SNAPCASE 2/25, METRO The local Victory label is marketing the hell out of the third album by this former hardcore band from Buffalo, with videos, ads in Spin and Alternative Press, tens of thousands of cassette samplers and stickers, and placement on "extreme sports" programs. In Billboard late last year, singer Daryl Taberski made all the usual arguments underground artists make when they decide to systematically pursue a larger audience, equating "opting for tighter, more accessible song structures" and "more personal lyrics" with "keeping an open mind." I have no doubt that, as hidebound and insular as hardcore can be, some of these guys really think they're being experimental by hewing closer to the generic modern-metal formula, and in fact Snapcase's new Designs for Automotion does rock. But while the performance of this highly conventional break with convention is fine, I'm not gonna get too excited about the script. VAN GO 2/25, BEAT KITCHEN I'm partial to the slightly sloppy boyish power pop on this local band's latest, SupeGenghis (Wonderland), for what it's not: the tunes are rote and the lyrics are often clunky, but there isn't a note of fake seriousness or a hint of spin here. The trite sentiments come off as sweetly human, and these guys genuinely seem to be having a good time. Moreover, they seem to believe that having a good time is important, and that rock 'n' roll is still a good way to do it--and their faith is infectious. FLAMING LIPS 2/26, CUBBY BEAR The band that's never even come close to releasing the same record twice struck a massive, booming pipe-organ chord last year with The Soft Bulletin (Warner Brothers), a crazy complex suite of out-of-time ork pop whose evocative lyrics cling relentlessly to their mysteries. In Chicago, Oklahoma-based Lips have been appreciated as the weird geniuses they are for years already, but this album has been a breakthrough of sorts on the national level, landing at number four on the Village Voice Pazz & Jop poll, and for this graceful coup to have evolved from the rewarding but audacious Zaireeka set--four CDs that almost nobody actually played as they were meant to be played, i.e., simultaneously--says something optimistic about the zeitgeist. My Magic 8-Ball tells me this show will be packed, if not sold out. AVIV GEFFEN 2/27, CHICAGO CULTURAL CENTER This 26-year-old singer-songwriter, a nephew of Israeli military hero Moshe Dayan and the son of poet and journalist Yehonatan Geffen, is a huge and controversial celebrity in his native country--and as threatening to political conservatives as his refusal to serve in the Israeli army is the crowd of adoring teenage girls hanging on his every word and lurking around his apartment building to catch a glimpse of the cute sensitive guy who wears makeup like Marilyn Manson but sounds like James Taylor. Geffen sings in Hebrew, apparently about everything from teenage rebellion to the evils of organized religion, but musically his tunes are utterly unradical, and I'm not sure his platinum-selling appeal will translate here. This free afternoon performance is Geffen's Chicago debut. FOLK IMPLOSION (ONE PART) 2/29, SCHUBAS; 2/29, Tower Records on Clark This is actually a Lou Barlow solo gig--a perversely stripped-down format to promote One Part Lullaby (Interscope), the major-label debut and most commercially ambitious album yet from his increasingly focused "side project" the Folk Implosion, with John Davis. But then, Lou Barlow is nothing if not perverse. VERTICAL HORIZON 2/29, HOUSE OF BLUES; 2/29, Chicago Music Mart This tuneless, only occasionally acoustic pop band came out of the D.C. coffeehouse circuit, or as vocalist Matt Scannell told Rolling Stone, "from the Ani DiFranco school of music"--which I guess means they took a deep breath before opening their veins to RCA. Of course now that their Everything You Want is all over the radio (not to mention the TV, including The Practice, Roswell, and Third Watch), they feel much better. How can anybody say major labels are unwilling to take a chance on unknown talent? Why, as long as your music sounds like all the other generic "heartfelt" and "well-crafted" modern rock on the airwaves, RCA and its moon-promising ilk will be glad to escort you from rags to riches. Moving, ain't it? Moving units, at least.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/The Flaming Lips.