last call to drive the drunks out. I can't imagine I'll ever listen to it again, but it was fun while it lasted.

P.W. LONG'S REELFOOT 8/22, LOUNGE AXOn their stunning debut, We Didn't See You on Sunday (Touch and Go), former Mule front man P.W. Long and a new band that includes ex-Jesus Lizard drummer Mac McNeilly take a few paces back from the city-slick final Mule album and spit a juicy wad of dark and biting power folk right into the can. Lord knows it's quite a feat to write a song about a dog ("Aw Bruiser") without sinking into schmaltz; I hope Long can keep his boots clean a while longer.

WHISKEYTOWN 8/22, DOUBLE DOOR I'm always wary when I'm told someone's songwriting is "straightforward and direct"--it's usually code for "no imagination." And it's true that not much sets Whiskeytown's new Strangers Almanac (Outpost) above the alt-country glut, especially not unfortunately named leader Ryan Adams's assertion of love for Black Flag and Sonic Youth. But the tunes are good, the instrumentation tasty, and the special guests impeccable (Alejandro Escovedo sings backup on three tracks), and those who like this kind of thing will like it. Sally Timms, who could sing the phone book and I'd listen, opens.

DAMBUILDERS 8/23, LOUNGE AX On their third album, Against the Stars, the Dambuilders run up behind that retro-new wave bandwagon, jettisoning the baggage of individuality as they go. These days that's the aging process of your average fair-to-good indie-rock band, as they gain money and exposure and lose ideas--they all wind up sounding like either the Romantics or mid-period R.E.M. sooner or later, and I don't know which is worse. And naming a song "Seek and Destroy" fools no one.

BLAKE MORGAN 8/26, metro The latest immigrant from the Generic Sensitive Rocker Planet has a clean, crunchy guitar sound and a nice glossy head shot. His management sent me chocolate, then took me for a ride in their shiny spaceship and showed me the secret vats where they breed their square-jawed, tousled drones and teach them key phrases like "Why don't you see" and "Do you think it's too late." What a great job I have! Unfortunately I have a lingering rash from the experience, and they never did answer my key question: What the hell does an executive producer do on a record?

LOOP GURU 8/27, RIVIERA These Brits' second album, Amrita...All These and the Japanese Soup Warriors (North South), is an intoxicating swirl of influences and borrowings, including but not limited to Can, 13th-century poet Rumi, gamelan, rembetika, Erik Satie, and Philip K. Dick. While I admire their obsessive eclecticism, the fact is they're mingling dozens of traditions ranging from the ancient to the immediate very indiscriminately, like a pomo Phineas Fogg whirling around the world in 80 minutes with MTV as a corporate sponsor--well, jeez, who cares about the rest of the world now that they've appropriated all the danceable stuff out of it. They perform as part of the Big Top tour, headlined by future Guns n' Roses producer Moby--cross-cultural fusion of an altogether different sort.

ZEEK SHECK 8/28, EMPTY BOTTLE Formerly one-third of the semilegendary Dot Dot Dot (with friends from the Scissor Girls and Math), this one-woman wrecking machine, instrument designer, and multi-instrumentalist (we're talking all at the same time) is celebrating the release of her first CD with the Hot Lines for the Children band, which is worth the price just for the liner notes (or if you happen to be a Fred Lonberg-Holm completist). The music? It's a guided tour of a magical land. Put your clothes on inside out so the bad fairies don't get you. --Monica Kendrick

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Loop Guru photo by Matt Bright.

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