ROBBIE WILLIAMS 5/14, METRO Turns out former teen idol Robbie Williams--whose animated working-class mug you've almost certainly seen if you read glossy magazines or watch TV--was hiding an honest-to-goodness light under the bushel he must've made with the British boy group Take That. On his American debut, The Ego Has Landed (Capitol), he demonstrates a loopy but accessible sense of wordplay and manages to meld enough familiar Britrock signifiers (a Stonesy guitar bit here, a mild lift from Bowie's "Heroes" there) with enough generic 90s club rhythms to suck in just about anyone. It's kind of fun to watch the machinery at work so baldly on what's actually a fine pop record. FROGPOND 5/15, METRO Almost 30,000 records were released last year, and way too many of them were like this Kansas City band's Columbia Records debut, Safe Ride Home--a nice enough guitar-rock record by what seem like nice enough people that seems certain to go down as little more than a blip on the corporate books. I thought the Pope abolished limbo a long time ago. OH MY GOD 5/15, ELBO ROOM This newish local lounge-soul-rock quartet features former Junior Wells sideman Johnny Iguana on the organ and singer Billy O'Neill, a performance artist and actor who's not afraid to use abstract expressionist vocal gesturing when words and notes fail. SALLY TAYLOR 5/16, SCHUBAS Don't let all those vaguely Sissy Hanshaw poses in the booklet fool you: Tomboy Bride, a self-released collection of polished, acoustic I-am-woman-hear-me-trill-like-a-nightingale pop by the 24-year-old daughter of James Taylor and Carly Simon, never approaches the level of mom at her sexy vengeful sassiest. "Out in the mountains / Lost in the breeze / Chasing the thunder / Rain warning / Please keep my soul safe and dry"...oh, it's too easy. Richard Buckner headlines. MIKE NESS 5/18, PARK WEST Mike Ness's obsession with the right kind of country has been responsible for some of the finer moments in the long career of Social Distortion, the SoCal hardcore band he began fronting at age 17--one of the finest being the band's 1988 cover of Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire." On his new Cheating at Solitaire (Time Bomb) he gives this penchant free rein, covering Hank Williams and Bob Dylan and even "Long Black Veil" and growling through originals that for the most part hold their own in such formidable company. The title might be a reference to the all-star cast that pitches in on Ness's first "solo" album: Bruce Springsteen howls along on Ness's "Misery Loves Company," Brian Setzer transcends his retro shuck-and-jive routine on the nasty "Crime Don't Pay," Billy Zoom reanimates the old X chug on "Dope Fiend Blues," and on "The Devil in Miss Jones" Ness himself could be channeling the young, fiery Jeffrey Lee Pierce. There are some lags in which Ness sounds like something less than his life depends on it, but they're obliterated quickly. BALLROOM ROUSTABOUTS 5/20 & 21, Heartland Cafe Bloomington's Ballroom Roustabouts claim to play music for children, but to me the busy, bouncy, computer-virus-infectious klezmer- and polka-inflected not-quite folk rock on their their self-released Storysinging Dance Music sounds more like it might be tailor-made for a certain kind of adult--the sort of sadistic baby-sitter who feeds the kids Jolt before their parents come home. I for one caught myself humming their song "I Like Spiders" this morning.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/F. Scott Schafer.