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MARK EITZEL 12/6, CHICAGO CULTURAL CENTER & HIDEOUT Whatever your opinion of his music (I think it darts wildly between genius and tedious myself), you've got to admit that this veteran singer-songwriter's work ethic alone merits a cult following. Each of the 11 solo albums the former American Music Club front man has released over the past decade attests to a certain level of care--whichever primrose path of poisoned pop he's following, Eitzel puts a lot of thought into his itinerary. His most recent release, Music for Courage and Confidence (New West), is an album of covers; salvaging the likes of Kris Kristofferson and Anne Murray, it seems nearly a decade late in its determined reclamation of kitsch pop. But Eitzel's tardiness pays off--what was revolting as a trend is entertaining, even moving, as an isolated eccentricity. For these shows he'll preview original material from a forthcoming record. Opening at the Hideout is a trio composed of Califone members: Tim Rutili, Ben Massarella, and Jim Becker. REVEREND HORTON HEAT 12/6, DOUBLE DOOR; 12/7, MARTYRS' The Rev takes a lot of shit for his hicksploitation, but really he's no more offensive than Jon Spencer, and his brand of minstrelsy is a lot more fun. His shockingly vibrant seventh album, Lucky Seven (Artemis), feels kind of authentic in spite of itself--as if, having survived two labels and outlasted two star producers (what have Gibby Haynes and Al Jourgensen done for us lately?), the old phony had earned the right to a few genuine yee-haws. His four-night stand in Chicago began on Wednesday at the Hideout, but that show sold out early on; by press time the Thursday night Schubas gig had too. DEADLY SNAKES 12/7, BEAT KITCHEN The Deadly Snakes' second album, I'm Not Your Soldier Anymore (In the Red), follows a time-honored recipe for backyard R & B: the sax and organ and trumpet are allowed to seep into the Stax/Diddley groove until the whole shebang sounds like it's been smoked in a deep pit in the southern soil. Except it turns out that these particular good ol' boys hail from Toronto. BIGGER LOVERS 12/10, SCHUBAS You can only jangle along on your guitar for so long before it's time to learn a new trick. Robyn Hitchcock had reached that point by 1984, when he temporarily stripped down to a spare acoustic setting; even the Byrds eventually moved on to pedal steel. On their second album, Honey in the Hive (Yep Roc), Philadelphia's Bigger Lovers seem to hear that radiant guitar chime as a cash register ka-ching. To their credit, they do their damnedest to ratchet up the energy at strategic points (as on the Who-ish breakdown of "A Simple 'How Are You?'"), and they never force a whole song to rely on a single sonic idea. But I'm underwhelmed by their generous too-muchness. MONSTER TRUX 12/11, DOUBLE DOOR These mighty tight locals, whose tunes are powered by athletic shouting and heavy drum punching, are passionately affiliated with the skate scene. They also display a sense of what's cool that should make fans of the Misfits and the Goblins feel right at home: they're so proud to have been invited to appear on TV by local horror host Svengoolie--the subject of one of the few songs on their new album, Grind (Underground Inc.), that isn't about skateboarding--that they prominently display a picture taken with their hero on their Web site. For this "Nightmare Before Christmas" show they share the bill with the Elvi, the Rosedales, and Vacation Bible School. M'S 12/11, SCHUBAS Sharing a bill with the Afflictions is another band that's made its mark at gritty little Cal's, one of the best places in the city to hear raucous and living rawk--so long as you're not attached to upscale amenities like clean toilets. The M's have recently released a fine four-song EP on their own label, Majestic Recordings: heavy breathing and hairy riffs and horns all dance tastefully to the band's merrily off-kilter Zombies/T. Rex melodies. Harmless but haunting.

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

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