AVAIL, DILLINGER FOUR 8/25, FIRESIDE BOWL Tim Barry and Joe Banks, the singer and guitarist for the Virginia quintet Avail, have been monkeying around with post-hardcore punk since 1988, but they don't sound the least bit tired on their latest full-length, One Wrench (Fat Wreck Chords). In recent years they've injected their anthemic quickies with tropes adapted from country and bluegrass, but they're not headed for Bloodshot territory anytime soon. They're touring with openers Dillinger Four, a quartet of Minneapolis boys who're milking their relative youth while they still can: their third album, Versus God (Hopeless), puts over timeless messages like "Get Your Study Hall Out of My Recess" and "Music Is None of My Business" on sheer roll-around-on-the-floor energy. If you wish the Replacements had made more records like Stink, this band's for you. ALEXANDRA BILLINGS 8/25, PIANO MAN; 8/26, TOWER RECORDS Over the last two decades actress and singer Alexandra Billings has been a Chicago theater fixture, playing everyone from Queen Gertrude (in Hamlet: The Musical) to Gertrude Stein while serving as an AIDS activist (she's a survivor) and taking the occasional turn as cabaret singer. The local Southport label has just released her debut CD, Being Alive, from which she'll sing selections at these performances. It includes some of the hokiest stage balladry ever--including a show-tune arrangement of Styx's "Come Sail Away"--sung with joyous gratitude and not the slightest hint of irony. As it should be: in show tunes as in the blues, you have to express genuine belief in the platitudes in order to transcend them. IRON MAIDEN, HALFORD 8/25, UIC PAVILION It's big news that Bruce Dickinson has rejoined Iron Maiden. Their new studio album, Brave New World (Portrait/Columbia), certainly sounds like a classic Maiden album, proving that for some old rockers it really is like riding a bicycle. When this column last caught up with former Judas Priest front man Rob Halford, he had just released a record of metal-tinged industrial grind with a new band, Two, on Trent Reznor's Nothing label, but on his latest album, Resurrection (Metal-Is), he's returned to the unhyphenated metal that Priest rode to glory on: riff, riff, verse, riff, riff, blaze, wail, and most of all, riff. The tunes are aggressive and the shriek is intact, and coming out of the closet seems to have freed Halford to play up metal's leather-daddy suggestiveness for all it's worth--which can be quite a lot. SUNNA 8/27, RIVIERA Sunna front man Jon Harris contributed guitar to Massive Attack's Mezzanine, a trip-hop album with interesting undercurrents of rock bombast, but his own band's debut, One Minute Silence (Melankolic/Astralwerks), is a bombastic rock album with trip-hop flourishes. The acoustic strings and electronic flickers are purely decoration for Harris's alone-in-my-dorm-room ballads and whiny modern rockers, which sound vaguely like Pearl Jam without Eddie Vedder's endearing earnestness or Nine Inch Nails without Trent Reznor's bite-when-bitten vulnerability--in short, what makes those artists interesting. Can't have the sound track drawing attention from Kevin Bacon during a key driving scene. A Perfect Circle headlines. THAX DOUGLAS BOOK RELEASE PARTY 8/29, SCHUBAS Thax Douglas is a poet, but when he's taken the mike to read his stuff in recent years he's as likely to be at a rock club as a poetry venue. About half of his lush new book, Tragic Faggot Syndrome, is given over to hallucinatory visions inspired by local music and musicians. It's a down-home, unpretentious, and disarming way of merging media--his vision of translating music into language is like no one else's--and of contributing to the community that the local rock scene can be at its best. No doubt many a band has pondered whether lines like "hamburger meat / in a box left for a million years / leaves a lot of room for / habits to breed" (from "The Prescriptions") were meant as a compliment, but when Douglas clicks with his subject matter ("ghosts playing / games with the hundred levels / of corporeality," from "David Boykin"), his poetry actually complements the music. It's taken him years to get this book out, so he's throwing as many parties for it as he can; at this one he'll be joined by the Country Melvins, Daybirds, Emilia Airmattresses, and the Handsome Family, whose lyricist, Rennie Sparks, is celebrating the release of her own book, Evil, a wonderful, disturbing collection of her dark surrealist fiction. --Monica Kendrick
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/John Eder.