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MAN OR ASTRO-MAN? 9/12, Metro On these self-proclaimed aliens' latest album for Touch and Go, Made From Technetium, they sound less than ever like a surf band and more like, well, a Touch and Go band--less twang, flintier riffs, more singing. I think they've assimilated into their adopted environs a little too well.

SPECTRUM, FRONTIER 9/12, Empty Bottle Speaking of astro-men...the vitriolic breakup of Spacemen 3 has led to revealing exaggerations of its leaders' true natures. While Jason Spaceman surrounds himself with a cast of thousands on the latest Spiritualized record, with Spectrum's new Forever Alien (Space Age Recordings) Sonic Boom retreats into relative psychedelic solitude, with only two other guys and lots of vintage analog synthesizers. I'm sure it's not lonely in his brain, though--one of the tracks is a shout-out to LSD pioneer Augustus Owsley Stanley, and my guess is plenty of others were written in his honor. Local Sturm und Drone meisters Frontier (whose second album, Heater, is out now on the Empty Bottle's Tug-o-war label) use not a single synth but plenty of dry-ice fog to get a similar effect.

ASHTRAY BOY 9/13, Aboard the Jamaica Much is made of the fortitude of folks who successfully maintain commuter marriages, but how about a moment of awed silence for Cannanes veteran Randall Lee, who at great expense and obvious artistic risk maintains two versions of Ashtray Boy on two different landmasses--North America and Australia. In any time zone Ashtray Boy produces a sage, sweet, and only slightly jet-lagged jangle pop. Lee's in the country for six months (with his new wife, former Sabalon Glitz vocalist Carla Bruce), mixing a fourth album with drummer Justin Niimi and training new bassist Andy Creighton. Former bassist Dave Trumfio will take the stage--which is on a boat, by the way--later in the evening with his current priority, the Pulsars.

PIZZICATO FIVE 9/13, Metro Having germinated way back in 1979, Japan's Pizzicato Five presaged and still put to shame that liquor-industry toady we know here as the lounge revival--though that craze can't have hurt the sales of the tiny fraction of the duo's discography that's been released by Matador in the U.S. Spiking the usual 60s sound-track pop with house beats, clattery funk guitar, disco-era backing vocals, and whatever else it takes to stay light as air and more modern than modern, the Pizzicato Five are a whole lot more fun than the term "easy listening" could ever suggest.

STUDEBAKER JOHN & the HAWKS 9/13, Rialto Square Theatre On his new Tremoluxe (Blind Pig), "Studebaker John" Grimaldi's melodious but dirty boogie-blues swallows every well-loved blues cliche whole--and they do go down smooth. If you're already in Joliet, it's worth it, and if you're not, think about it: this show, organized by Blind Pig and Alligator, is a benefit for SOS Children's Village, an alternative foster-care community for abused and abandoned children, and considering that the hottest games in Joliet are the casinos and the prison, those kids probably need all the help they can get. The band also plays the restuarant Redfish on Friday and Buddy Guy's Legends on Thursday.

MXPX 9/14, House of Blues I really don't want to come down too hard on these kids, who provide copies of their birth certificates in the booklet to their CD Life in General (Tooth & Nail/A & M) so we know only one of them is currently of legal drinking age (and barely), but sadly their tuneless, prefab high school power pop just makes me worry that there are little Punkees like them being groomed everywhere these days. Though these guys write their own lyrics, they really shouldn't. --Monica Kendrick

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Spectrum photo by Howard Rosenberg.

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