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Spot Check

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SYRUP USA 10/31, LOUNGE AX The true glory of prog rock wasn't in the music; it was in the iconography--the airbrushed Martian landscapes, the knights and alchemists, "The Trees!" So no matter how many layers of irony I have to peel away, there's still something I have to like about a band that's willing to put a unicorn on the album cover and dress up in Renaissance Faire costumes for the inner fold. Musically Syrup USA's All Over the Land (Flydaddy)--the new album from the new band of ex-Swirly Seana Carmody--is pleasant, complex pop. I hear a little Spinanes, a little Portishead, a little Breeders, a little Emerson, Lake & Palmer. But that cover--Yes!

ROZZ WILLIAMS 10/31, CONGRESS THEATer You can keep your Cures and your Xmal Deutschlands and all those other hollow weenies; if it's gotta be goth, it's gotta be someone like Rozz Williams, veteran of Christian Death--that seemingly invincible hydra that's survived enough serious messianic delusions to lick a dozen David Koreshes. Williams's second solo effort, The Whorse's Mouth (Hollows Hill), is a creaky, funereal thicket of excess, with rickety piano and grim effects underscoring Williams's flat delivery of his macabre poetry. ("You gyrate for a dead world, try to raise / Erections from its corpse / Roll over and bite hard on that dead meat," he intones on "Maggot Drain.") He performs on the first night of Expo of the Extreme, on a bill with (deep breath) Mortiis, Bile, All the Pretty Horses, Boyd Rice & Non, Psywarfare, Sceptre, Hell on Earth, Yeah Right, Bloodyminded, Thanatos, and Baltazar.

HOLY COWS 11/1, BEAT KITCHEN This quartet slaps down 11 respectably catchy patties of modern-rock-radio fodder on its new Blueberrie (Big Pop). Did I mention, as the press kit does numerous times, that the members are all construction workers from the Detroit area? Where their fellow working-class hero Bob Seger lives in an enviable mansion with foreboding gates and nary a pickup truck in sight? Holy cows, sacred cows--they all look surprised when you tip 'em.

NATHAN & THE ZYDECO CHA CHAS 11/1, B.L.U.E.S. ETCETERA "We're gonna go back in the woods / Way back in the swamp!" Nathan Williams yells in the intro to "Hey Bebe" on his new live I'm a Zydeco Hog (Rounder). But while Williams has said he learned to play the piano accordion under an oak tree at midnight, he's no bayou isolationist--the song turns into a long jam that blazes into Harlem and Motor City turf with its R & B drive and squealing saxes. This show is my pick to ward off the oncoming winter, and I'll be keeping the CD around for mornings when I'm out of coffee. r? & THE MYSTERIANS 11/1, EMPTY BOTTLE It's the most recognizable riff in the illustrious history of garage rock, and it cuts through the Tommy James slush on oldies radio like a hot knife through margarine. The organ bit on the 1966 smash hit "96 Tears" was of course played by Frank Rodriguez Jr. (who was 15 years old at the time), but it's ?, the artist formerly known as Robert Martinez, who became the pride of Saginaw, Michigan, wearing shades for the next three decades and periodically haunting nostalgia revues with assorted substitute Mysterians. This summer the original members got back together and recorded a "new" CD of note-for-note covers of their own songs--including "96 Tears" and "Midnight Hour," for which they apparently had to obtain a license from the company that now owns them. It's a little cheesy, sure, but with all the other old farts scurrying to "reinvent" themselves all the time, it's nice to see a band that's not running screaming from its past.

POWERMAN 5000 11/5, RIVIERA Seven of the 13 tracks on Powerman 5000's Dreamworks debut Mega!! Kung Fu Radio were directly inspired by TV or movies, making its fist-pumping, bombastic, vaguely hip-hoppish metal the perfect vicarious rush for couch potatoes whose greatest treasure is mom's Blockbuster card. Remember, folks--guns don't kill people. Teenagers with no grounding in reality kill people.

EX-CHITTLE 11/6, EMPTY BOTTLE On their debut, Moving Solves Everything (Kalliste), former Dis bassist Rob Sieracki and former Tar drummer Mike Greenlees augment Greg Betzweiser's elaborate and subtle lyrics (a far cry from Rozz's, let's just say) with spare, pretty folk rock, coming off somewhere between a less depressed Nick Drake and a less manic Incredible String Band. This acoustic set costs only $3--made possible by the savings on electricity and unnecessary notes. --Monica Kendrick

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): ? and the Mysterians.

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