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Spot Check

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DUVALL 8/22, BOTTOM LOUNGE I've seen Duvall's newest release, Racine, referred to as an EP, but one new song plus an acoustic version of an old song ("Time Is Gone," from a 2001 EP) plus a Spandau Ballet cover is what back in the old days we used to call a "single." That's not a complaint, though--at least it doesn't overstay its welcome. Four years ago, when Josh Caterer abandoned the Smoking Popes on account of his salvation, cynics almost choked on the grains of salt. The best-case scenario: a Christian indie artist capable of crossing over. (Pedro the Lion and the Danielson Famile--and U2, for that matter--have proven it's possible if the tunes are there.) The worst-case scenario: "inspirational" rock, that god-awful stuff that's high on its own blandness. Duvall's neither; it's middle-of-the-road power pop. But if it was Jesus who told him "True" needed a wanky guitar solo, Caterer needs a new producer. MALEFACTION 8/22, FIRESIDE BOWL I'm starting to wonder how anybody can read a newspaper and then go listen to, I dunno, Saint Etienne or something: more and more, anything untouched by rage and horror just seems dishonest. The Winnipeg grindcore band Malefaction releases its records on the overtly lefty Canadian label G7 Welcoming Committee, and its new Where There Is Power, There Is Always Resistance is political rage and horror given an appropriate sonic setting--martial, high-tech, both soaring and skulking, furiously angry and fiercely articulate. Sure, there's sloganeering--but "Do not rest until there's social justice for all / C'mon, I fucking dare you!" is a pretty great slogan. MUM 8/22, LOGAN SQUARE AUDITORIUM Considering where Icelandic band Mum likes to write and record--home base is a remote lighthouse with electricity provided by a generator--it's well and good that, unlike many primarily electronic acts, its members can play accordion, cello, guitar, and glockenspiel in the dark if they have to. This depth shows on last year's Finally We Are No One (Fat Cat): there's a richness and confidence to their quietude that never degenerates into gear twiddling for gear's sake--it all feels poignant, like a reach for an otherworldly place that's never quite realized. Someday, though, I'd be curious to hear if there are any women singers in Iceland who sound less like steam fairies and more like Janis Joplin. PEDAL STEEL TRANSMISSION 8/22, EMPTY BOTTLE This local quartet's second album, 2002's In the Winter, It Makes the Dead Grass Look Green, was a wonderful bit of what-the-fuuuuuh, like a bizarre dream that's fun at the time but messes with you all day. The follow-up, The Angel of the Squared Circle (due August 26 on Cardboard Sangria), is both less intense and more focused but doesn't suffer much for it, settling into its niches like trickling water, cool and comfortable. The rural-hippie streams ultimately flow into a thicker guitar-rock river with a few toothy things still swimming in the deeps: the opening track, "Waiting," sounds like a cross between Calexico and the Doors. JEALOUS SOUND 8/23, FIRESIDE BOWL I can see why this LA quartet got picked up by a major, and I can see why they were dropped soon after--scruffy-boy pop like theirs asks for the kind of lengthy seasoning that isn't part of the industry's current unit-shoveling policies. Better Looking Records, the label that put out their 2000 debut EP, snatched 'em back up again to finally release their first full-length, Kill Them With Kindness, in June. Among the indie crowd at least, there is a seemingly bottomless appetite for diffidently anthemic rock of jaded longing. For west-coast boys, they're doing their damnedest to sound midwestern. SAFES 8/23, BOTTOM LOUNGE Family Jewels is the first release (not counting comp appearances) from this local trio of brothers since their 1997 debut, and at first it sounds like they're trying to fit six years of music onto one album--when I put on the CD and heard the blazing "Not to Keep," I wondered for a moment if I had the player on the wrong speed (and Frankie O'Malley's chirping didn't help me decide). From there, though, things settle down to a more rational garagey power-pop pace, so I suppose they just like to show off once in a while. The Epoxies headline. LOS LONELY BOYS 8/24 & 25, HOUSE OF BLUES This sweetly earnest, genuinely soulful jam band (another trio of brothers, the Garzas of San Angelo, Texas) has already made some powerful friends--its forthcoming debut was recorded at Willie Nelson's studio, and the Texas house of representatives declared a "Los Lonely Boys Day" back in June (I'd guess the Democrats were around for that vote). Though Henry Garza's Allman-ish guitar leads are what you notice first, there's a doo-wop quality to Los Boys' three-part harmonies that works against the overall effect of having stayed out in the sun a little too long. Uncle Willie handpicked them to open this tour for him; both shows are sold out.

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