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EXPO OF THE EXTREME 5/21 & 22, THE VIC I've got certain reservations about the Expo of the Extreme, the public-extravaganza wing of the local extreme free-speech venture Michael Hunt Publishing (get it? get it?). I mean, to epater les bourgeois with body piercings, metal, and porn stars is so 1989. But the nation's reaction to the recent sexcapades in the White House has persuaded me that there is still enough rampant puritanism out there that such things still serve a purpose. Plus, Mike Hunt has an eye for talent: on Friday, the Connecticut metal-hardcore nuclear-fusion band Hatebreed, which starts at full throttle on its new Satisfaction Is the Death of Desire (Victory) and never lets up for a second, preps the rabid masses for one of the greatest rock 'n' roll bands ever, Motorhead; on Saturday the Genitorturers, veteran purveyors of squonky metal and bloody S-M performance art, cap off a lineup that includes Jello Biafra, the Dwarves--back from the dead again--and industro-psychedelic satanists the Electric Hellfire Club. Be forewarned, though, this year's Expo seems to be operating under something of a curse: not only did the Riviera pull out at the last minute, but the originally scheduled mistress of ceremonies was none other than the late Dana Plato. NADAS 5/21 WATERLOO TAVERN What's more disheartening than more mild-mannered Americana? More mild-mannered Americana in a beer commercial. These hardworking Iowa lads, who reportedly brought a busload of fans from Ames to their Schubas gig last February, have at last gotten their big break: their tune "Mi Corazon," which appears on their third independent album, the all-live En Vivo! (Nomad), has been chosen for a Corona spot. GRAHAM PARKER 5/21, DOUBLE DOOR Graham Parker is the kind of artist the phrase "cult hero" was invented for, although his regular-bloke stance doesn't lend itself to flamboyant adulation. Like his era-straddling contemporaries Ian Dury and Nick Lowe, he's never permanently hit the big time, but he's certainly never seriously threatened to go away either. These days he's committed to the indie path: his latest release, Loose Monkeys: Spare Tracks and Lost Demos (Up Yours), is available for order only through his current distributor's Web site, www.razorandtie.com. The 20 cuts span the years 1983-1996, but most of them were rejected by Atlantic during Parker's brief and uncomfortable stint there in 1986. Despite a couple of throwaways ("She's Been Working," which reminds us that housewives work as hard as their hubbies), it's telling that this hodgepodge stands up respectably to any singer-songwriter-pop album I've heard in the last couple years. Jon Langford and John Rice open. SISTER CHILD 5/21, GALLERY CABARET; 5/28, U.S. Beer co. This Chicago quartet got their start in fall of 1998 as an acoustic band--and it's a challenge to imagine that while listening to Stewart Riske's Eddie Vedder emoting and new guitarist Jeff Sealy's Leppard-like power-ballad guitar solos on the group's four-song demo. Maybe the old flutist played those parts. SCOTT McGILL 5/22, MARTYRS' Largely because my first boyfriend was an Allan Holdsworth-worshiping guitar geek (you wouldn't think the old single-coil-versus-humbucker debate is sexy talk, but it can be), I have a tendency to check out high-tech voids-of-cold-electric-space noodling wherever it appears just to see if it justifies my love--the same way folks who like the few great "post-rock" bands cultivate a tolerance for far lesser fare. I'm afraid McGill, a former member of Finneus Gauge who's been compared to Holdsworth by Guitar World, doesn't. His "fusion" trio, Hand Farm, opens for shameless young dinosaurs Spock's Beard. U.S. MAPLE 5/22, EMPTY BOTTLE Clocking in at 33:11, this local quartet's forthcoming third LP, Talker (its first for the Drag City label), certainly doesn't overstay its welcome. Producer Michael Gira, late of the Swans, is more than competent at showcasing shadings of light and dark that are much more subtle than his own--but like U.S. Maple's previous records, Talker still only hints at why they're the greatest live band to come out of Chicago in years. The jagged twin-guitar attack of Mark Shippy and Todd Rittmann and front man Al Johnson's sweaty contortions and pop-dada stutterings slam what might otherwise be a pomo cerebral exercise firmly into the physical realm, and their disassembled frenzy builds tension to a fever pitch without ever, ever resolving it. I've never been able to get to sleep easily after one of their gigs--and that's about the highest compliment I could pay a rock band. SAINT ETIENNE 5/26, METRO The ondragging remix fad allows--nay, encourages--too many well-connected but thoroughly average bands to generate a volume of product far and above their creative capacity. Saint Etienne's new Places to Visit EP (Sub Pop) isn't actually a remix record--all six tracks are new--but it's done in the same spirit, with high-profile help from the Trouser Enthusiasts, the High Llamas' Sean O'Hagan, and our own Jim O'Rourke. And while these guys have a decent track record of turning nickel into gold plate, even they could not make this overhyped breathy, bubbly British pop trio as charming as April March, as sinisterly infectious as Pizzicato Five, or as deep as the Cocteau Twins. --Monica Kendrick

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