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ORGAN WOLF 1/13, SCHUBAS Not to be confused with Japanese garage monsters Guitar Wolf, this local quartet comprises veterans of Joe, the Deans, the Betsy Years (also a starting point for Liz Payne of Town and Country), the Verve Pipe, and the Redmoon Theater marching band, among other gigs. They're nearly finished with a debut album, and the sketch of it they sent me is a blast. The mostly instrumental tracks explore nearly everything that's ever been done with an electric organ in popular music, including skittish pop, warbly fusion, green-onion funk, and skanky garage-party make-out music. The star of the show, of course, is nimble organist and trumpeter John Hachtel, who converts energy to sugar as the band bubbles happily behind him. PELE 1/14, EMPTY BOTTLE This Milwaukee trio's fourth album, The Nudes (Polyvinyl), is pleasant enough throughout but only occasionally compelling. Their vaguely Sea and Cake-ish guitar-based rambling proves that genre bending now qualifies as a genre in and of itself. The signature sounds and structures of pop-jazz fusion have flattened out into a paste of "texture" that evokes nothing so strongly as albums by other bands. These guys are accomplished in their chosen field, but so are ten dozen other sensitive-boy outfits whose names already escape me. SLUDGEWORTH 1/14, CUBBY BEAR Toward the end of 1989, after the first Screeching Weasel breakup, bassist Dan Schafer (aka Danny Vapid) and drummer Brian McQuade (aka Brian Vermin) formed a new band with guitarists Adam White and Dave McLean and bassist Mike "Strat" Hootenstrat. They released a single on Roadkill in 1990, and shortly thereafter became a fixture on the suburban punk scene: the booklet from the 1995 compilation Losers of the Year (Lookout) displays a collection of flyers for bills shared with the Effigies, Los Crudos, the Smoking Popes, Trenchmouth, and a not-yet-supersized Green Day--whom they might easily have beat to the trough had the Fates conspired a little differently. But Sludgeworth survived just a little over three years, playing their farewell show to a packed house at McGregor's in Elmhurst in early 1993. Schafer, who fronted the band, had returned to Screeching Weasel in 1991 (as he would again briefly in 1996); he's now with the Methadones. The other guys recruited a new singer and became Ethyline. Sludgeworth were never as well-known outside Chicago as they probably should have been, and their tight, hooky, sing-along crunch is still worth hearing. At this one-shot reunion gig, prompted by persistent requests from fans, all five original members will play the good old stuff. NAD NAVILLUS 1/16, SCHUBAS This is the lonely-man-with-lonely-guitar side project of Dan Sullivan, better known for his work with A-Z Consolidated, the Butcher Shop Quartet, and Songs: Ohia. A four-song demo he sent places him squarely among the followers of John Fahey and Nick Drake--the tunes are pretty and delicate but also complex and reflective, and even the tracks Sullivan sings on somehow sound instrumental. This performance is part of a bill honoring Schubas talent buyer Doug LeFrak upon his departure from the job; also on the bill are Songs: Ohia, Dylan Posa of Cheer-Accident, and Chris Connelly. THE SHIV 1/18, EMPTY BOTTLE This long-gigging area trio has at last produced a full-length to be reckoned with: the self-released Short Order Crook is slamming, fiery, and engaging all the way through, its jumpy pulse and wiry guitar work reminiscent at various times of Gang of Four and Naked Raygun. Not that these guys are so specifically retro--but it is nice to be reminded that before there was math rock, there was art punk, which was often possessed of the sexiness and humor that its dour younger brother has been known to lack.

--Monica Kendrick

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