A POLLINAIRE RAVE, ESKIMOS 2/28, SCHUBAS A Pollinaire Rave is another project from Kevin Barnes, ringleader of the giddy pop circus Of Montreal (who are actually of Athens, Georgia): over backing tapes, Barnes, his girlfriend Nina Grottland, and his brother David sing their way through an absurd theatrical piece about convicts released into a junior high as part of a government rehabilitation program. Fellow Athenians the Eskimos debuted in 2001 with Let It Come Down, which was considerably more fun than that year's Spiritualized record of the same name. The quartet's even better second album, Something Must Be Transmitted Somehow (on the Chicago label Brilliante), is lush and playful in a Beatles-meet-Flaming Lips-at-the-outdoor-mud-festival kind of way. David Singer & the Sweet Science headline. DEL REY 2/28, EMPTY BOTTLE Rhythm has always been a weak spot for loud guitar bands with improvisational tendencies--remember the interminable drum solos of the 70s? But the two drummers for this local band hold down the beat, playing off one another at weird angles as they set up a polyrhythmic antigroove--a trick Tortoise mastered years ago in a less violent fashion. In terms of energy and sophistication, last year's chunky Speak It Not Aloud (My Pal God) was a dramatic improvement over the band's first EP, and I'm looking forward to whatever they try next. HAYSEED DIXIE 2/28, JOE'S These hyuk-hyuk specialists made their names (such as they are--Barley Scotch, Talcum Younger, Enus Younger, and Mutt Twang) in 2001 with A Hillbilly Tribute to AC/DC (Dualtone), which translated classics like "You Shook Me All Night Long" and "Big Balls" into bluegrass vernacular. They deserve some recognition just for making that unlikely shtick stick (though the Red House Painters' Mark Kozelek found more depth in the Aussies' tunes on his 2000 EP, Rock 'n' Roll Singer, and Luther Wright & the Wrongs' Pink Floyd interpretations on Rebuild the Wall show that a country take on classic rock doesn't have to be a goof). Now comes Kiss My Grass: A Bluegrass Tribute to Kiss, and the joke has worn thin. But Hayseed Dixie's technical artistry is still a marvel, and their speedy version of "Lick It Up" improves on the original simply by getting the lead out. SIMIAN 2/28, METRO On its 2001 debut, Chemistry Is What We Are, a canny mix of psych pop and electronic-dance elements, this British quartet built a bridge between two undergrounds that really ought to be better acquainted. But the band's bigger, louder second album, last year's We Are Your Friends (Astralwerks), lacks the charm of its predecessor, and their newfound swagger hardly seems earned. Ladytron headlines (see Critic's Choice). Buzz band Out Hud was dropped from the tour after just a few dates--seems that three quirky electronic acts on the same bill made for a soundman's nightmare, and shows were running two hours behind. ELEKIBASS, 63 CRAYONS 3/3, SCHUBAS I won't bore you with the details of the truly foul mood Elekibass managed to yank me out of--suffice it to say that anyone who can keep a decent grump going after listening to the Japanese quartet's tweedling clarinet, tinkly piano, and giddy harmonies has sourpuss powers far beyond mine. The band recently released its debut, California, in the U.S. on the small Florida indie Happy Happy Birthday to Me, which is also the home of 63 Crayons. This Roanoke, Virginia, outfit pressed just 500 copies of its new EP, Spread the Love, and the lovely hand-colored cover hints at what's inside: shimmery psych pop with a brittle glamour to it. And no, I don't find its generous use of theremin excessive at all. HEAVY DUTY FELT 3/3, EMPTY BOTTLE Sometimes perfectionism pays off. Local musician Tony Gudwien, disappointed with the experience of recording his first Heavy Duty Felt album in a pro studio, built himself a home rig and spent three years finishing his second record. Neither sparse nor busy, Secular Music (Kitchen Sink) is impeccably put together, and Gudwien's wistful pop moves at a languorous pace that suits his confident delivery. He played most of it himself, but contributions from Jim Baker, Liz Conant, Jim Gailloreto, Julie Pomerleau, and many others are seamlessly integrated. PAPER LIONS 3/6, FIRESIDE BOWL Sitting here nursing my Grammy hangover, I realized that if the indie world decided, for whatever ungodly reason, to institute some cheesy diva-laden awards show of its own, Paper Lions would be a lock for some award or another. After all, such events invariably drift toward the middle of the road and lie there like last week's possum, and this Atlanta quartet is as conventional as Norah Jones in its underground way. Its debut, The Symptom and the Sick (Kindercore), is a windy and polished variant of loud that would trip any hypothetical voter's fondest memories, be they of postpunk, grunge, Fugazi, or math rock.