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Spot Check

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BANGS 5/12, METRO I enjoyed most of the quick, punchy tunes on Sweet Revenge (Kill Rock Stars), the second album by this Olympia trio, but the slower, translucent heartbreak song "Undo Everything" hit me the hardest. For a band that obviously came to classic girl-group pop via the Ramones, it's a breakthrough moment: in a better world Sarah Utter (also of Witchypoo) would be holding her quivering chin up on Top 40 radio just like Ronnie Spector before her. Most of the time, though, Utter saves the expressiveness for her guitar licks and limits her vocals to the impassioned chanting particular to infectious old-school power pop. Bassist Maggie Vail (sister of Bikini Kill's Tobi Vail) also sings; a guy named Kyle Ermatinger plays drums. They open for Sleater-Kinney. FISHBONE 5/12, HOUSE OF BLUES Fishbone & the Familyhood Nextperience Presents the Psychotic Friends Nuttwerx (Hollywood) is the first release from this veteran funk-punk-ska outfit since the angry, messy Chim Chim's Badass Revenge in 1996. Over the years they've lost two key songwriters and the guy the band was named after, but amazingly they're not dead yet: this jittery, giggly, and thoroughly funky comeback attempt ranges from painstaking old-fashioned hand-constructed R & B to slinky reggae to a loving but violent mangling of Sly & the Family Stone's "Everybody Is a Star." The lengthy guest list includes George Clinton, Rick James, H.R., Flea, Los Fabulosos Cadillacs, Perry Farrell, Gwen Stefani, and Donny Osmond. Reportedly these sessions also produced a collaboration involving Primus's Les Claypool and a batch of mushroom tea, but it didn't make the cut. RED STAR BELGRADE 5/12, THE HIDEOUT On their third full-length, Telescope (Checkered Past), the husband-and-wife duo of multi-instrumentalist Bill Curry and drummer Graham Harris Curry remind me of nothing so much as the first wave of indie roots rock I can remember, bands like Green on Red and the Long Ryders: they're ironic enough to render AC/DC's "Highway to Hell" a flat country sing-along and earnest enough to take a stab at topics like Kosovo and Iran; they've got good chops but so-so songwriting. The one masterwork here is "Telescope," with its dramatic surge of terrifying slide guitar, but the rest is stirring but shopworn Gram Parsons-Neil Young worship. ORIGINAL HARMONY RIDGE CREEK DIPPERS 5/13, DOUBLE DOOR The key to country music isn't perfection in the usual sense of the word. It's a matter of striking just the right tension between longing and dread--and then fighting the urge to resolve it. On Ben Johnson's Creek, their forthcoming sixth album, old-timey multi-instrumentalist Mike "Razz" Russell, ex-Jayhawk Mark Olson, and maverick singer-songwriter Victoria Williams leave plenty cracks for the weeds to grow through. In particular, Olson and Williams's thistle-and-clover singing gives the tunes--full of awe and fear about the problematic relationships between humans and nature and humans and other humans--a genuine ragged glory. ADAM SONDERBERG & BORIS SINCLAIR HAUF 5/15, MYOPIC BOOKS; RISE AND FALL OF THE SEAN ARCHER MEMORIAL LARGE BAND 5/16, 6ODUM Local guitarist Adam Sonderberg has been honing his improv skills in steamy little incubators like the Nervous Center and Myopic, making connections that serve him well when he gets ambitious: his project the Rise and Fall of the Sean Archer Memorial Large Band is one of those conceptual outfits that never plays with the same lineup twice. At Tuesday's 6Odum show, the roster will include synth whiz Jim Baker, percussionist Jerry Bryerton, and bassist Kurt Johnson as well as guitarist Burkhard Stangl and saxophonist Boris Sinclair Hauf, two Austria-based musicians in town for the Empty Bottle Festival of Jazz and Improvised Music. Hauf, who likes to run his horn through a computer, is also Sonderberg's partner on a forthcoming CD for the Longbox label; Sonderberg, on "acoustic guitar and junk," constructs a Swiss-cheese backdrop of knocks and silences for his quiet peals and thwacks to squeeze through. The duo will celebrate the release of the disc at Myopic on Monday. BRADY 5/16, SCHUBAS Veteran Chicago soundman Brady, who is one of the reasons Schubas is one of the best places in the city to actually hear music, is leaving for LA; maybe the relatively dull music scene there will give him more time to work on his own stuff. His 1999 debut, a collection of chiming, melancholy singer-songwriter pop called On My Own, certainly showed skill and taste, if not breathtaking originality. For this going-away party, he'll be joined by members of the Aluminum Group, the BoDeans, and Susan Voelz's Creamy Deluxe. MOLLYS 5/17, ABBEY PUB I got one of this Tucson band's self-released CDs in the mail a couple years ago and was convinced I'd discovered the next stars of roots music: their nearly flawless Irish-Tex-Mex waltzes and breakdowns fueling front woman Nancy McCallion's detailed, prayerful sketches of working-class life was one of the most beautiful things I'd ever heard. Their new sixth album, Only a Story, features some righteous examples of real folk storytelling: "The Powers Brothers" is based on a gold-mine murder tale that pits a family against a corrupt sheriff and his posse, and "My Manda" is told from the point of view of an old woman who smuggles cocaine in her stomach to support her family. And, as ever, the quintet's artistry on guitar, vocals, harmonica, mandolin, fiddle, accordion, piano, bass, percussion, banjo, lap steel, bouzouki, and "slide bouzouki" is mind-boggling. RHUDABEGA 5/18, DOUBLE DOOR This duo came out of New Orleans but recently relocated to Toronto--maybe to get away from the heat and humidity that permeates its eponymously titled debut (on the Pupu Platter label, distributed by Louisiana Red Hot Records). One can debate the feasibility of trying to meld Pixies pop, down-home grit, and B-52's funk with a minimal bass-drums setup, but bassist and singer Molly McGuire has a way with a riff and a phrase, and drummer Ty Deneau plays Scott Plouf to her Rebecca Gates. (They also cheat a little, with touches of accordion, banjo, and harmonica.) Though 16 tracks is a little too much of this particular good thing, they show promising versatility and invention. Kid Million headlines.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Sean Kelly.

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