DYLAN HICKS 9/4, SCHUBAS There's nothing particularly unusual about this Minneapolis indie-pop singer-songwriter, but he does embody some of the best virtues of the embattled breed; his songs are accessible, self-effacing, well arranged, and clever. So clever, in fact, that all possible potshots are disarmed right there in the lyric sheet to his Poughkeepsie (No Alternative): "I can hear those bullies calling me a fairy / Now they call me adult contemporary," he sings in "That Look Wasn't Meant For You," and he admits outright that he's too self-absorbed to be anything but a "Bad Boyfriend."
GEORGE CLINTON & THE P-FUNK ALL-STARS 9/4, CUBBY BEAR One of the funniest things I've ever read in the Onion was the front-page account of the Parliament-Funkadelic mothership descending in the middle of a Hootie & the Blowfish concert; the image of it trying to find a parking spot in Wrigleyville, however, is almost sad. But while it's true that George Clinton hasn't broken much new ground in the 90s, the man worked so much overtime doing just that in the 70s that his stockpile of raidable grooves and quotable quotes should keep him sacred for at least another decade. His elaborate brother-from-another-planet routines still compel close listeners to take a good look at this world and imagine a better one--and even when they're as out of context as they usually are at gigs like this, Clinton and his cast of spangled thousands can always deliver "the funk, the whole funk, and nothing but the funk."
PLUSH 9/5, EMPTY BOTTLE On Plush's recent More You Becomes You (Drag City) main man Liam Hayes paints a stiflingly intimate, bleakly romantic world with his sparse keyboards and mournful voice--like Big Star's third album without the redeeming lushness. In its weakest moments the record sounds like a lesser minimalist effort by Gastr del Sol, but at his best Hayes sounds like he's trying to peel off the music's own skin.
DANA & KAREN KLETTER 9/6, SCHUBAS These identical twin sisters are cheerily forward about the grimmest chapters in their family history: their mother's time in Auschwitz, their father's time "on the lam," their own illegitimate births, and the intimate tangles of sibling rivalry (a glossy insert in the press kit trumpets, "Why has...their debut been eight years in the making? Well...time sure flies when you hate your sister"). Karen has a doctorate in medieval history and Dana was a backup singer who "sweetened" Courtney Love's vocals on Hole's Live Through This, but don't expect grungy angst: the sisters' Dear Enemy (Hannibal) is luminous, piano-driven folk pop with eerie, blue-lit lyrics concerning family, loss, death, exile, wandering, and above all sisterhood. Their clear interlaced voices recall Kate and Anna McGarrigle (with whom producer Joe Boyd worked before them) or the Roches, with Kate Bush occasionally rising from the mix; the arrangements are starkly elegant, touching on cabaret pop one moment and hillbilly klezmer the next. Driven by Sara Bell's banjo with violin flourishes by Chicago's Susan Voelz, overall it's one of the best debuts I've heard this year.
MR. RUDY DAY, GOODY BRITCHES 9/8, LOUNGE AX "Rudy Day" bears a startling physical resemblance to guitar savant Andy Hopkins, late of the Atlanta "hick-hop" trio Flap, but musically he's a whole different guy. Rudy's an over-the-top blue-eyed-soul balladeer, a smooth man with rough edges, and his unlikely fusion of indie rock, blues, and hot buttered soul seems to flow naturally from his Venus Flytrap-uncensored between-song patter rather than the other way around. He'll be backed here by sidemen from local stalwarts Grimble Grumble and Star Vehicle. Opener Goody Britches is the duo of Kelly Hogan and Lambchop's Deanna Varagona, who has just released her first solo single. Both women have a way with a song, and live Hogan's good-time energy should counterbalance Varagona's shrinking-violet tendencies.
LUCKSMITHS 9/9, LOUNGE AX It's hard to believe so few fans of sensitive and sardonic boy pop know this Australian trio, sometime tour mates of Ashtray Boy, but maybe that's a good thing--there aren't a lot of expectations lying in wait for them on their first U.S. visit. The infectious, low-key songs about bookishness, resentment, and girls on their new A Good Kind of Nervous (Drive-In) are a few cuts above ordinary, with a clean, stripped-down, and probably very mobile style--a good thing for a band whose press kit dwells more than is healthy on the matter of floors to sleep on. --Monica Kendrick
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Plush photo by Tony Mahoney.