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Spot Check



MIKE KENEALLY & BEER FOR DOLPHINS 11/9, MARTYRS' This is a presentation by prog promoter Outre Music, but singer and guitarist Mike Keneally doesn't seem very outre. His new acoustic solo album, Wooden Smoke (Exowax), is polite, relentlessly frictionless folk fusion with none of the outdoorsy grit the title would seem to imply and occasional hints of Steely Dan worship. But his horribly named seven-piece band can be pretty lively on their Dancing (Exowax), a blindingly glossy upbeat folk-pop record, and a three-piece version will accompany him on this tour, where he promises "rude and fuzzy" electric guitar. I presume the Styx-y slickness of the CD production goes away live, but you never know. LLOYD COLE & THE NEGATIVES 11/10, OLD TOWN SCHOOL Lloyd Cole's story is all too familiar: he started out in the 80s as a hot young thing, with songwriting skills nicked from Lou Reed and Leonard Cohen and a voice that sort of sounded like Tom Verlaine after a lifetime of singing lessons, racked up some UK hits, and settled into an unsatisfying niche, making records that were good but not great and connecting with a relatively small but loyal audience. Then, when the industry took a lean and mean turn, he found himself labelless, with bills to pay and a record in the can. That LP never saw the light, and only a few songs from it turned up on Cole's "comeback," The Negatives, released by the indie March earlier this year. With a crisp new band featuring Jill Sobule on guitar and vocals, he's made a record as good as anything he did after dumping the Commotions--he sounds closer to giving a shit than he has in ages, in fact. But with all that baggage to carry, Cole stands to lose the race to notably less talented and even less imaginative professional sensitive mopes like Pete Yorn. C'mon folks, prove me wrong. ADAM FRANKLIN 11/10, SCHUBAS On Everyday, Rock 'n' Roll Is Saving My Life (Space Baby), the EP former Swervedriver front man Adam Franklin made this year under the name Toshak Highway, he continues to (mostly) forsake his fuzzbox for melancholy jangle and mild space-rock effects. Comparisons to the Velvet Underground, Nick Drake, and even Pink Floyd are laughably off base: bad drugs and lonely deaths don't have a thing to do with this sort of willful innocence. He's playing solo; the Trembling Blue Stars headline. NEW END ORIGINAL 11/10, FIRESIDE BOWL This band started out divided between Chicago, where guitarist Norman Arenas was living after the breakup of the NY emo outfit Texas Is the Reason, and California, where front man Jonah Matranga had moved after the breakup of the Sacramento-based emo band Far. The two traded tapes and exchanged ideas, and last winter Arenas relented and moved to San Francisco, the better to work on those tight quiet-loud transitions. The pair eventually brought in drummer Charlie Walker and ex-Texas bassist Scott Winegard, both of whom were in southern California, and now they all live in the same town. But on their ironically named debut, Thriller (Jade Tree), they might as well be phoning in their prefab emotionalism--from the midwest or the coast, from an indie or a major, from anytime in the past decade. THIN MAN 11/10, PONTIAC CAFE The first time I got this local act's debut, (A Cloud in Trousers), released by the Georgia-based CD-R label Royal Fuzz, I found it unlistenable--literally, it would not play on any of the four CD players I tried. A second copy, though, finally reveals Kennedy Greenrod, a transplant from Brighton, England, to be a talent worth the trouble. With the help of ten singers and instrumentalists, including producer Mike Lust (on mellotron and percussion), We Ragazzi drummer Tim McConville, sometime Orso cellist Kelly McCracken, and violinist Jessica Billey, he crafts a dark Nick Cavey-Tom Waitsy strain of cabaret pop, smoky and waltzy and with all the romance you'd expect from titles like "Blood, Shit and Bone" and "Falling out of Cars." SONIC BOOM & SPECTRUM 11/13, BEAT KITCHEN It's funny how often the two former figureheads of Spacemen 3--Jason Pierce, aka Jason Spaceman, and Pete Kember, aka Sonic Boom--manage to play Chicago within a few weeks of each other. For fans of the original band, it spotlights the divergent directions they took: with his loose "band" Spiritualized, Spaceman has gone increasingly big-budget and orchestral, while Sonic Boom and his "band" Spectrum have gone ever further underground, recently releasing a very limited edition live CD to fans on a particular mailing list with the caveat that it is not a recommended starting point for his challenging oeuvre. (I haven't heard it, but as far as the publicly available Spectrum corpus goes, I'd argue it's possible to jump in nearly anywhere: it's more like an experimental novel than one with a linear plot.) For this appearance, perversely, he's assembled a version of Spectrum to play Spacemen 3 tunes--something he's previously refused to do. The four-piece band includes former Spacemen 3 and Spiritualized bassist Will Carruthers. INDIA.ARIE 11/15, HOUSE OF BLUES I've read some dipshit music analyses in my day, but even so I'll never forget one that came up on my radar back when Lauryn Hill swept every critics' poll in creation and even a few new ones added for the purpose: the basic thrust was that the (presumably white and male) critics went for her in droves because they were intimidated by black male R & B artists. I took this to imply that in this writer's perfect world, everyone would of course recognize the natural superiority of men, and black female artists would eventually take their rightful place in the backseat. Ain't gonna happen anytime soon, it looks like: with talents like Jill Scott, Erykah Badu, and Mary J. Blige strutting about on their own, the MTV2 Sisters for Hip-Hop & Soul tour, with soft rapper Mystic, DJ Jazzy Joyce, and 25-year-old rising star India.Arie, already seems as quaint a concept as Lilith Fair. On her Motown debut, Acoustic Soul, India.Arie (that's her given first name; her dad's former Denver Nuggets star Ralph Simpson) is Oprah with a beat, delivering a message of self-respect over pleasingly charismatic grooves, but her most impressive accomplishment so far seems to be teaching John Mellencamp how to look plausibly funky.

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

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