RUSSELL SIMINS 11/10, DOUBLE DOOR Jon Spencer Blues Explosion drummer Russell Simins plays host to members of the Beastie Boys, Luscious Jackson, and Cibo Matto (who also collaborated with him in Butter 08) on his solo debut, Public Places (Grand Royal). But beneath the album's star-studded crust is thoroughly middling, trying-too-hard funk-hip-hop-rock featuring occasional lyrical twists about girls who normally like girls but also want Simins. The extent of his lyrical insightfulness: "Don't know if I hate you / or if I just need some space." LAS SUPER TEJANAS 11/10, FIELD MUSEUM Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz was a 17th-century Mexican nun who entered a convent in part because it was pretty much the only way for a woman of her time and place to pursue higher education. Over the course of her tempestuous life, she produced a significant body of writing on free will, religion, spirit, social mores, science, philosophy, and intellectual freedom--in the form of letters, essays, poetry, quasi fiction, and plays--that's still relevant to contemporary culture. As part of the ongoing Sor Juana Festival, a tribute to Mexican women in the arts sponsored by the Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum in Pilsen, the Field Museum is hosting this concert featuring honky-tonk star Rosie Flores, somewhat political troubadour Tish Hinojosa, Tejana balladeer Shelly Lares, conjunto accordionist Eva Ybarra, and Las Madrugadoras, a Corpus Christi vocal trio that specializes in classic Mexican love songs. BADLY DRAWN BOY 11/11, SCHUBAS The blah blah blah on Mercury Music Prize winner Damon Gough, aka Badly Drawn Boy, is that he was just another suburban Manchester metalhead until, at age 15, he had a Springsteen-induced epiphany. But Gough doesn't emulate the Boss in any recognizable way on his first full-length, The Hour of Bewilderbeast (Twisted Nerve/XL). Instead he plays elegant, orchestrated indie pop that marks him as the next big thing in the progression that runs from Brian Wilson and Nick Drake through Belle & Sebastian and Elliott Smith. For a debut album, Bewilderbeast is unbelievably polished--Gough has more than paid his dues already with four self-released EPs. But for this tour, which he's doing with a four-piece backing band, the songwriting will have to carry the day--and it can. ENEMYMINE 11/11, EMPTY BOTTLE Enemymine bassists Mike Kunka (Godheadsilo) and Ryan Baldoz (Some Velvet Sidewalk) and drummer Danny Sasaki refer to their new The Ice in Me (Up) as "Slint Bizkit," which is a more insulting description than anything that would have occurred to me. The record does bear more than a passing resemblance to Slint's Tweez: it's loudly, aggressively solipsistic, interspersing appealing metallic rushes with moody plinking behind scream-and-whisper lyrics like "I don't want to be here alone / I don't want to be here at all." But even the slight sense of humor they display in discussing their music makes them more genuinely dangerous than any chart-topping crotchgrabbers. ELF POWER 11/14, SCHUBAS The fey, giddy fantasia pop this quintet from Athens, Georgia, wrings from guitar, keyboards, bass, and electronics on its brand-new The Winter Is Coming (Sugar Free) reaches heights of baroqueness that only rarely seem as precious as the band's name--they intentionally build up to the the sort of overload T. Rex might've achieved if there were five Marc Bolans in the band. LOS AMIGOS INVISIBLES 11/15, MARTYRS' On their second Luaka Bop release, Arepa 3000: A Venezuelan Journey Into Space, the sex-obsessed Caracas sextet Los Amigos Invisibles apply a vague sci-fi theme to their dizzying (and at times downright disorienting) mix of disco, funk, salsa, house, and Latin jazz. Though the only song with an English title is "Masturbation Session," others, like "Caliente" and "Mujer Policia," with their wicked wicky-wicky, or the organ-flavored soul-jazz detour "Cuchi-Cuchi," get the message across as clearly as a slap on the ass. NOMEANSNO 11/15, FIRESIDE BOWL Thanks in part to the persistence of guys like these, gray hair and chops are no longer dirty words in punk rock. Nomeansno, the muscular but complex trio formed in British Columbia in 1981 by John and Rob Wright, has just released its ninth studio album, No One (Alternative Tentacles)--a cohesive yet diverse collection that features the brothers' trademark heavy bass riffs, thunderous drumming, and earnestly cynical D. Boon-esque lyrics along with the versatile guitar playing of relative newcomer Tom Holliston, who knows when to let a power chord ring out and when to make his ax wail like a banshee. Even the covers are audacious: the album ends with a worthy interpretation of Miles Davis's "Bitches Brew" followed by an invigoratingly snarly version of the Ramones' "Beat on the Brat." JEFFREY ALTERGOTT 11/16, WILLOW COFFEE & TEA This Chicago singer-songwriter's debut, Little Blue Record Player, which he put out himself three years ago, showed a lot of promise: while his polite troubadourisms didn't break any new ground, his taste and expressiveness were well above average. But his even better follow-up, Icarus Grounded, features stronger melodies and haunting harmonies by female peers like Ellen Rosner, Yvonne Doll, and Antje. For this appearance, he'll play solo as part of musician Scott Free's "Grinder" series, a "words and music" showcase for gay, lesbian, bi, and trans musicians and writers; on the same bill is Kurt Heintz, a veteran of the multimedia performance group the Loofah Method. Altergott will also perform one song at a Jeff Buckley tribute at Uncommon Ground next Friday, November 17.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Derrik Santini.