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BLUE MEANIES, TOSSERS 12/23, METRO Billy Spunke says he had one goal for the Blue Meanies' seventh album and major-label debut, The Post Wave (MCA), "and that was to actually sing." That he does; on a few cuts, like the feel-good antiracist chant "All the Same," he sounds like a cuter, twerpier Jello Biafra. Their newly streamlined ska-punk, polished to a sheen by Phil Nicolo (who did the same for Urge Overkill's major-label work), is indicative of the way the genre as a whole has gone: what alarmed old folks back in the Reagan era now just makes parents happy that their kids aren't listening to Eminem. But I foresee a successful run for these guys, especially if they turn up their cartoony politics--because however poppy and agreeable it is, punk always resonates more with a Republican in the White House. Ditto for the local Tossers, whose sound, spirit, and Irish accents recall the Pogues. The political content on their Long Dim Road (Thick) is heavy-handed yet self-aware: "If you've always used establishment / We've always used 'piss off' to change the intonation in this verse," sings T. Luggins on "Mad Riot." DIFFUSER, BENDER 12/23, HOUSE OF BLUES Lord knows I don't want to impugn anybody's cred here--I'm sure back when the New York quartet Diffuser were called Flu 13 they really did sleep on a lot of floors. But as a wise man once put on a T-shirt, corporate rock still sucks. Twenty years ago today's slew of sensitive boys in sweatshirts would've willingly donned sweatbands and pleather and opened for Journey--they're competent, maybe even likable, but not for one second remotely exciting. The Milwaukee-based Bender (no relation to the mid-90s Chicago band by that name) rock harder and sludgier on Jehovah's Hitlist (TVT), which is Recommended if You Like: Nine Inch Nails, Soundgarden. Days of the New headline. DANIEL GIVENS 12/23, EMPTY BOTTLE; 12/25, DANNY'S; 12/30, EMPTY BOTTLE DJ Daniel Givens, who moved to New York recently, is back in Chicago to celebrate the release of Age (Aesthetics), a roomy, elegant, abstract yet lucid record that combines some of the best aspects of electronica, free improv, and R & B. Most of the Chicago luminaries who guest on the record will join him for these shows as well: this Saturday at the Bottle he'll jam with bassist Josh Abrams, vocalist Seth Hitsky, flutist Niki Mitchell, and cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm; on Christmas night he'll spin at Danny's; and next Saturday his collaborators back at the Bottle will include Mitchell, Lonberg-Holm, Hitsky, Abrams, and guitarist Jeff Parker. JON SPENCER BLUES EXPLOSION 12/28, THE VIC New York's premier postcollegiate party band kicks off the New Year conflagrations a few days early. The members have spent the last couple years apart--front man Spencer gigging with his wife's band, Boss Hog, guitarist Judah Bauer exploring less stylized blues rock with his brother in 20 Miles, and drummer Russell Simins assembling a forgettable funk-hop project for Grand Royal--while everyone from Jim Thirlwell to Moby padded their discography with remixes. According to Matador, the band's label, this show is neither in support of a forthcoming record nor a test run for new material--which means it might just be, gasp, for fun.

--Monica Kendrick

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

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