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POSIES 7/13 & 7/14, DOUBLE DOOR Everybody knows a couple like this: they're together, they break up, they're together again, they break up again, and so on and so forth until nobody takes their cries of "wolf" or "no wolf" the least bit seriously. The Posies--basically songwriters Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow--last broke up in 1998, yet in 2000 they released two live albums, a greatest-misses collection from their Geffen years, and a four-CD retrospective. Now there's a new EP, Nice Cheekbones and a Ph.D. (Houston Party/Badman), and it sounds like they've never been gone: the sparkling pop songs cruise effortlessly on Auer and Stringfellow's choirboy-perfect voices. Elizabeth Elmore & Friends, starring the former Sarge front woman, opens Friday; the Autumn Defense, a summery new pop band featuring Wilco bassist John Stirratt, opens Saturday. BREEDERS 7/14, CONGRESS THEATER Silent since 1994, when sisters Kim and Kelley Deal became the One Who Might Live Long Enough to Become an Irrelevant Old Fart and the Junkie Who Thought Playing With Sebastian Bach Would Be a Good Career Move, the Breeders seem like an unlikely candidate for a reunion, although rumors of such have circulated every few years. This time they're true: the Deals have been working on a new record in Chicago with Steve Albini, to be released on 4AD later this year. A few tunes were previewed on XRT's Sound Opinions talk show recently; presumably more of them will be heard at this one-off show. The new lineup's rounded out by bassist Mondo Lopez and guitarist Richard Presley from the current incarnation of Fear and drummer Jose Medeles of 22 Jocks. Low opens; the Butcher Shop Quartet will perform Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring in the theater lobby as patrons enter. LES CLAYPOOL'S FROG BRIGADE 7/14, ALPINE VALLEY If you've been keeping up with the Primus front man's career, you know that his latest project is Oysterhead, a collaboration with Stewart Copeland and Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio, and that he's now firmly ensconced in Jamland, with his band Frog Brigade touring alongside the String Cheese Incident and Phil Lesh. The Frog Brigade's forthcoming release on Claypool's own Prawn Song label, flatly titled Live Frogs Set 2, is a song-by-song cover of Pink Floyd's Animals; it's reverent, literal, and therefore can't help but diminish the impact of the rather radical original. The entire-album-coverin' concept should probably have ended with Laibach's genuinely fascinating Let It Be (maybe with wiggle room for the sheer chutzpah of Gregg Bendian and Nels Cline's Interstellar Space Revisited). Does "it's fun to play" really justify releasing a recording? CHRIS WHITLEY 7/14, VIRGIN MEGASTORE & MARTYRS' Chris Whitley has a gruff but sensitive Bridges of Madison County-type voice, with a canny, if canned, intelligence--he sings like a Marlboro Man who's taken up literature and health food. It's the perfect voice for the outdoorsy indie blues rock balladeering he's known for--but he couldn't leave well enough alone. On his forthcoming Rocket House (on Dave Matthews's vanity imprint, ATO), he's enlisted trip-hop star DJ Logic to impart some modern flava, and Whitley's usual stiff-upper-lipped soul sounds uneasy amid the beats and samples. This tension and unpredictability could be made to work to his benefit, but as with many such hybrids, you get the sense that nobody's fully committed to anything here, and so none of the tunes or even the moments is especially memorable. And both Matthews and Bruce Hornsby guest star, which doesn't really help the color cut through the beige. SPOKANE 7/16, SCHUBAS The Jagjaguwar label advertises Spokane as an outlet for the "more personal" work of Drunk main man Rick Alverson. That's an understatement: Spokane's Leisure & Other Songs is, musically at least, so introspective it's unnerving--it's the sound of a navel yielding up cosmic mysteries. At its worst it's precious and drab; at its best it's gorgeous and suggests some of the boyish romantic grandeur of the young Simon & Garfunkel. The lyrics are scraps of wry poetry, and the music is passionate in its introversion. Highly recommended for the sort of folks who like to fuck to Smog. YOUNGBLOOD BRASS BAND 7/17, MARTYRS' Well, I think it's great that the winner of the 2000 Mardi Gras Battle of the Brass Bands is actually a hip-hop group...er, make that a hip-hop-influenced Latin band...or how about a funky world-pop band made up of guys who own a lot of old jazz records and dream of reading poetry in the streets or drumming on Brazilian beaches...oh, you get the idea. On their self-released disc Unlearn, the nine core members--all but two of whom play instruments you blow--mingle with guests Talib Kweli, former Frank Zappa collaborator Ike Willis, poet Mike Ladd, and Chicago's own DJ Skooly to create an ambitious, restless, thought-provoking mishmash. BRAIN SURGEONS 7/18, RED LINE TAP Some bands get along with rock critics better than others, but no other mainstream rock band I can think of cultivated their company to the extent that Blue Oyster Cult did--their longtime manager and producer Sandy Pearlman practiced the dubious profession, as did sometime lyricist Patti Smith, as still does (albeit kicking and screaming) their former friend and lyricist Richard Meltzer. And after drummer and songwriter Albert Bouchard (who himself wrote for Crawdaddy!) left the band in 1981, he paired up with rock critic Deborah Frost, who would become first his collaborator, then his wife, and finally his bandmate in this outfit, the Brain Surgeons. Maintaining some of BOC's traits (riffs, wit) and eschewing others (bombast, sci-fi-biker themes, hits), the Brain Surgeons quietly, privately, and very independently have been releasing records and collecting an intimate fan base. Original guitarist Billy Hilfiger (brother of designer Tommy) departed due to a brain tumor; the band is now a trio with Frost on sizzling lead guitar. Their latest release, To Helen With Love (Cellsum), is a New York all-star homage to writer, musician, and scenester Helen Wheels, who died during routine surgery last January; except for one Dylan cover, it consists entirely of songs cowritten by Wheels, including one BOC number, "Sinful Love." It features appearances by Tish and Snooky of Sic F*cks and Manic Panic fame, the Dictators, Alice Cooper sidemen Neal Smith and Dennis Dunaway, Crispin Cioe of the Uptown Horns, Bouchard's brother and sometime BOC bassist Joe, and still-underrated BOC guitarist Donald "Buck Dharma" Roeser. It's a sweet, touching record, with likable rough edges and a few real soaring moments.

--Monica Kendrick

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