ALEX CHILTON 1/20 & 21, SCHUBAS Over the course of a career that stretches from the Box Tops to Big Star and beyond, Alex Chilton has written many of the greatest pop songs in history--the communicative, vulnerable side of indie rock in the 80s and 90s would have been unthinkable without him. He's also written some of the worst pop songs ever, but I'll take wild inconsistency over stale predictability any day. The payoff is in the surge of terrifying left-field weirdness that was his 1996 collaboration with Ben Vaughn and Alan Vega, Cubist Blues, or in the marvelous slop of 1998's Live in London, a recording of a 1980 show in which he stumbles gleefully all over standards by both himself and other people, aided by the Soft Boys' rhythm section. Chilton's forthcoming Set (Bar/None), due at the end of February, is a characteristically eclectic collection of covers, including "Shiny Stockings," "April in Paris," "Lipstick Traces," and Ollie Nightingale's "You've Got a Booger Bear Under There." MARLON MAGAS 1/21, EMPTY BOTTLE Enigma-of-all-trades Marlon Magas was the heart...or was he the soul?...well, maybe he was the spleen of the late and truly great neo-no wave bands Couch and Lake of Dracula. But his forthcoming 12-inch singles, judging from a tape he sent me, are a whole different kettle of monkeys--electronic throb 'n' shake of the most delightfully aggravating sort. Let others set up a groove and then warp it in enlightening and challenging ways; Magas just rides and rides and rides the fucker across an infinite blank plain until you feel you've been lying awake listening to your neighbors' creaking bedsprings for about 17 hours...hell, you think, even they can't be enjoying it anymore. He opens for Salaryman, the electronics-and-keyboards alter ego of the Poster Children, who would dearly love to be Japanese but can't quite shake the Champaign. ZELEKE GESSESSE 1/22, WILD HARE Ethiopian exile Zeleke Gessesse, who cofounded the Chicago club he'll play tonight, connected deeply with Ziggy Marley in the mid-80s, and his band Dallol toured the world with the Melody Makers. His forthcoming second album, Out of Africa (Exactly Music), features his new band, U & I; it's neither Ethiopian pop nor reggae but borrows from both--he sings in a blend of Amharic, English, and Jamaican patois--and shows the influence, for better or worse, of Ziggy's sunny, relentlessly upbeat synco-pop. PEOPLE LIKE US, WET GATE 1/22, SUBTERRANEAN People Like Us is actually one person, Vicki Bennett, a British mixer, composer, and sound artist. Her dadaist sound collages, based on commercials, records, and electronic and radio noise, mix jarring kitsch appeal and heavy-handed (but dead-on) apocalyptic social satire. And Hate People Like Us (Soleilmoon)--a recent collection of remixes of her work by several generations of mayhem makers, including Bruce Gilbert, Negativland, Boyd Rice, Coil, Farmers Manual, Mika Vainio, and Stock, Hausen & Walkman--takes this meta-ness into realms that are downright disorienting. Bennett was a video artist in school and is a longtime fan of the smarter end of the industrial underground (she was pen pals with Psychic TV's Genesis P-Orridge as a teenager), and her club performances in the UK have included video and audio components. Also on the bill is Wet Gate, an "all-projector ensemble" from San Francisco--the three members use 16-millimeter movie projectors as their only instruments, employing bleach, glue, sharp objects, and other effects to "slowly rip the stitching out from between the sound track and image traditionally coupled in film material." This is a joint production of the "/bin" electronic music series and the Chicago Underground Film Festival. CATCH 22 1/27, FIRESIDE BOWL These seven Jersey boys are up to their eyeballs in the supercharged adrenaline that makes the ska-punk-hardcore--skunkcore?--clusterfuck irresistible to the too-fast-to-live-too-young-to-drive set. Catch 22's new EP, Washed Up (Victory), a follow-up to the band's enthusiastically received 1998 debut LP, Keasbey Nights, left its brief but extremely redundant arrangement of Don McLean's "American Pie" imprinted in my brain like tire tread.