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Spot Check

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MAKERS 6/28, EMPTY BOTTLE They've got stars in their eyes--and for all intents and purposes they might as well have them painted on their faces. Their seventh album, Strangest Parade (Sub Pop), is another step in the direction they veered off in on 2000's Rock Star God, bringing a vintage-glam level of put-on to bear on the true-believer punk 'n' roll they made their name with. It's sloppily beautiful and clumsily soulful, bowing to Bowie and saluting Slade and arrogantly pretending alternative rock never happened. This is what mainstream rock probably ought to be, just by default: it's too familiar to be "underground," and with its sense of scale it's definitely begging for a larger audience. MUSHUGANAS 6/28, HA MIEN This hardworking Chicago punk band's aesthetic falls somewhere between the Ramones and early Husker Du: tightly anthemic but not overly comprehensible. They've just released a new four-song seven-inch, Summer Shoes, which is a ripping improvement over last year's full-length, itself nothing to sneeze at. They've put together this show as a wrestling-themed battle of the bands; also on the bill are the Bump-n-Uglies, the Phenoms, the Baseball Furies, the Rotten Fruits, and Demonsweat. CATTIVO 6/29, DOUBLE DOOR Since 1996, between frolicking with masked punks the Goblins and running Hi-Fi Records on Clark Street, Joe Losurdo has been moonlighting as Cattivo, a would-be space-age bandleader whose keyboard-and-horn-driven ten-piece plays wonky, idiosyncratic, and utterly pleasurable party music a la Esquivel--though sexy-silly assertions that "Cattivo...Is Evil" and "Yes Is the Mantra" impart a certain Austin Powers-ness to the proceedings. This show is a release party for the band's debut, Cattivo...and His Orchestra. GUIDED BY VOICES 6/29, METRO Changing labels, from TVT back to Matador, hasn't diminished Bob Pollard's pace one whit. GBV is touring behind its new album, Universal Truths and Cycles, but in the past six months he's also released a slew of GBV and GBV-related singles on his Fading Captain imprint, plus a collaboration with rock writer and Blue Oyster Cult lyricist Richard Meltzer. On the new LP, produced by the band and brimming with life, Pollard is the main man, of course, but guitarist Doug Gillard deserves hella props for his fiercely creative leads, stabs, and jabs. The more dangerously rocking numbers, like "Wire Greyhounds," sound like a junkyard dog gnawing on Television's old van; the trippy atmospherics of gentler songs like "Storm Vibrations" and "Factory of Raw Essentials" hark back to a time when Syd Barrett was happy. NEPTUNE 6/29, FIRESIDE BOWL Lots of bands say they want to forge a new sound, but how many take it this literally? Neptune founder Jason Sanford is a metal sculptor who years ago made the leap; since 1995 this Boston quartet has been showing off his machine-part-based guitars, guitarlike things, and percussion instruments, all of which are bona fide works of art before they ever make a sound. The five-song sampler the group sent me recently, which includes studio and live tracks, is aggressive, percussive, ringing, and utterly distinctive. It's not particularly welcoming, but it is harshly seductive, like factory noise. MELVINS, JUCIFER 7/2, METRO The Melvins shouldn't really need explaining by now: not only were they famously Kurt Cobain's favorite band (and the guy had taste even if he had no sense) but in their 17-year career they've given much joy to thousands of impaired souls unable to head-bang without a chaser of intellectual content. Whether it's their strongest effort or not, their latest, Hostile Ambient Takeover (Ipecac), still demonstrates that flair for sophisticated brutality, and on the 13-minute saga "The Anti-Vermin Seed" they weave together more discrete sonic ideas than most bands do in a whole album. The Georgia duo Jucifer are nowhere near as inventive, but they do what they do with a rare sort of grace: on their new I Name You Destroyer (Velocette) guitarist Amber Valentine sings like a kitten and stings like a cat-o'-nine-tails, generating an unholy metallic crunch through a backline of (by Guitar Player's count) no fewer than ten bass and guitar amps--this is your archetypal iron hand in a velvet glove. DAVE ALVIN & THE GUILTY MEN 7/4, FITZGERALD'S The cover of Dave Alvin's new live album, Out in California (Hightone), is over-the-top hippy-trippy (ten bucks says that font's called American Beauty), and the bio cheerfully admits to an affinity with a certain other California act that built its entire aesthetic around the road. That's a long way from the knee-jerk antilonghair stance of the punk movement where Alvin first made his name with the Blasters and X...though real punks and real hippies always had more in common with each other than they liked to think. Nowadays he seems to be in a fairly comfortable position: the unlabeled, untrendy pan-American rock 'n' roll he embraces and plays so skillfully with his big band (veterans of the Skeletons, Tex & the Horseheads, the Ozark Mountain Daredevils, and Dwight Yoakam's backing band, among others) won't land him on any magazine covers, but it won't go out of style anytime soon either. This show is part of the 21st annual American Music Festival at FitzGerald's. The four-day blowout also includes sets by Los Straitjackets, Big Sandy, Jim Lauderdale, Sonny Landreth, Billy Joe Shaver, Mavis Staples, Otis Clay, Lonesome Bob, and Alex Chilton; see the Fairs & Festivals listings for more info.

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

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