DIANOGAH 10/3, EMPTY BOTTLE Two basses and drums are the perfect instrumentation for those of us who came of age listening to a lot of screechy, trebly 80s metal and now worry about hearing loss in the higher registers. As Mike Watt and Kira already proved years ago with their groundbreaking bass duo Dos (and as Tortoise continue to prove), guitars are nice but just not...necessary. On their first full-length, As Seen From Above (Ohio Gold), Chicago's Dianogah twist their threads into a range of sprawly and brawling songs that manage to echo both June of 44 and the Meat Puppets. This is their CD-release party. JONATHAN RICHMAN 10/3, DOUBLE DOOR Last year's Surrender to Jonathan featured Richman's largest backing band ever--including not only loud bass and drums but backing vocals and horns--and he actually toured with a full ensemble to give uncharacteristic muscle to his touching, sometimes squirm-inducing songs. But he must have gotten tired of telling them to turn it down, because he's on his own again. Go if you like him, but don't request any Modern Lovers songs and for God's sake don't talk loud. STEVE SCHAD 10/3, HEARTLAND CAFE There's something oddly retro about Steve Schad's oddly syncopated, upbeat singer-songwriter pop--perhaps it's the way he melds genres and studio gloss into a giddy, quasi-psychedelic goo that would sound right at home on early 70s pop radio, next to the latest from George Harrison or as an energy lifter after something by Jimmy Buffett. Since the Heartland Cafe by definition draws caffeinated hippies, he should go over just fine. MAGNET 10/4, EMPTY BOTTLE Nobody would dare to tell drummer jokes in the presence of this pleasant pop band's only real claim to star quality, Moe Tucker, who for the first time stays mostly behind the kit in a band that is certainly no Velvet Underground. But one would do well to remember that she's the only ex-Velvet whose solo records are consistently mindful of the virtue of fun, and even in his mopier moments singer-songwriter Mark Goodman never sounds like he'd rather be writing very serious novels. WHITE HASSLE 10/4, LOUNGE AX Maybe the massive indie-rock defection to country music has something to do with a craving for a spiritual return to an age when families and friends gathered to entertain themselves with homemade music on front porches. Or maybe it's just further justification for funny hats and public drunkenness. White Hassle, a side project of Marcellus Hall and Dave Varenka of Railroad Jerk, embody some of the best potential of either motive. On their National Chain (Matador) they use cheap guitar, trombone, pots and pans, and harmonica squeals and gasps to dissonant effect while covering all the usual suspects (Hank, George) and some unusual ones (the Everly Brothers, Ray Charles) in a way that's both rambunctious and reverent. Jad Fair 10/7, Lounge Ax On his most recent release, Monarchs (on the Australian label Dr. Jim's Records), this relentlessly prolific troubadour of the atonal and the accidentally tonal offers up 22 more songs of free-associative longing (including delightfully mangled versions of "Folsom Prison Blues," "Lucille," and "All Shook Up") in his distinctive arthropod whine. Half Japanese are still officially operational but on break, Phono-Comb are busy with their own thing, and former collaborator Moe Tucker will have just played across town, leaving Fair to float this one alone with Jason Willett. But longtime Fair fans should be relieved to note that, judging from the record's content, his sex life seems to have improved a little. SLOBBERBONE 10/9, SCHUBAS Formula for generic alt-country rock: one part guitar a la Mudhoney mixed with Marshall Tucker. Two parts vocal style lifted from 80s country-rock revivalists like Green on Red and the Long Ryders, but mixed higher and crisper for 90s CD-based radio. Three parts press kit referring to "punk-rock attitude" and "powerful live performances." One part special guest or producer with some vague connection to REM, for past-indie/current-megastar cred. One part special guest with ties to Uncle Tupelo, for current hip. Now that you know how, wouldn't you rather do it yourself? --Monica Kendrick
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Dianogah photo by Andy Mueller.