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MOVIEGOERS 12/19, SCHUBAS The trick of good pop is to hit ambitious heights while pretending to have no ambition at all--to get folks who were barely aware of you at the time to catch themselves later humming lines about "the heavy-duty cycle of life" while in the laundromat. The debut CD by the local Moviegoers, Twinpop (Hear Diagonally), nestles in life's mundanities like it belongs there, conjures deja vu when you least expect it, and picks up steam until you realize you're having a lot more fun than you thought you would.

ELEVENTH DREAM DAY, SUE GARNER 12/20, DOUBLE DOOR Good lord, Eleventh Dream Day actually playing twice in one year--you all must have been very, very good. Though the trio's most recent album, Eighth (Thrill Jockey), was a beautifully orchestrated melange of the consonant and dissonant, the real treat is hearing the volatile blend catch fire live. Tim Rutili from Red Red Meat will play dueling guitars with Rick Rizzo this time--and he's got a hard act to follow in Tara Key's tumbling extravaganza this summer. Opener Sue Garner's passionate voice is the home fire that's warmed encampments as diverse as the off-kilter avant folk of Fish & Roses, the eerie, ambient blues of Peach Cobbler, and the juicy, turn-on-a-dime psych-outs of Run On; this show is a preview of her solo debut, To Run More Smoothly, due in February on Thrill Jockey. The album features instrumental help from former dB Chris Stamey and Yo La Tengo's Georgia Hubley, among others, but here Garner will be abetted by only her husband and constant band mate, percussionist Rick Brown, and EDD bassist Doug McCombs.

SLINK MOSS & THE FLYING ACES 12/20, SCHUBAS Urban cowboy Moss broke a handful of hearts when he left Chicago for New York earlier this year--though truth be told, the local Americana scene likes to play it a lot straighter than Moss, whose eerie, organ-fueled surf-country tales sound closer to Wall of Voodoo than Uncle You-Know-Who.

NEW ROB ROBBIES 12/20, Phyllis' Musical Inn I spent way too much time deciding whether or not I was enjoying these hardy Chicago perennials' blend of tight postpunk crudge and Buzzcockian pop on their Just Add Butters...Wilson's Revenge (Mind of a Child). Then I realized I knew this feeling: At 3 AM, ravenously hungry, I go to the refrigerator and face down that last slice of bread from the loaf that's been in there for weeks. Sniff it carefully--a little iffy but probably OK. A little mold--I can pick that off. A little stale--that's all right, a minute in the toaster and I won't know the difference. And damn, it tastes really good.

SWEET HONEY IN THE ROCK 12/20, ART INSTITUTE OF CHICAGO Two CDs hardly seem sufficient to document this groundbreaking all black, all female a cappella ensemble's first 12 years, but Rounder's Selections 1976-1988 is as fitting a sampling as any, given that the group's set list is completely rewritten for every performance from a repertoire that includes hundreds of songs collected by its musicologist founder, Bernice Johnson Reagon. Sweet Honey in the Rock has taken flak from jaded critics for its relentless political correctness--but in less threatening contexts, such dedication to one's vision is seen as a good thing. If you're at all serious about this holiday-spirit business, you couldn't do better than to spend an evening getting uplifting but challenging thoughts on activism and community eased into your brain by devastating solo, harmony, and call-and-response singing that draws from all over the African diaspora.

MERRY KISSMAS 12/23, CLUB FOOT They promise "All Kiss, all night." I don't normally include DJ theme parties, but I figure by this time you'll be so up to your neck in family-friendly schmaltz you'll be spitting blood anyway. --Monica Kendrick

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Sue Garner photo by Chris Tolvier.

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