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SUPERCHUNK 11/16, METRO Passionately beloved by the many fans they already have but likely to make the uninitiated scratch their heads and wonder what's the big deal, Superchunk today are the band equivalent of an apparently boring guy who, as only his faithful girlfriend knows, is actually a demon lover. At the least, they're to be respected for simply hanging in there as long as they have (since 1988) without selling out or outright sucking. Front man Mac MacCaughan has thrown himself into at least two completely different projects--his low-key experimental solo act, Portastatic, and the avant-jazz label Wobbly Rail--and the 'Chunk itself still changes in subtle ways. The band's eighth full-length, Here's to Shutting Up (Merge), produced by Brian Paulson, eschews the Jim O'Rourke-ified flavor of 1999's Come Pick Me Up, but it does augment the power chords with cello, violin, and pedal steel. There's nothing as hooky as "Hello Hawk," much less "Slack Motherfucker"--it's more of a room to inhabit than a vehicle to take you there--though as rooms go it's comfortable and spacious and decorated with more or less the right amount of personalizing geegaws. I may not know the guy who lives here, but I think if I did I'd probably like a friend, anyway. DAMIEN JURADO 11/17, SCHUBAS The beautiful Ghost of David remains singer-songwriter Damien Jurado's latest proper album, but he's reportedly honing a new collection for his old cassette label, Casa Recording Co. A return to roots seems appropriate--that's what Jurado did on Ghost of David, even if the roots weren't his. After several releases of emotional electric pop and a tape collage that puzzled fans, he turned melancholy and introspective, sinking into realms below super-quiet Neil Young inner drama, becoming a sort of Palace Brother for urban Seattle. The songs aren't even that different, but the stripped-down format--often just voice and acoustic guitar--proves unconditionally that the man knows his way around mood and melody. He even knows when he should let someone else sing, stepping aside to let Rose Thomas prettify an entire song. STOLEN CHILD BENEFIT 11/18, METRO The organizers of this benefit--painter Wesley Kimler and Wilco bassist John Stirratt--invoke the Yeats poem about the kid running away with the fairies from "a world more full of weeping than you can understand," and I must say, if there were indeed an organization that sponsored kids to study abroad in Faerie, I'd throw 'em the contents of my wallet in a minute. The charities here, though, are Working Playground, a New York City group that makes sure kids from all economic strata have equal access to that town's inimitable cultural life, and the president's relief fund for children in Afghanistan. (Kimler spent a couple years in Afghanistan in the 70s, buying carpets for export, so this isn't just abstract altruism for him.) On the long musical bill are short sets by Wilco's Jeff Tweedy, Stirratt's band the Autumn Defense with guest drummer Glenn Kotche (also of Wilco), and Wilco multi-instrumentalist Leroy Bach with his regular collaborator Edward Burch (astute fans note that all members of Wilco will be in the house). Also, a brief set by Eleventh Dream Day, appearances by Edith Frost, Mars Williams, the J. Davis Trio, and benefit regular Nicholas Tremulis, and the return of Chris Holmes's chamber-pop band Yum-Yum. Kimler, Tony Fitzpatrick, Simone Muench, and the Hideout's Tim Tuten will read poetry; art by Kimler, Fitzpatrick, Jon Langford, Ed Paschke, and others will be sold by silent auction. One hundred percent of the proceeds go to the charities. WINDY & CARL 11/20, EMPTY BOTTLE These Detroit area record-shop owners are darlings of the new psych set, but they're hardly a flavor of the month. They've been honing their craft for nearly a decade, stealing hearts on compilations (most notably a 1995 Silver Apples tribute) and at festivals (a recent release documents their collaborations with Alastair Galbraith and others at Terrastock in 1999). They've come a long way from the pretty but heavy-handed warps of the past; their newest full-length, Consciousness (Kranky), is a minor masterpiece of slow-building ambient lushness, where layers and layers of acoustic guitar and piano give a real-world bite to the swirling electronics and Windy's dreamy voice. Your heater can drown it out at home: it's music meant for headphones and a dark room...or for lying next to lots of strangers on the sticky floor of a dark room with big speakers. FIRE SHOW 11/21, DOUBLE DOOR Arrogant in bearing, relentlessly self-indulgent in performance, evocative but willfully obfuscating in a sort of overeducated late-era Wire way on record, the Fire Show are begging to be taken down a peg. They use pseudonyms, name things after poems, compare themselves to Ornette Coleman, and pat themselves on the back for daring to dis Disney...but frankly, I'm so otherwise inundated with shamelessly humble, boastingly unpretentious Muggle rock that I have no choice but to like them. Or maybe it's just that they remind me of Bauhaus. Either way, their new Above the Volcano of Flowers (In Situ/Perishable)--40 minutes of music being billed as "release 1.5," with cover art available only by download from the band's Web site--is at least as good as last year's full-fledged album, combining electronic effects and synthesizers with angular guitar and near hysterical vocals more affectingly than most Troubleman Unlimited output. SLAYER 11/21, ARAGON BALLROOM God Hates Us All (American), Slayer's 12th album, was one of the poor unsuspecting releases slated for September 11, 2001--and possibly the only one that sounded the better for it. Obsessed as always with the notion that religion leads to bloodshed, they certainly sounded more relevant than, say, Mercury Rev. The band is one of the few from the old guard of early-80s "new metal" that's never "matured"; the new record (which is packaged in the style of a Bible, with relevant passages excerpted in black and the lyrics, like "God send death end misery / Preach no love of ministry / Pray for sin a shattered faith / Down on your knees / You're screaming out to die," highlighted in red like the quotes of Jesus in some editions) can't really be called a return to form because they never abandoned the form in the first place. That said, they've fulfilled its promise better in some efforts than others. Their last album, 1998's Diabolus in Musica, was thought by many to be their best in some time, and it looks now like no fluke: tightly plotted and internally driven songs give indestructible framework to the riffing madness. If you're looking for comfort, go elsewhere; if you're looking for catharsis, it doesn't get much better than this.

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

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