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Spot Check

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MATT WILSON 7/31, SCHUBAS Wilson's talents have been scattered over a broad spectrum since the baroquely unremarkable Trip Shakespeare went out with the all-too-common major-label whimper in 1994. Of late he's played producer to indie-rock B-listers like the Wonsers, Smattering, and Velma and surprised the few people paying attention by drumming for Polara. His solo debut, Burnt, White and Blue (Planetmaker), is a solid effort, lyrically oblique but full of instantly recognizable music, a veritable history of the last 15 years of "clever" and "heartfelt" college pop. The best tune on the record is the most brutally honest: "I should want to deliver my sound," he sings on "Deep All the Way Down," "but I fear there is nothing in my deep all the way down."

EMPTY BOTTLE The proliferation of cheap and simple synths, samplers, and beatboxes is a double-edged sword--in combination with the DIY ethic punk left us, it can be either exhilarating (see Solex, who headlines this bill) or deadly. But that risk is a small price to pay for freedom, so far be it from me to spread the elitist notion that all independent bands are not created equal. After all, the local synth-and-drums trio TRS-80 may not express a single original idea on its new Radiograbadora EP (Finite Records International), but its derivative dots and loops have allowed many an important electronic-music artist to toss back one more beer before hitting the Empty Bottle stage.

NICHOLAS PAYTON 8/4-9, JAZZ SHOWCASE Twenty-five-year-old trumpeter Nicholas Payton is already lugging around a heavy load of expectations--not just the usual insistence that mainstream jazz musicians carry the entire history of the music on their shoulders at all times, but also Wynton Marsalis's endorsement, last year's Grammy for his collaboration with Doc Cheatham, and this year's appearance on the Grammys' "jazz preservation" segment (as though jazz were some sort of mummy that could be unwrapped only under controlled conditions). Thankfully, on his third solo album, Payton's Place (Verve), Payton further refines his New Orleans-spiced postbop without bothering to acknowledge the weight. His relentlessly bright tone runs and bubbles like clear water through originals, standards, and a strangely reverent cover of the Stylistics' "People Make the World Go Round." Roy Hargrove, Marsalis, and Joshua Redman guest on the album but not here; his tight, energetic quintet includes pianist Anthony Wonsey, bassist Reuben Rogers, tenor saxist Tim Warfield, and drummer Adonis Rose.

CLUTCH 8/5, METRO On its Columbia debut, The Elephant Riders, this giddy quartet has a wonderful racket going, in both senses of the word--amateurish Sabbath-like sludgy hard rock, with a 19th-century shtick and muddy, dreamlike lyrics about a pony express on elephant-back, a brush with love and terrorism that finds the narrator in a coffin under Machu Picchu, Thanksgiving dinners heavy with the stench of fate, and the love lives of insects. One inspirational line among many: "Pity the mate of Queen Mantis / So content, but so headless."

RED AUNTS 8/6, EMPTY BOTTLE After seven years this foxy, screechy, deafeningly loud all-female punk quartet from southern California is calling it quits. Front woman Sapphire plans to focus on what's apparently a very successful catering business; guitarist Angel and drummer Cougar plan to remain in rock 'n' roll, and bassist EZ Wider is moving to New York. But not before one final blowout: the Aunts' latest album, Ghetto Blaster (Epitaph), and a 20-city supporting tour that started in Anchorage and ends in the Motor City. What I like about the Red Aunts isn't even so much the music--their fine basic formula hasn't changed much over their five albums, two of which can boast "14 songs in 23 minutes"--as the fact that they never compromised their snotty, funny crudities, never played nice, and never got "sensitive," well-concealed talents for gourmet cooking notwithstanding.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo or Red Aunts by Danny Hole.

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