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ELF POWER, ARCHER PREWITT 5/24, ABBEY PUB On their new Creatures (Spinart), Elephant 6 darlings Elf Power sound as if they might be coasting just a tiny bit--or maybe the near perfection of their trippy pop and the fact that it bears so many repeated listenings just aren't shocking anymore. Either way, though, I hate that "Let the Serpent Sleep" will never be a Top Ten hit in this world. Sea and Cake guitarist Archer Prewitt's third solo album, Three (Thrill Jockey), is a leap forward; his first couple outings under his own name struck me as overly polite, as if he were afraid that putting forth something as obnoxious and manipulative as a melody or chorus would turn him into a strutting cock rocker. On Three he embraces the hooks joyously, as though he were tasting forbidden fruit and finding it good, good, good. Though his lyrics mostly point toward a hard-maintained upbeat innocence, the tunes hint at greater worldliness; he sometimes comes off as a less snarky Elvis Costello or a Roger Waters who's finally realized that grandiosity doesn't make one's emotions mean more. This is part of this weekend's Chicago Indiepop Festival, a cluster of shows (all with separate admission charges) booked by avid indie-rock taper Aadam Jacobs. ENON 5/24, EMPTY BOTTLE Though ex-Brainiac guitarist John Schmersal has lived in New York City for a couple years now, he hasn't completely left the midwest behind: his current band, Enon, is named for a dreary little burg outside Dayton, Ohio (Brainiac's hometown), and its second album, High Society, is on Touch and Go (Brainiac's old label). The new recording is a two-headed beast that can't decide which way it wants to go, presenting heart-on-sleeve indie rock one minute and cool space-age new wave the next. The tension that arises when the group tries to fuse the two in the space of a single song produces some of the best moments and some of the worst. The lineup on the album includes bassist-keyboardist Toko Yasuda (ex-Blonde Redhead) and percussionist Matt Schulz, who are still in the band, and keyboardist Rick Lee (ex-Skeleton Key), who isn't. MONSIEUR JEFFREY EVANS 5/24, BEAT KITCHEN Memphis garage hero Jeffrey Evans, most famously of the Gibson Bros. and '68 Comeback, is only fortysomething, but on I've Lived a Rich Life (Sympathy for the Record Industry), he sometimes sounds twice that old. In front of a live audience in the parking lot of a Memphis record store, Evans leads his listeners on a tour of the music that influenced his own, reminiscing about or playing tunes (or fragments of tunes) by the likes of Johnny Cash, Gene Vincent, the Animals, Jimi Hendrix, and Alex Chilton. His devotion to others' work above his own might unnerve some folks, but if you're prepared to set awhile in a good-hearted gentleman's living room as he talks his way through his record collection, you'll be entertained. When Evans actually gets around to playing, he's an eloquent folk guitarist but no kind of singer at all--he gets by on his sheer love of classic people's music. The proper term for a guy like this is "storyteller," and that's what he is with or without guitar. Seems like the instrument just helps him think. DASH 5/25, LAKEVIEW LINKS When I read that Dash Rip Rock had ditched two-thirds of their name to release "an acceleration of a high-octane 100-proof vision of how they fit into the current musical universe," I was afraid they'd gone nu metal. But their new Sonic Boom (Write On) is merely a comfortable arms-in-the-air bar-pop record on which they maintain their Louisiana cred via the judicious application of fiddle, steel guitar, and accordion. From what I understand Dash Rip Rock were always a band best enjoyed live, but on this record they make the sort of sweet but lightweight roots rock that in the 80s would've appealed to folks who found R.E.M. slightly too avant-garde. I don't actively hate it--you'd have to be kind of a sour shit to feel that mean toward it--but I don't predict a surge in the number of people getting Dash tattoos either. GRANDPA'S GHOST 5/25, DOUBLE DOOR I've sung the praises of this downstate band, which welds dark back-porch alt-country to heavy psychedelia in beautifully implausible ways, quite loudly in the past. But their most recent release, the double CD Stardust & Smog/Early Autumn Waltz (Upland), is so poignantly good I've run out of notes. The basic sensibility remains the same, but the set--which functions more or less as two separate albums--explores almost all its nooks and crannies. Stardust & Smog is sparse and eerie, every note as potent as the whippoorwill's portentous cry in an otherwise silent woods; Early Autumn Waltz is built on a similarly eldritch foundation but overlays exquisite drones and leans on the accents with a weight worthy of stoner rock. On past releases the band occasionally indulged in virtuosity for virtuosity's sake, but not here--everything is carefully calibrated for efficient effect. Mike Watt headlines. MEAT PURVEYORS 5/25, HIDEOUT; 5/27, ABBEY PUB The Bloodshot Records press release already calls the Meat Purveyors' Jo Walston "half Hazel Dickens and half Squeaky Fromme," so I don't have to. The Austin quartet's new album, All Relationships Are Doomed to Fail, is a double-edged pleasure too: the band plays bluegrass as though it were as dependent on speed and technical ability as metal--which I guess you could argue it is, but here every phrase quivers like an overcaffeinated rodent. It works on the clever hoedown-style cover of Ratt's "Round and Round," but when the Purveyors try to modulate the pace with a ballad (or Abba's "S.O.S") Walston's delivery sounds uninspired and the instrumentalists sound like they're champing at the bit. PHANTOM THREE 5/25, CAL'S; 5/26, EMPTY BOTTLE This local trio claims (among other nutty things) that drummer Mark Zambo cured a bout of lycanthropy by learning to play; its debut, The Phantom Three vs. the Treasure of Dracula (Crapshoot), arrived in my mailbox the same day as a book on werewolves, marked only with a Post-it that said "TO MONICA from Thax." Coincidence? The Phantom Three do indeed play hairy full-moon music: their trashy, skanky, classic garage-a-billy, full of teenage concerns like sex, the prom, sex, getting busted, sex, outer-space vans, and sex, should appeal to fans of all things Cramps-y. At the Bottle they open for Twenty Miles (featuring Judah Bauer, taking a cigarette break from the Blues Explosion) and Bob Log III. +/- 5/25, ABBEY PUB This band, now a working four-piece, began as a solo project for Versus front man James Baluyut; it now features Versus drummer Patrick Ramos on guitar and Tuscadero's Margaret McCartney on bass. On the untitled debut (on Teenbeat, natch), a chrome and glass cathedral of beatboxy chamber pop, Baluyut plays almost everything himself; he opens with an ethereal bit that's about as good an approximation of Sigur Ros as you'll hear from anyone in the U.S., but when the rhythm comes crashing in things get weird. There are little hooks all over the place, but as often as not they're swept away in ecstatic guitar swirls and beat fantasias. Part of the Chicago Indiepop Festival; also on the bill are local faves Frisbie and Brooklyn buzz band Mink Lungs.

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