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Spot Check



BRIAN JONESTOWN MASSACRE, SWOON 23 4/24, EMPTY BOTTLE Brian Jonestown Massacre front man Anton Newcombe talks a great guru trip, claiming to be a "Sufi avatar" and entangling himself in self-righteous ego scuffles with everyone from the Dandy Warhols to other band members to randomly selected fans. A little delusion goes a long way in the entertainment industry, even with people who ought to know better: Greg Shaw of Bomp! Records, who released five BJM albums before the sextet jumped to TVT last year, recently asked Magnet, "What if he's right?" Well, if he's right, then the new Age of Aquarius will be ruled by Kahlil Gibran-spouting uberdorks selling tons of aimless, half-assed Byrds rip-offs, and that grape Kool-Aid's gonna start looking pretty refreshing. Less likely to be completely past their peak are Portland's Swoon 23, whose second album for Tim/Kerr, The Legendary Ether Pony, finds them increasing the density of their Opalescent swirl, adding more fuzz and buzz for a pleasantly distorted sound that echoes half a dozen other bands (vocalist-guitarist-organist Megan Pickerel was once a member of Jessamine and reportedly inspired that band's "Your Head Is So Small It's Like a Little Light") but still gives forth a warm black-light glow all its own.

COSMIC PSYCHOS 4/24, LOUNGE AX Burly, tattooed, lecherous, and with every record they've released since 1985 more or less the same as every other, the Cosmic Psychos don't have the killer hooks or cannons of their countrymen AC/DC, but they're a dirty good time all the same. More proof that the greatest virtue

of loud, trashy rock 'n' roll is that it's so low on the food chain it can survive just about anything.

Hugh 4/25, Lounge Ax This San Francisco trio's third release, Brave Little Soldier (Mafia Money Records), consists of 14 wispy songs with whispered or whiny vocals, and whenever the volume goes above five (always for tasteful emphasis, metal-ballad style) the musicians seem a little startled. Bands like little Hugh here have decided that a carefully constructed vulnerability is their best defense--nobody wants to hit the skinny kid with glasses. But if you ask me, too many so-called shoegazers are just staring at their own reflections in the patent leather.

JOHN MCCUTCHEON 4/26, ABBEY PUB When trying to appreciate folk journeyman McCutcheon's 22nd Rounder album, a duet performance with fellow singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Tom Chapin, I made a grave mistake. I skimmed the lyric sheet first, and was thus turned off by stale, clunky rhymes like "Roseanne and Tom / They'll not be a pair again / Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan," from the old-fart anthem "I Don't Care." Garrison Keillor does this kind of ain't-we-good-folks smarminess better, and his program is free. Once the music starts, McCutcheon's undeniable gifts do somewhat redeem him--he sparkles on hammer dulcimer, guitar, banjo, fiddle, autoharp, and piano--but that doesn't change the fact that the best tunes are the instrumentals and the cover of Woody Guthrie's "Pastures of Plenty."

IODINE 4/30, EMPTY BOTTLE Angel-dust-inspired flight, punk-rock girls from outer space making shapes in cornfields, the kids of the sons of Belial making house calls on Christmas Day ("and that's perfectly not quite all right")--thankfully this Nashville trio is too busy exploring its own elaborate fantasy world to get bogged down in angst or alienation, which gives its otherwise undistinguished guitar rock the appealing playful narrative quality of your better dark fantasy comic books.

ORQUESTA ATIPICA 4/30, MARTYRs' This Chicago band's members have honed their avant-trad skills with Andrew Bird, Edith Frost, and Pinetop Seven, and here they turn their attention to the tango with a big pomo grin--one tune on their forthcoming debut, Tango Dogs, is called "Orquesta Maneuvers in the Dark." Despite smoky arabesques of accordion and bass and sinuous, insistent flute, the music is about as self-consciously abstracted as you'd expect from this sort of ensemble, but the form's inherent eroticism can't help sneaking in the back door. The Orquesta has invited new-music cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm and four tango dancers to enhance this gig; here's hoping the increased friction between avant and trad will make the sparks fly faster all around.

--Monica Kendrick

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Brian Jonestown Massacre.

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