ELF POWER 4/16, SCHUBAS On its sixth album, Walking With the Beggar Boys (Orange Twin), this Athens band dials back its former psychedelic splendor and a sadness flows into the vacated space: songs like "Drawing Flies" and "Empty Pictures," with their world-weary banjo, have some real dust and calluses on them, and the occasional burst of trippy keyboard or fey Marc Bolan-ism sounds hard earned. For all the virtues of simple, straightforward pop, though, these guys were actually hookier the old way. ASYLUM STREET SPANKERS 4/17, SCHUBAS This venerable Austin band plays swing, boogie-woogie, hot jazz, and almost any other high-energy vintage style you can name; the players' scary technique and ear for detail--Christina Marrs's gun-moll mewl is a show in itself--help keep them (mostly) on the good side of cutesy. On their new Mercurial (Spanks-a-Lot), oldies by the B-52's, the Beastie Boys, and Black Flag get the same vigorous treatment as warhorses like "Shine On Harvest Moon" and "Got My Mojo Workin'." It's almost like they're running an Underwriters Laboratory for songs, finding out how each one withstands being stripped down, tricked out, even mashed up--or you tell me what that bit of "People Who Died" is doing in "Tight Like That." OLD CROW MEDICINE SHOW 4/18, BORDERS IN UPTOWN; SUBTERRANEAN Out of Ithaca by way of a stop in Nashville--where David Rawlings and Gillian Welch lent hands to the new O.C.M.S. (Nettwerk America)--this five-piece string band plays the hillbilly blues with a studied authenticity that sets off the studio polish nicely. I'm not yet convinced they're really all that special, particularly with competitors like the Hackensaw Boys and the Tarbox Ramblers out there, but there's a promising audacity in the earnest originals (one's about Vietnam, another's about slavery) and in the stomping fiddlized version of Dylan's "Wagon Wheel." But if these guys don't recognize A Mighty Wind as their own personal cautionary tale they're in trouble. BILLY CORGAN 4/19, METRO Billy Corgan's been busy lately--bringing his diva act to a poetry scene that had plenty to start with, spewing adolescent I-really-didn't-want-to-bring-this-up-in-public-but bile at ex-bandmates in his blog, and generally carrying on in interviews as if every whorl of his navel were newsworthy. But really, isn't it a bit pointless to be hatin' on a rock star for acting like one? You might as well get mad at a dog for rolling in gross dead things. This solo show--finally, no one else to blame--will feature the set of Chicago-centric material Corgan's been sneak-previewing here and there. It's sold-out. SEBADOH 4/20, ABBEY PUB It's only been five years, guys--we hadn't started missing you yet. I'm all in favor of second acts for anyone whose early success wasn't based on looking good in spandex, but reasons to doubt the vitality of this incarnation include: the duo-plus-prerecorded-percussion format, the lack of anything mind-blowing from either Lou Barlow or Jason Loewenstein on the solo front, and their steadfast waffling on the new-album question. Maybe this really is the beginning of a new era for the band, or maybe it'll just remind them why they stopped playing together in the first place. NEIL INNES 4/21, MARTYRS' A founder of British art-comedy-rock group the Bonzo Dog Band and de facto music director for the Monty Python troupe, Neil Innes is probably best known for costarring in--and writing the Beatles-parody songs for--Eric Idle's 1978 mockumentary The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash, which belongs just above or below This Is Spinal Tap atop the list of funniest music movies ever. For this, his first midwestern tour, he'll focus heavily on the Rutles catalog, though I'm sure he'll offer up a verse or two of "Brave Sir Robin" if asked nicely. NEED NEW BODY 4/22, FIRESIDE BOWL UFO (File Thirteen), the second album from this wildly inventive kitchen-sink band, isn't suitable as background music for anything; it demands your immersion in its bouncing, restless sound world. "Moondear" is naked and tender; then "Popfest" sheds gravity altogether, borrowing from Devo and Sonic Youth in a friendly aerobicized skronk with a mad pumping beat.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Jason Thrasher.