WHEATUS, ZEBRAHEAD 9/8, METRO The four Long Island jokeholes in Wheatus make the Bloodhound Gang sound profound. They're currently pimping the shrill single "Teenage Dirtbag," a puerile parable about a nerdy Iron Maiden fan who gets the girl, but elsewhere on the band's eponymously titled Columbia debut front man Brendan Brown throws down with rhymes like "I'm thinkin' what in the sam ham hill is goin' on wit yer moms in the clogs and the skirt / Wouldn't fuck 'er for my country with a flag on her face and a stolen dick" over tepid hip-hop beats, faux-metal guitars, and whiny melodies inspired by REO Speedwagon. Wheatus's labelmates and tour buddies Zebrahead can't be bothered to spin such elaborate fantasies--they're too busy shilling for Playboy. The booklet for their new CD, Playmate of the Year, is festooned with the barely contained boobs of real Playmates and includes info on where to purchase Playboy merch. Their sound is airbrushed hip-hop metal, with synth lines cribbed from the Cars, vocal harmonies borrowed from Boston, and snottiness Silly Puttied from fellow Orange County denizens the Offspring. This could be the most insufferable double bill of the year. MALACHI THOMPSON 9/8 & 9, GREEN MILL Trumpeter Malachi Thompson's "new" album, Timeline (Delmark), isn't the best gauge of what he'll be doing at this gig: it's a collection of previously unreleased material recorded between 1972 and 1988. The electric-piano-driven dalliances with soul fusion heard here are no longer part of his aesthetic; the indulgent scat singing and spoken word unfortunately are. But most of the album, like most of his recent work, is edgy, forward-looking hard bop--a style he's dubbed "freebop." Live he'll be joined by two of the excellent saxophonists he's worked with over the last few decades--tenor player Billy Harper and alto great Gary Bartz--in a group rounded out by pianist Kirk Brown, bassist Harrison Bankhead, and drummer Tony Walton. RIPTONES 9/9, SCHUBAS When the Riptones tear into "Rebel Rock Armageddon," the opening tune from their newly released third album, Buckshot (Bloodshot), they're singing about the harmless James Dean variety of rebellion--this local combo's music is about as progressive as Republican tax reform. That said, the songwriting on this album is leaps and bounds better than the band's previous work. Tempering the usual overdriven rockabilly with rootsy twang, faux-brother-style vocal harmonies, a few bona fide pop hooks, and even a convincing country-rock ballad ("Burdett's Pond") in the style of the Band, they may have sacrificed some of their old energy. But they no longer sound more like a caricature than a band. SWAMP DOGG 9/9, THE HIDEOUT "I thank God that I love about forty (...maybe more) different types of music and can easily handle twenty of them vocalizing on a production and arranging level," writes Swamp Dogg in the liner notes to his new calypso album, The Re-invention of Swamp Dogg (S.D.E.G.). He's not exaggerating: over the years Williams has sung with jazz vibist Lionel Hampton; produced records by the Drifters, the Commodores, and Patti LaBelle; started several record labels; taken a Grammy nomination for country songwriter of the year; written and produced a blues opera; developed Dr. Dre's first group, the World-Class Wreckin' Cru; penned and recorded pointed protest songs like "God Bless America for What," and even cut jingles for Japan's Suntory brewery. Backed by the the local southern soul outfit led by Bobby "Slim" James, he's the marquee act for the fourth annual all-day Hideout Block Party; also performing are Deanna Varagona, Frisbie, Bill Kirchen & Too Much Fun, Robbie Fulks, Leroy Bach, the Blacks, Marvin Tate's D-Settlement, and Country Gold, a new group led by in-demand session man John Rice. CHICAGO UNDERGROUND TRIO 9/10, EMPTY BOTTLE Flamethrower (Delmark), the new release from the Chicago Underground Trio, reconciles swing-based jazz with the more abstract, electronics-and-groove based approach used on the Chicago Underground Duo's Synesthesia (Thrill Jockey) earlier this year. There are actually four guys on the album--cornetist Rob Mazurek and drummer Chad Taylor, aka the Duo, guitarist Jeff Parker, who played on the last Trio record, and bassist Noel Kupersmith--though they don't all play on every cut. The tracks range from structured compositions like "Quail," (a soulful groove that Parker dissolves into a blast of corrosive noise) and "Warm Marsh" (an appropriately cool nod to Lennie Tristano disciple Warne Marsh) to open-ended recombinations of Mazurek's splattery horn smears, Kupersmith's screeching arco, Parker's post-Derek Bailey eruptions, and Taylor's colorful commentary. Here Mazurek and Taylor will also play a set as the Duo, and I'm guessing that at least Mazurek and Parker will perform as part of 712, which seems to be a scrambling of Isotope 217. SHAGGY 9/14, HOUSE OF BLUES Dancehall crossover star Shaggy has turned into a demographics whore on par with Puff Daddy himself. On his new album, Hotshot (MCA), when he's not generously sampling smash hits like the Jacksons' "Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)" and Steve Miller's "The Joker," he's crudely interpolating bits of "Let's Get It On" and "Angel of the Morning" into his "original" melodies. On the rare occasion that his producers give him some good hard beats to play off, his baritone still booms charismatically. But too often they strand him in a field of ineffectual, pandering flourishes. --Peter Margasak
Monica Kendrick is on vacation.